History of the First The World War (1914-18)!
The World War I was due to many causes and the most important cause was the system of secret alliances.
Before 1914, Europe was divided into two armed camps. In 1879, Germany had entered into an alliance with Austria-Hungary.
In 1882, Italy joined the Austro-German Alliance and thus came into existence what is known as the Triple Alliance.
- Causes of the War
- Course of War
- Peace Settlement (1919-20)
- Treaty of Versailles (1919)
- Treaty of St. Germaine (1919)
- Treaty of Neuilly (1919)
- Treaty of Trianon (1920)
- Treaty of Sevres (1920)
- Criticism of Peace Settlement
- Wilsonian Peace
- Rejection of Treaty of Versailles by the U.S.A
- Lloyd George on Peace Settlement
- Responsibility for the War
1. Causes of the War:
The World War I was due to many causes and the most important cause was the system of secret alliances. Before 1914, Europe was divided into two armed camps. In 1879, Germany had entered into an alliance with Austria-Hungary. In 1882, Italy joined the Austro-German Alliance and thus came into existence what is known as the Triple Alliance.
As a result of the efforts of Bismarck, France and Russia had not been able to come together. However, after his dismissal in 1890, Germany did not care for Russia and consequently, Russia began to lean towards France. Many other factors also brought the two countries together. Thus in 1894 was made the Franco-Russian Alliance. Things remained in this condition for some time.
Although England had followed a policy of splendid isolation during the 19th century, she began to feel that she was all alone. She began to fear the consequences of being alone in the world. To begin with, she tried to enter into an alliance with Germany. When she failed to do so, she entered into an alliance with Japan in 1902.
In 1904 was made the Entente Cordiale between England and France. When in 1907 England signed the Anglo-Russian Convention with Russia, there came into existence what is known as the Triple Entente. Germany won over Turkey to her own side. Thus, Europe was divided into two camps. In one camp were England, France, Russia and Japan. In the other camp were Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Italy.
There was not only jealousy but also enmity between the two camps. It was the mutual hatred created by the system of secret alliances which ultimately brought about the War of 1914. The importance of the secret alliances in bringing about the War can be explained thus. It all came from this D—D system of alliances, which was the curse of modem times.
(2) Another cause of the war was militarism. This means the dangerous and burdensome mechanism of great standing armies and large navies along with an espionage system. It also means the existence of a powerful class of military and naval officers headed by the General Staff.
It is these people who dominated the affairs of the countries particularly at the time of crises. The military and naval armaments of all the Great Powers began to grow year after year. These armaments were alleged to be for defence and in the interests of peace. They were intended to produce a sense of security. However, their actual result was that there was universal fear, suspicion and hatred among the various nations.
This is amply proved by the naval competition between Germany and England. Both countries entered into a race of naval armaments. For every ship built by Germany, two ships were built by England. Such a race could end only in a war. Moreover, militarism put too much of power into the lands of the General Staff of every country. That was not conducive to the maintenance of peace.
(3) Another cause of war was narrow nationalism or competitive patriotism. The love of one’s country demanded the hatred of the other. Love of Germany demanded the hatred of France and vice versa. It was intense nationalism in Serbia which created bitterness between Serbia and Austria- Hungary. That was also responsible for the murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, in 1914.
(4) Economic imperialism was also responsible for the war. Economic imperialism led to international rivalries. Every country tried to capture markets in every nook and comer of the world. That led to bitterness and heart-burning. The efforts to establish protectorates and spheres of influence in various parts of the world also resulted in bad blood among nations.
When Germany tried to capture markets which were already in the hands of the English that led to bitterness between the two countries. Great Britain was not prepared to give up her colonies, protectorates, spheres of influences and markets to humour Germany. As Germany was bent upon getting them at any cost, war followed. There were also tariff wars between the various countries. That also resulted in the worsening of the relations.
(5) Another cause of the war was the poisoning of the public opinion by the newspapers. Very often, newspapers in all countries tried to inflame nationalist feeling by misrepresenting the situation in other countries. Ambassadors and Cabinet ministers frequently admitted the senseless attitude of the leading newspapers in their own countries. They offered apologies and promised to put restraint on them if the other governments would do likewise.
