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‘Big Three’ as They Came to the Paris Peace Conference Essay Sample

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‘Big Three’ as They Came to the Paris Peace Conference Essay Sample

Assess and analyse the positions of the Big Three as they came to the Paris Peace Conference. Examine what came out of the Treaty of Versailles and explain the differences between the two.

With the First World War ending in November 1918 with an armistice, a treaty was called for by the victorious nations with the aim of making and keeping peace between the five nations of France, Germany, Britain, Austria-Hungary and the United States. The three main victors were France, Britain and the United States, often called, the ‘big three’ and were therefore those in charge of writing the treaty. The ‘big three’ wrote this treaty, the Treaty of Versailles, as well as others, at the Paris Peace Conference. At the Conference, France, Britain and the United States each brought their own incentives and ideas, however, each country did not entirely accomplish what they came into the Conference hoping for. This essay will assess and analyse the positions of the Big Three as they came to the Paris Peace Conference, examine what came out of the Treaty of Versailles and explain the differences between the two.

France’s main objective was to punish Germany for World War I and to somehow have revenge on it. Of all the nations involved, France was seemingly the nation that had suffered the largest moral defeat. Georges Clemenceau, the French President, wanted to not only write a treaty that would be incredibly harsh for Germany, but also one that would prevent Germany from recovering from the war; therefore they wanted to have Germany pay reparations. In addition to this, France wanted to change Germany’s boundaries; France wanted to regain control of Alsace- Lorraine and to annex the Saar land because Germany’s reliance on Russia for assurance was no longer acceptable due to Russia become a communist state.

France also wanted to set up the Rhineland as an independent state because it would be able to allow France to further defend itself from a future invasion. Furthermore, France wanted to limit the size of the German army, so that it could never be powerful enough to once again wage a war as large as the one that had just ended. Additionally, although France did not support the idea of having a League of Nations, if there were to be one, it did not want Germany to be a part of it. Most importantly, France wanted to be guaranteed that it would never be invaded again. Essentially, Clemenceau was keen on French security and did so by weakening Germany militarily, and financially. Due to France’s large loss in World War I, its proposals and ideas for the Treaty of Versailles were especially harsh on Germany alone, but not entirely implausible.

Although World War I had a large effect on Britain, Britain did not nearly want to punish Germany as much as France did. David Lloyd George, Britain’s Prime Minister, wanted to see peace without revenge; his main goal was to prevent a future war meaning that there needed to be a balance in Europe and that neither France nor Germany would be able to overshadow any of the other countries in Europe. Nevertheless, Britain did believe that Germany should be severely punished. Britain considered punishing Germany more important than rapidly recovery the European economy, however, they did not want this to lead to revenge because that might instigate another war.

Lloyd George recognised that British interests would best be served by German economic recovery because Germany was a vital purchaser of British goods. With this in mind, Lloyd George tailored his aims to include high reparations. In addition, Lloyd George wanted Poland to become an independent state and wanted self-government for nations of Austro-Hungary and for non-Turkish people within the Ottoman Empire. Lloyd George also wanted to have freedom of the seas. Finally, Lloyd George wanted Germany to return all the territory that it had occupied throughout the war. Unlike France’s aims, Britain’s were less centred on what would punish Germany most harshly, but rather on what would be advantageous for Britain and Europe in the long run.

