VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > B. World War I, 1914–1918 > 18. The Peace Settlements
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See Aug. 1)
18. The Peace Settlements
a. The Treaty of Versailles
1919, Jan. 18
The peace conference was formally opened at Paris, with 70 delegates representing 27 of the victorious powers. The Germans were excluded until the terms were ready for submission. The German request for a peace on the basis of Wilson's Fourteen Points (See Jan. 8) had been granted by the Allied note of Nov. 5, 1918, with two reservations, but the Fourteen Points receded into the background as the conflict of views and interests developed at the conference. President Wilson, received with the wildest enthusiasm when he arrived in Europe in mid-December, represented the new idealism in international relations and was intent primarily on securing the adoption of a plan for a League of Nations, to be included in the peace treaty. Lloyd George, the chief representative of Great Britain and the empire, was disposed to make a moderate peace, but was deeply committed by promises made in the general election recently held, to the effect that the war criminals would be brought to justice and that Germany would be made to pay for the war. Clemenceau, in turn, was frankly the exponent of the old diplomacy, being intent on the interests of France, and on provisions for the security of France. Both Britain and France were bound further by their agreements with Italy, by commitments in the Near East, and so on. The Italian prime minister, Vittorio Orlando, played a secondary role, but the foreign minister, Sidney Sonnino, stood forth as an unbending champion of Italian claims against Austria and against the new Yugoslav state.  1
The plenary sessions of the conference were of little significance, for the decisions rested from the start with the Supreme Council, the Big Ten, composed of President Wilson and the prime ministers and foreign ministers of the five chief powers (Wilson, Lansing, Lloyd George, Balfour, Clemenceau, Pichon, Orlando, Sonnino, Saionji, Makino). Russia was not represented, though the Russian situation was of vital import. The wars of the counterrevolution were in full swing and the fate of the new states on Russia's western frontiers depended on the outcome. Clemenceau having refused to invite delegates of the warring parties to Paris, a conference was arranged for at the Prinkipo Islands. The Bolshevik government was apparently anxious for some kind of adjustment, but Kolchak and Denikin, the two leading generals of the counterrevolution, refused to enter into discussion, and the whole project fell flat. Public opinion in both France and Britain was violently anti-Bolshevik, and it seems hardly likely that an agreement could have been reached.  2
Jan. 25
The conference unanimously adopted a resolution for the creation of a League of Nations. A committee was appointed to draft a constitution, and other committees were organized to deal with reparations and various territorial questions.  3
In the middle of the month President Wilson returned for a time to the U.S. and Lloyd George to London.  4
March 25
After the return of Wilson and Lloyd George to Paris, the statesmen devoted themselves to the working out of the German treaty. The Council of Ten was replaced by the Council of Four, for the expedition of business.  5
April 28
The Covenant of the League of Nations (See 1914–1946. Interstate Institutions) (worked out by a committee consisting of Wilson, House, Cecil, Smuts, Bourgeois, and Venizelos) was presented in final form. The League was to consist of the signatory states and others admitted by two-thirds vote. The members were to afford each other mutual protection against aggression, to submit disputes to arbitration or inquiry, and to abstain from war until three months after a ruling. All treaties between members which were incompatible with these obligations were declared abrogated; all subsequent treaties were to be registered with the League. The League was to devote itself to problems of disarmament, labor legislation, health, international administration, and so on.  6
The drafting of the peace terms was marked by violent conflict among the members of the Council of Four. Clemenceau insisted on the separation of the left bank of the Rhine from Germany, and desired also the annexation of the Saar Basin to France. These demands were opposed by Wilson and Lloyd George, and French security was finally arranged for otherwise, Wilson having ordered preparations for his return home (April 7). Other disputes arose from the demands of Britain and France that Germany be required to meet the costs of the war, a proposition to which Wilson objected. The Polish claims, supported by France, also caused friction, as did the Japanese pretensions in Shantung and the Italian claims in Dalmatia, neither of which Wilson was prepared to recognize. All these questions were finally settled by compromise in order to keep the conference together (the Italian delegates left the conference on April 23 and did not return until May 6).  7
May 7
The treaty was submitted to the German delegation, which had arrived on April 29. The Germans (Count Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, chief of the delegation) protested vigorously that the terms were not in keeping with the conditions on which Germany had laid down its arms and that many of the clauses were impossible to fulfill. Nevertheless the victorious powers made only slight modifications in the draft, and the Germans, after an acute domestic crisis, decided that they were unable to resist and that their only possible course was to sign.  8
June 21
The German fleet (ten battleships, nine armored cruisers, eight smaller cruisers, 50 torpedo boats, 102 submarines, totaling about 500,000 tons) was scuttled by the crews under the command of Adm. Ludwig von Reuter, at Scapa Flow, where the fleet had been interned. This act of defiance made the victors more determined to enforce the terms of the treaty draft.  9
June 28
SIGNATURE OF THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES at Versailles. The treaty provided for the League of Nations and for the following territorial cessions by Germany (see TERRITORIAL CHANGES FOLLOWING WORLD WAR I (MAP)): Alsace-Lorraine to France; Moresnet, Eupen, and Malmédy to Belgium, with a plebiscite in Malmédy after cession; the Saar area to be under international administration for 15 years, after which a plebiscite was to be held, France exploiting the coal mines in the meanwhile; northern and central Schleswig to decide their allegiance by plebiscite; in the east, Germany to cede the larger part of Posen and West Prussia to Poland; a plebiscite to be held in Upper Silesia; Danzig to be a free city within the Polish customs union; plebiscites to be held in parts of East Prussia to decide whether they should go to Poland or remain with Germany; Memel ceded to the Allies; and the German colonies to be ceded to the Allies, to be organized as mandates under supervision of the League. Germany, in Article 231, accepted sole responsibility for causing the war. It was henceforth to keep an army of not more than 100,000 men, was to have no large guns and only a limited number of smaller ones. The navy was limited to six warships and a corresponding number of other craft; Germany was to have no submarines or military aircraft; the fortifications of Heligoland were to be dismantled; the Allies were to occupy the Rhineland for 15 years, and longer if necessary, and a belt 30 miles wide on the right bank of the Rhine was to be demilitarized. The Kiel Canal was opened to the warships and merchant shipping of all nations, and the German rivers were internationalized. The former emperor and other offenders were to be tried. The Germans were required to pay for all civilian damage caused during the war, the final bill to be presented by May 1, 1921; in the interval Germany was to pay $5 billion, the rest to be paid in 30 years. Germany was to hand over all merchant ships of more than 1,600 tons, half of those between 800 and 1,600 tons, and a quarter of its fishing fleet. It was to build 200,000 tons of shipping for the victors annually for five years. Large quantities of coal were to be delivered to France, Belgium, and Italy for ten years. Germany was to bear the cost of the armies of occupation. It bound itself further to agree to the sale of German property in Allied countries.  10
July 7
The German government ratified the treaty, as did France (Oct. 13), Great Britain (Oct. 15), Italy (Oct. 15), and Japan (Oct. 30). The U.S. government never ratified it, the Senate having first proposed amendments, which failed of the necessary votes. The U.S. government also refused to ratify the treaty of alliance signed with Great Britain and France (June 28) (See July 10–1920, March 19) providing for assistance in case of attack by Germany. This treaty thus also failed of effect. (See European Diplomacy and the Depression, 1919–1939)  11
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.