The newspapers of two countries often took up some point of dispute, exaggerated it, and made attacks and counter-attacks until a regular newspaper war was created. According to Bismarck, “Every country is held at some time to account for the windows broken by its press; the bill is presented some day or other, in the shape of hostile sentiments in the other country.”
(6) Another cause of the war was the character of William II, Emperor of Germany. He was very arrogant and haughty. He was very ambitious. He wanted Germany to be the strongest Power in the world. He believed in a policy of “world power or downfall.” He was not prepared to make any compromise in international affairs. He wanted to have his own way in every case. He had formed a very poor opinion of the English character.
His view was that Englishmen would accept all his demands rather than fight against him. In his estimate of the English nation, he was sadly mistaken. The British desire to maintain peace was not an indication of her cowardice or weakness. It was a misunderstanding of the British character by William II that was responsible for his attitude towards England and that mistake proved to be his undoing.
(7) Another cause of the war was the desire of the people of France to get back Alsace-Lorraine which had been snatched away from them in 1871 by Germany. The Government of the Third Republic in France left no stone unturned to keep alive the spirit of revenge and the hope for the restoration of the two provinces.
The statue of Strasbourg in the Place de la Concorde in Paris reminded the Frenchmen of their lost territories “La demiere class” of Daudet brought forth tears from the eyes of the school children of France and created in them the spirit of revenge. Likewise, the songs of Paul Deroulede inculcated among the young men a feeling of revenge.
There was also the economic motive for getting back Alsace-Lorraine. The iron and steel magnates of France felt that they could not do without the iron mines of Lorraine. There was a feeling that the industrial prosperity of Germany was due to the iron mines of Lorraine and the Frenchmen must have burnt their blood when they found the same in the hands of their enemies.
It is pointed out that if Germany had not interfered in Morocco, Frenchmen might have found some material compensation for the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and forgotten their revenge against Germany but the German interference in the affairs of Morocco added to the bitterness between the two countries.
(8) Another cause of the war was the lack of any machinery to control international relations. There was anarchy in the international relations of the various countries. Everything was secret and nothing was known about them to the people at large. It was found that the secrets of diplomacy were not known even to all the members of the same ministry.
Even the legislatures were kept completely in the dark with regard to international commitments. Although Sir Edward Grey allowed in January 1906 the holding of naval and military conversations between France and England, the Cabinet came to know of them in 1912 and the Parliament was informed of the same in 1914.
Secret diplomacy created a lot of confusion in the minds of the people and thus the issues and responsibilities were beclouded. Hysteria took the place of sobriety and sincerity. Forgery, theft, lying, bribery and corruption existed in every Foreign Office and Chancellory throughout Europe.
(9) Although there was a “code of international law and morality”, there was no power to enforce the same. Many resolutions were passed at The Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 but those were observed by the various States according to their convenience. Every State considered itself to be sovereign and did not regard itself to be bound by its international commitments. Although Italy was a member of the Triple Alliance, she entered into separate agreements with France in 1902 and Russia in 1909. She was prepared to have an extra dance with the members of the opposite camp.
(10) Another cause of the war was the permeation of Germany by the Prussian spirit. According to that spirit. “He who succeeds is never in the wrong.” Victory was identified with morality. The Prussians were taught that war was the most logical thing in the world. According to Mirabeau, “War is the national industry of Prussia.”
According to Treitschke, the State is power. “The care for its power is the highest moral duty of the State. Of all political weaknesses that of feebleness is the most abominable and despicable; it is the sin against the Holy Spirit of politics.” To quote Nietzsche, “Ye say, a good cause will allow even war. I say unto you…A good war hallows every cause. War and courage have accomplished greater things than love of their neighbour.”
The younger generation of Germany was indoctrinated with such a practical philosophy. Eminent historians like Dahlmann, Droyden, Sybel and Treitschke devoted their energy and learning to the task of justifying to the Germans the ways of Prussia. A similar effort was made by Bemhardi in his writings. To Bemhardi, “All which other nations attained in centuries of natural development—political union, colonial possessions, naval power, international trade—was denied to our nation only—quite recently. What we now wish to attain must be fought for and won, against a superior force of hostile interests and powers.”
