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Was the Treaty of Versailles Just?

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Introduction

Was the Treaty of Versailles Just? By Richard Ward wattsvilleblues@hotmail.com Following the Armistice of November 1918, the Paris Peace Conference at Versailles brought together the Allied powers to decide upon the finer points of the agreement set out at the Armistice. Each representative had different priorities and these conflicted at times, making the acquisition of a peace settlement all the more difficult. Some aimed to simply punish Germany for starting the war, others set out to cripple Germany to such an extent that he could never present a threat to the surrounding countries. Some misguided representatives went to Versailles with the belief that it was purely a way of rewarding the Allied countries for winning the war. The objective of Versailles was, in fact, none of these. The aim of Versailles was to establish a workable and just treaty that would ensure lasting peace in Europe. The three major powers at Versailles were the USA (Wilson), Great Britain (Lloyd George) and France (Clemenceau). At the beginning of Versailles, Italy considered itself a major player. This misconception was put to rest as soon as the big three told the Italians that Fiume would not be made a part of Italy. The three countries each felt differently about what should be done to Germany, and their representatives were obliged to demonstrate their country's feelings as well as negotiating a workable treaty. ...read more.

Middle

The feeling was very much that Germany had something better to do than re-starting a war that they were not going to win easily: Germany needed re-building and restructuring. This desire to rebuild was not helped by the loss of land or the 'crippling' reparations. If Germany was going to rebuild, being excluded from the League of Nations was not going to help. It needed to integrate itself with the other nations, not be isolated. Ask a German what he thought the future held, and he would reply that Germany had no future. What Germany failed to remember was that he had signed the Armistice agreement, even if his arms were tied behind his back. The Armistice agreement had comprised of Wilson's fourteen points, reparations and 'any other things'. Germany knowingly disregarded the second and third points. When he was presented with the treaty of Versailles, though, he had little choice apart from to sign it without argument. After all, there was little he could do about it. The British, French and Americans were poised on the edge of the Rhineland, ready to cross into Germany should the need arise. The treaty was signed on June 28th 1919; it can be paraphrased into four main points: i. A League of Nations to be set up in order to prevent any future repetition of war (Germany excluded). ...read more.

Conclusion

That was not good enough for the sceptics. Reparations were not satisfactory (i.e. economic collapse was not guaranteed) and this incensed the nation that hoped Versailles would solve all the problems caused by the Germans during the Great War. France felt bitter and cheated by not only Versailles but also by the man that had promised everything and delivered very little. It could be argued that France and Germany both thought the same about Versailles, but for reasons that were totally polarised. The Americans, as previously mentioned, were generally apathetic. The Great War had not affected them to such an extent that it would make them care about what happened in Europe. After all, the Americans had only joined the war in late 1917 and missed out on prolonged spells in the trenches of the Western Front. Perhaps if the USA had joined the war earlier on, Wilson's ideals of peace and appeasement would have been quashed. It would also have led the American people to care what happened in Europe. The only thing the Americans thought about Versailles was how the USA had got itself into it. Wilson, however, thought the Treaty rather harsh. Britain was the only country that got anything of worth out of Versailles, namely protection from the German Navy and a few colonies in East Africa. In response to the question 'Was the Treaty of Versailles Just?', the answer depends wholly upon who is asked, as each country held different opinions. ...read more.

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