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What were the Fourteen Points and how far were that implemented in the Treaty of Versailles?

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Introduction

What were the Fourteen Points and how far were that implemented in the Treaty of Versailles? When Germany sued for peace in 1918, they expected any peace treaty to be based firmly on Wilson's Fourteen Points. They believed the points offered an opportunity to end the war in a manner that would not subject them to humiliation, and harsh treatment from the victors. Presented to the American Congress in early 1918, Wilson offered a document which would fairly compensate the allies, and yet did not seek to unduly punish the axis powers. The points would also help to prevent further wars by limiting arms and ensuring a measure of collective security. However, when the Treaty of Versailles came to be signed and forced upon the Germans, it was somewhat different from the one originally expected. This was because each of the victors had different aspirations from the treaty, each hoping to secure their futures, security and positions in a devastated post war Europe. How far then were Wilson's original points modified and changed in an attempt to satisfy the needs and demands of Britain and France? The immediate problem for the Fourteen Points was that it was proposed without the consultation of Britain and France, the two nations that had fought longest and hardest against Germany. ...read more.

Middle

While this idea was pressed by the Americans upon the British and the French, they were not treaty-bound to adhere to it. Germany alone was faced with strict and specific levels of armament, such as no air force, naval tonnage restrictions and a limit of 100,000 man in the army. Perversely, France, still wary of Germany maintained a fairly large army, and used it to occupy parts of the Rhineland in 1923. Again this shows the one sided nature of the conference and the biased interpretation and implementation of the 14 points. Points nine, ten, eleven and twelve dealt with Wilson's idea of self-determination for the peoples and nations of Europe. Point nine, in particular caused the British and Italians great concern. It states that the national frontiers of Italy were to be re-aligned along visible lines of nationality. However, Italy had only entered the war in 1915 alongside the British as a result of the Treaty of London, affording Italy areas previously part of Austria-Hungary in the event of victory. The areas Italy were to inherit were not necessarily inhabited by Italian nationals, and was therefore at odds with Wilson's principle. A compromise was found and Wilson's ideas were betrayed. The differing nations of Austria-Hungary also hoped to inherit a motherland as a result of Wilson's point, but they too were to be disappointed, although this time for more practical reasons. ...read more.

Conclusion

Without this stabilising influence, the League of Nations was seen as powerless, and this was proven in 1923 when it failed to stop the French occupying the Ruhr Valley. We have seen that Wilson's fourteen points did form the backbone of the Treaty of Versailles, and it was used as a starting point for the negotiations when the talks began. When the treaty was signed, some remained intact, and were implemented, others were dropped completely. Some were implemented, but in a biased manner, focusing solely on Germany and ignoring infringements by Britain and France. Others were modified before implementation. It has been suggested that had the fourteen points survived the treaty negotiations unmolested, America may have been more inclined to ratify their involvement in the League of Nations, vastly increasing its chances of success. By the same token, had the arms, colonial, and self-determination rights been applied to the victorious powers and liberally as they were forced upon Germany, the French would have been unable to occupy in 1923, and the economic consequences for Germany would no have been endured. Also, the Germans may not have felt as aggrieved at the treaty if the British and French were being forced to comply also, and the seeds of rejection and extremism that gave cause to the rise of Hitler could have been prevented from taking hold. These things we will never know. ...read more.

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