According to Prof Lamprecht, “After bloody victories the world will be heated by being Germanised.” To quote Treitschke again. “Just as the greatness of Germany is to be found in the governance of Germany by Prussia, so the greatness and good of the world is to be found in the predominance of all German culture, of the German mind—in a word, of the German character.”
(11) Another cause of the war was the desire of the people of Italy to recover the Trentino and the area around the port of Trieste which were inhabited by Italians but were still a part and parcel of Austria-Hungary. There was frequently heard the cry of Italia Irredenta or “unredeemed Italy” and even the Italian ministers participated in those demonstrations.
Such cries were those of war and were not likely to maintain peace in Europe. Italy also entered into a competition with Austria to control the Adriatic Sea. As Austria was not prepared to put up with that competition, there was bound to be bitterness in the relations of the two countries.
(12) Another cause of the war was the “Near-Eastern Problem”. Many factors complicated the situation in the Balkans. The misrule of Turkey resulted in discontentment. There was a rivalry between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria for the control of Macedonia which had a mixed population.
Russia was keenly interested in the Balkan politics and she backed Serbia on the occasion of the Bosnian crisis of 1908-9 and could be expected to do the same in future. The forces of Pan-Slavism added another factor into an otherwise complicated situation. The Austro-German Drang nach Osten or “Urge towards the East” made matters worse.
(13) The provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina created another “Alsace-Lorraine” in the Balkans. These two provinces were given to Austria-Hungary by the Congress of Berlin of 1878. However, she was given the right merely to occupy and govern them and not to annex them. The sovereignty of the Sultan was maintained over them. However, Austria-Hungary annexed them in 1908 by her unilateral action.
This brought forth bitter protests from Serbia. A strong agitation was started in Serbia to separate these provinces from Austria-Hungary and unite them with Serbia. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina were more anxious for their independence from Austria-Hungary than for their union with Serbia.
However, they were willing to accept help from Serbia in their efforts to become independent. After 1909, the rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Serbia in the Balkans became very keen and by 1914 it burst into a war.
(14) The immediate cause of the war was the murder of Archduke Ferdinand who was the heir to the Austrian throne. What actually happened was that there was going on rivalry between Austria- Hungary and Serbia in the Balkans. Its intensity increased after 1909. The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 added to the territory, population and resources of Serbia. She was flushed with victory. She had not forgotten her humiliation of 1909. Many secret societies had been set up to bring about the union of all the Slavs.
The “Black Hand” or “Union or Death” Society planned to kill Oskar Potiorek, the Governor of Bosnia. The seal of the society showed a skull and cross-bones, a dagger, a bomb and bottle of poison. However, it came to be known at that time that Archduke Ferdinand was coming to Bosnia. Highly placed persons in the Serbian Government supplied weapons, munitions and instructors to the persons who were actually to carry out the murder.
According to the plans, the Archduke and his wife paid a visit to Sarajevo, a city of Bosnia, on 28 June 1914. Unfortunately, that was a day of mourning in Serbia as it commemorated the battle of Kossovo of 1389 in which the Serbians were defeated by the Turks and they lost their independence. When the official party was on the way to the Town Hall, one of the conspirators threw a bomb on the automobile of the Archduke. Somehow, the Archduke escaped and others were injured.
The accused was captured and the official party reached the Town Hall. After finishing the ceremonies at the Town Hall, the party proceeded to visit the City Museum. Unfortunately, the automobile of the Archduke went into a wrong street and the driver had to back it. This gave an opportunity to another member of the gang who had come to kill the royal party. He came forward from the crowd and fired two shots point blank. The result was that both the Archduke and his wife were killed.
