Treaty of Versailles

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Representatives of the German government were summoned to Paris and on May 7, 1919, presented with the fruits of the peace negotiations. After examining the more than 200-page document, the Germans were outraged. They believed that they had been lured into an armistice with the promise that the Fourteen Points would serve as the backbone of the peace treaty. What they found instead bore little resemblance to Wilson’s even-handed proposals. Thus, the stage was set for two decades of German poverty, hunger, privation and World War II.

Peace with Germany, like most complicated issues, required compromise. Despite German anger, the result of the negotiations was much more moderate than the harsh terms of Brest-Litovsk, but still far from the spirit of the Fourteen Points.

The treaty contained more than 400 articles, but the major issues can be summarized by the following:

Wilson’s victories included the creation of a modern Poland, the pledge of support for disarmament, the establishment of colonial trusts and, of course, the creation of the League of Nations. However, in order to obtain these provisions, he acquiesced to the demands of the Allies on reparations, stripping Germany of its colonies and the near total destruction of the German military — all of which contributed to an undercurrent of anger in the defeated nation.

Opposition to the treaty came from many different sources. Besides the isolationists who felt the treaty forced to United States to do too much, another view was that it did little to prevent future global conflicts. This point, made in an editorial that appeared in the New Republic on May 24, 1919, expressed this view:

Yet if they connive at this Treaty they will, as liberal and humane American democrats who seek by social experiment and education to render their country more worthy of its still unredeemed national promise, be delivering themselves into the hands of their enemies, the reactionaries and the revolutionists. The future of liberal Americanism depends upon a moral union between democracy and nationalism. Such a union is compromised so long as nationalism remains competitive in policy, exclusive in spirit, and complacently capitalist in organization.

Wilson was well aware of the objectionable features of the treaty, but believed that they could be overcome in the future by actions of the League of Nations.

The formal signing of the treaty took place on June 28.


NOTE: The Treaty of Versailles was designed to establish the terms of peace between the Allied Powers and Germany; it was one part of what is generally regarded as the Peace of Paris, which also includes separate treaties with Hungary, Turkey and Austria.
See also Wilson`s Search for Peace and map depicting German territorial losses.

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Quotes regarding Treaty of Versailles.

By John Maynard Keynes
The future life of Europe was not their concern; its means of livelihood was not their anxiety.Their preoccupations, good and bad alike, related to frontiers and nationalities, to the balance of power, to imperial aggrandizements, to the future enfeeblement of a strong and dangerous enemy, to revenge, and to the shifting by the victors of their unbearable financial burdens on to the shoulders of the defeated.
"Economic Consequences of the Peace", 1919

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