The United States, led by president Woodrow Wilson, had a very different view towards the entire ordeal. Wilson’s aims were designed to entice Germany into negotiation. He stressed the importance of determining territorial settlement of Europe on the basis of national self-determination, which is the right that nations have to freely decide on their sovereignty and international political status without external compulsion or outside interference. Wilson devised a list of idealistic principles that he had based off assessments of reasons as to why war broke out. His Fourteen points were as follows: No more secret agreements, free navigation of all seas, an end to all economic barriers between countries, countries were to reduce weapon numbers, all decisions regarding the colonies should be impartial, the German Army is to be removed from Russia, Russia should be left to develop her own political set-up, but is invited to join the society of free nations, Belgium should be independent like before the war, France should be fully liberated and allowed to recover Alsace-Lorraine, all Italians are to be allowed to live in Italy, Italy’s borders are to be “along clearly recognizable lines of nationality”, self-determination should be allowed for all those living in Austria-Hungary, self-determination and guarantees of independence should be allowed for the Balkan states, the Turkish government should govern the Turkish people, non-Turks in the old Turkish Empire should govern themselves, an independent Poland should be created which should have access to the sea, a League of Nations should be set up to guarantee the political and territorial independence of all states.

The most important of these fourteen points was for the League of Nations to be set up, which would secure world peace. Wilson strongly believed that Germany should not pay for all the damage because, in his opinion, the war was not Germany’s fault. Out of all three countries, Wilson’s ideas seemed the most reasonable, however, the United States is not located in Europe and therefore, it did not suffer losses as great and France’s or Britain’s.

All opinions and of the three nations were contemplated and out of them, came the Treaty of Versailles. Germany was forced to sign it and accept the blame for causing World War I; the newly formed German government saw this as ‘dictated peace’. The Treaty forced Germany to give up vast amounts of land. Germany had to give Alsace-Lorraine to France, West Prussia, Danzig and Posen to Poland (Danzig was an international city and would serve as a port for Poland), North Schleswig to Denmark, Schleswig would be divided between Denmark and Germany would be allowed to keep the rest, Eupen and Malmedy to Belgium, the Saar land would be controlled by the League of Nations for fifteen years, and half of Upper Silesia would be given to Poland. In addition to this, Germany would need to give all of its colonies to the victors as mandates.

Due to all of this territorial loss, many people were no longer citizens of Germany. Furthermore, the Treaty of Versailles called for East Prussia to be separated from the rest of Germany. West Prussia would be transferred to Poland and the loss of Danzig meant that East Prussia, which would remain Germany territory, would be separated from the main part of Germany. The Rhineland, however, was to remain part of Germany, but no German troops were permitted into it and there would be a fifteen year Allied occupation. Loss of this territory meant that Germany would loose many raw materials and factories. The treaty forever forbade German unification with Austria (which was a contradiction to national self-determination, but the ‘big three’ found this vital if there were to be lasting peace in Europe).

With the territorial losses over with, the ‘big three’ moved on to reparations. Germany as to pay reparations for all the damage done throughout the war, however, no figure was set at the Paris Peace Conference. Nonetheless, reparations were to be paid in regular instalments. One of the reasons that Germany had been such a resilient opponent was the fact that its tharmy was very strong. Therefore, the Treaty of Versailles made military restrictions on Germany. The German army was limited and conscription was forbidden. Germany was allowed no air force and only a diminutive navy. There was permanent demilitarisation in most of the Rhineland. Finally, enlisted men were detained for twelve years and officers were detained for twenty-five years, so that there were never any highly experienced officers in the army.

All of the points of the Treaty of Versailles were meant to keep Germany non-threatening and to maintain peace in Europe. Although the ‘big three’ did agree to all of these terms, not all of their ideas and points had been carried out. Wilson did not succeed in having Germany not be entirely blamed for World War I; instead, the war guilt clause was placed in the Treaty going completely against what Wilson had recommended. However, some of their ideas had been. All three nations were in agreement for the demilitarisation of Germany, the loss of territory and the reparations. France finally was given Alsace-Lorraine back, which immensely pleased the country. In conclusion, the treaty was unsatisfactory. Albeit the ‘big three’ being in agreement over the terms, they were not all entirely pleased. However, the main problem with the treaty lay not in its terms but in the subsequent failure to enforce it effectively. This proves that it was not doomed from the onset and it could have been retrieved if enough work and commitment had been put into it. Finally, some say that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were sound (moderate, sensible, solid), but the problems set in through their execution.

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