Austria-Hungary was already sick of Serbia and she decided to take advantage of the new situation to crush her. Germany promised to support Austria-Hungary. She did not give her any advice but merely gave her a blank cheque. The following passage occurs in the German White Book published on August 1, 1914. “It was clear to Austria that it was not compatible with the dignity and the spirit of self-preservation of the monarchy to view idly any longer this (Serbian) agitation across the border.
The imperial and Royal Government appraised Germany of this conception and asked for our opinion. With all our heart we were able to agree with our ally’s estimate of the situation, and assure him that any action considered necessary to end the movement in Serbia directed against the conservation of the monarchy would meet with our approval.
“We were perfectly aware that a possible warlike attitude of Austria-Hungary against Serbia might bring Russia upon the field and that it might therefore involve us in a war, in accordance with our duty as allies.We could not, however, in these vital interests of Austria-Hungary, which were at stake, advise our ally to take a yielding attitude not compatible with his dignity, nor deny him our assistance in these trying days. We could do this all the less as our own interests were menaced through the continued Serb agitation. If the Serbs continued with the aid of Russia and France to menace the existence of Austria-Hungary, the gradual collapse of Austria and the subjection of all the Slavs under one Russian scepter would be the consequence, thus making untenable the position of the Teutonic race in Central Europe. A morally weakened Austria under the pressure of Russian pan-Slavism would be no longer an ally on whom we could count and in whom we could have confidence, as we must be able to have, in view of the ever more menacing attitude of our easterly and westerly neighbours. We, therefore, permitted Austria a completely free hand in her action towards Serbia, but have not participated in her preparations.”
To begin with, Austria was in favour of having a local war but as time passed on the situation became all the more grave. If Austria wanted to finish Serbia, the same was the attitude of Serbia towards Austria. The attitude and utterances of Serbian officials and newspapers were “downright intolerable”. Austria gave an ultimatum to Serbia. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sazonov, told the Serbian Ambassador in Russia that “Russia would in no circumstances permit Austrian aggression against Serbia.” This gave encouragement to Serbia and she refused to accept in full the Austrian demands.
In most of the countries, the reply of Serbia was considered to be reasonable. Even William II felt that the reply removed “every reason for war.” Austria was asked to try mediation but instead of doing so, she declared war on Serbia on 28 July, 1914. Serbia herself welcomed war and even before sending her reply had already ordered general mobilization.
Great Britain and Germany tried to localize the war but it was soon found that matters had gone out of their hands. President Poincare of France visited Russia from 20 July to 23 July 1914 and promised French help to Russia against Austria. To quote him, “Serbia has very warm friends in the Russian people and Russia has an ally, France.”
When Russia ordered general mobilization on 23 July 1914, Germany sent an ultimatum demanding demobilization within 12 hours. As Russia refused to accept that ultimatum, Germany declared war on Russia. According to Prof. Fay, “It was primarily Russia’s general mobilization when Germany was trying to bring Austria to a settlement, which precipitated the final catastrophe, causing Germany to mobilize and declare war.”
It is pointed out that although Sir Edward Grey tried to maintain peace, he did not follow the right course to achieve the same. He might have prevented the war by frankly telling Germany that if she attacked France or Russia, Great Britain would fight against her. A similar result might have been secured if he had told France and Russia that if they insisted on war. Great Britain would remain neutral.
However, Grey did not adopt either of the two courses. On account of differences in the British Cabinet, he did not support Russia and France whole-heartedly. Although Grey maintained that England was not committed to help any country, he was not telling the whole truth because the military conversations between England and France had committed the two countries to each other. Grey may not have been in favour of joining war but if a war was actually to come, he was ready to join hands with Russia and France.
The public in England was opposed to the participation of Great Britain in a war which was over a Balkan question. However, Germany ordered her troops to march into Belgium. That was in violation of the International Treaty of 1839 by which Belgium had been guaranteed neutrality and England was one of the signatories to that Treaty. The King of Belgium resisted and Great Britain also came to his help. Thus Great Britain also joined the World War I in August 1914.
In the war that followed, Serbia was supported by Russia and France and France was supported by England. Japan also joined them. Although Italy was a member of the Triple Alliance, she did not declare war on the side of Austria-Hungary and Germany. She remained neutral for a year and then she declared war against Austria and Germany. Turkey declared war against the Allies and fought on the side of the Central Powers.
2. Course of War:
Although England joined the war on the plea that Germany had violated the neutrality of Belgium, the latter could not be saved. The German steam roller was able to smash the resistance of the people of Belgium. Then came the turn of France. There was bitter fighting on the French soil. The Battle of Marne is a memorable one for trench warfare.
The Battle of Verdun decided the fortunes of the war in favour of the Allies. Germany started submarine warfare on a large scale and nothing was spared on the seas. All laws relating to naval warfare were thrown to the winds. Only the principle of victory at any price was pursued.
Russia fought on the side of the Allies up to 1917 when a revolution took place in that country. The Czarist regime was overthrown and power was ultimately captured by Lenin and his followers. The Bolshevist regime in Russia wanted peace and consequently it came to terms with Germany and thus the Treaty of Brest Litvosk was signed between Germany and Russia.
After the defection of Russia in 1917, the position of Germany became very strong. The drives of Hindenburg and Ludendorff carried everything before them. It appeared as if the Allies were going to lose. However, the U.S.A. came to their help. The Lusitania, an American ship, was torpedoed by a German submarine and consequently many Americans lost their lives.
There was a lot of resentment in the U.S.A. and that enabled President Wilson to declare war against Germany.’ Fresh troops began to pour into Europe from the U.S.A. In spite of her best efforts, Germany could not stand and ultimately she surrendered in November 1918.
Turkey also fought on the side of the Central Powers. It is true that she had initial success and the Allies met with reverses particularly in Mesopotamia and Gallipoli, but ultimately Turkey was defeated and she also had to surrender.
Japan declared war against the Central Powers in 1914 and she was able to capture the province of Kai-Chow and the German concessions in the province of Shantung. Although China also joined the Allies, she was presented with 21 demands by Japan. The European Powers were entangled in a life and death struggle and consequently Japan was able to have her own way. Most of her demands were conceded and China virtually came under the control of Japan. It is true that there was bitterness in China, but the position of Japan was vindicated even at the Paris Conference in 1919.
The spirit, in which the war was fought, is described thus:
There is but one task for all
One life for each to give.
What stands if Freedom falls?
Who dies if England lives?
The World War I was in many ways entirely novel in human history. The previous wars had involved as many states and lasted even longer. In every decade since 1815, there had been a war somewhere. As a matter of fact, 13 separate wars had been fought in Europe itself. However, if there had been no general peace, there had been no general war.
The World War I was the first general conflict between the highly organised states of the twentieth century. The belligerents were able to command the energies of all their citizens, mobilize the productive capacity of modem industries, and employ the resources of modem technology to find out new methods of destruction and defence.
It was the first war on a large scale which dislocated international economy. The war was fought with determination and desperation. The belligerents believed that they were fighting for survival. They also believed that they were fighting for ideals. The war was fought in Europe to a point of exhaustion or collapse. The war was fought on land and above land, on sea and under the sea.
The coming of tank and airplane dreadnought and submarine made warfare three-dimensional. New resources of economic and even physiological warfare were tapped. It was the first war of the masses. It was a war between the whole peoples and not merely between armies and navies. This war between the grand alliances had many qualities of a Frankenstein monster.
The wars of Bismarck had been instruments of precision for attaining diplomatic and political ends. They rested on policies of limited liability and specific objectives. The war of 1914 got as utterly out of hand as an instrument of policy that it demanded unlimited liability. Its original objectives were ignored and other considerations came to the front.
Even the aims of the belligerents changed in course of war. Its outcome was different from the original or the subsequent aims of either side. Its greatest novelty was the great disparity between the ends sought, the price paid and the results obtained.
When the War ended, each belligerent nation bore lasting scars. Millions of men were either killed or disabled. Russia lost more than two million, Germany nearly two million, France and her colonies nearly one and a half million, Austria-Hungary one and a quarter million and the British Empire nearly one million.
The loss of lives so far as the United States was concerned was about 115,000. About 10 million men of all nations lost their lives. Most of them were under 40 years of age. More than twice that number was wounded. A considerable proportion of them were maimed for life. All the wars from the time of Napoleon to the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 had cost less than four and a half million lives.
It was calculated in France that between August 1914 and February 1917, one Frenchman was killed every minute. That had never been the case before. Everywhere the structure of population both in sex and in age groups was affected. The number of women who died was very small. As more men had died than women, the problem of surplus women was to be faced.
The ideal of national economic self-sufficiency was born directly out of the needs of the war Autarky became a favorite notion of the inter-war period and means to make it possible were discovered during the war. To make explosives, Fritz Haber perfected the process of extracting nitrogen from the air because nitrates could no longer be imported from Chile; Cellulose was invented in the laboratory as a substitute for cotton.
Further research in that direction resulted in a series of new industries making rayons and plastics and synthetic materials. The occupied territories of Europe suffered very much. As Belgium was a battlefield, there was great destruction there. The economy of the country was wrecked. Its cities were mined. Many of its people became refugees or deportees or prisoners of war. When the Russians were driven out of Polish territory, the Germans behaved as liberators. Many Poles preferred German rule to Russian rule.
3. Peace Settlement (1919-20):
After the overthrow of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey, the Allied statesmen met at Paris to decide the future map of Europe. The choice of Paris as the venue of the Conference was not a happy one.
That was due to the fact that a lot of fighting and destruction had taken place in the neighbourhood of Paris and unhappy memories and associations were bound to have their effect on the conclusions of the Conference. It would have been better if some other suitable place in Switzerland had been chosen for that purpose.
However, the Conference met at Paris and President Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Orlando played a very important part in the deliberations of the Conference. The work of negotiation was not an easy one. Germany had surrendered on the basis of Fourteen Points of President Wilson, but those could not be made the basis of the settlement.
They had to be adjusted to fit in with the secret treaties among the Allies regarding the distribution of the possessions of the enemies. The force of circumstances compelled President Wilson to compromise on many points. No wonder, the Settlement of Paris was unsatisfactory in many ways.
A few words may be said about Wilson, Clemenceau and Lloyd George. As regards Wilson, he was resolute and formidable. He could break and not bend. His stiffness was both a virtue and a defeat. Sometimes, it was responsible for wrong decisions and unwise concessions. He was a great orator but he had no precision of mind. He was not an expert in readiness in debate and conversation.
He lost himself in details. By the weight of his character, Wilson exercised a power which could neither be understood nor resisted. It was his persistence which was responsible for the inclusion of the Covenant of the League of Nations into the Treaty of Versailles. He was no match for Clemenceau and Lloyd George in their cleverness. No wonder, they were able to get things done from him which he would not have voluntarily approved of.
Clemenceau was the Prime Minister of France. He has been rightly called the “Tiger”. Short in size, he looked like some grave oriental sage. At times he was satirical and cynical. At other times, he showed a literary and artistic insight. He knew when and where to change his moods. He treated the smaller powers with indifference but understood that he could not have his own way while dealing with Great Britain and the United States.
He wished for peace based on force alone and laughed at the 14 Points of President Wilson, but he knew that he could not have his own way. He well understood the limits to which Great Britain and the United States were prepared to go and he did not go beyond them. In debate, he exercised tact and delicacy which stood him in good stead. Apart of the unhappy terms of the Treaty of Versailles were due to his influence.
As regards Lloyd George, he possessed the instincts of a statesman. Personally he was not in favour of exacting impossible amounts of money from Germany as reparation. To quote him, “Was it sensible to treat her as a cow from which to extract milk and beef at the same time?”
However, he was plagued during the course of negotiations by pressure from home. He was asked by his countrymen to exact the best possible terms from Germany. It is rightly stated that in so far as Lloyd George had had influence on the Treaty of Versailles, it was on account of the telegrams which he got from his countrymen.
Sir Harold Nicolson has described “the tired and contemptuous eyelids of Clemenceau, the black button-boots of Woodrow Wilson, the round and jovial gestures of Mr. Lloyd George’s hands”. Lord Keynes wrote of Clemenceau’s short, decisive sentences and his displays of obstinacy, “throned, in his gray gloves, on the brocade chair, dry in soul and empty of hope, very old and tired, but surveying the scene with a cynical and almost impish air”, of Wilson’s appearance as “a non-conformist minister, perhaps a Presbyterian” whose thought and temperament were not intellectual but theological, of Lloyd George “watching the company, with six or seven senses not available to ordinary men… compounding with telepathic instinct the argument or appeal best suited to the vanity, weakness or self-interest of his auditor.”
In spite of these contrasts, they had many things in common. All of them had led their countries in war and victory. All of them were leaders of democratic countries and hence sensitive to national feelings at home. In two respects, the position of Wilson differed from that of his colleagues. Wilson was the head of the most powerful single state at the Conference upon which most of Europe depended for loans and supplies.
Whereas in December 1918 Lloyd George had won resounding victory in the “Khaki election” and Clemenceau had been granted an overwhelming vote of confidence by 398 votes to 93 by the French Chamber of Deputies, Wilson had received a setback at home. In the Congressional elections of November 1918, the Republican Party gained majorities both in the Senate and House of Representatives. The result was that he had no majority at home. His position and morale were also undermined by the French press, and he became more and more a lonely and forlorn figure.
Lloyd George had a very difficult time at the Peace Conference. He found President Wilson and Clemenceau differing from each other on many points. While Wilson wanted to base the peace settlement on idealism Clemenceau wonted to base it on force. Lloyd George had a difficult time to make his colleagues agree on a compromise. On many occasions, that meant self-effacement on his part. It cannot be said that he neglected any purely British interests. However, it cannot be denied that while doing so he included many nobler and universal interests.
4. Treaty of Versailles (1919):
The signing of the Treaty of Versailles between the Allies and Germany on 28 June, 1919 was not an easy affair. When the draft of the Treaty was ready, Germany was asked to send her delegates. She decided to send some subordinate officials to bring the document to Berlin for consideration.
This was interpreted as an insult to the Allies and Germany was told that she must send a full-fledged diplomatic delegation to receive the document or there would be trouble ultimately, a German delegation led by its Foreign Minister went to Versailles. Unfortunately, the movements of the members of the delegation were strictly watched and they were not given the liberty of going about. They were kept in a hotel behind barbed wires.
They were not allowed to communicate with anybody. On 7 May 1919, the peace terms were handed over to the German delegation. It is pointed out that on that occasion when the Allied and American delegations came to the spot, they were saluted by a Guard of Honour but the same was withdrawn when the German delegation arrived. Clemenceau, the French Premier, addressed the German delegation in these words, “You have before you the accredited plenipotentiaries of all the small and great Powers united to fight together in the war that has been so cruelly imposed upon them. The time has come when we must settle our accounts. You have asked for peace. We are ready to give you peace.”
The German Foreign Minister replied to Clemenceau while sitting. He confessed that the Germans were under no illusion as to the extent of their defeat and the degree of their helplessness, but he denied the charge that Germany was responsible for the war. He declared that Germany was friendless, yet she had justice on her side. The German delegation was informed that they must send their reply within three weeks and all communications by them must be addressed in writing.
We are informed that the publication of the peace terms sent a wave of bitterness all over Germany. The Allies were condemned for their treachery and deceit. The German Government submitted a detailed memorandum on the Treaty. While the terms of the Treaty covered 230 printed pages, the German Memorandum consisted of 443 pages.
A few minor alterations were made in the original treaty on the suggestion of Lloyd George and the revised treaty was given to the Germans and they were given 5 days to accept the same and were warned that if they failed to do so, their country would be invaded. The terms of the treaty were so unjust that there were many Germans who were prepared to wreck their country while fighting against the Allies rather than accept the terms of the Treaty.
However Field-Marshal Hindenburg made it clear that it was impossible to fight successfully against the Allies Germany was in the throes of a famine and the German Assembly at Weimar decided to accept the terms of the treaty but objected to the provisions relating to war-guilt and the demand for the surrender of the war criminals.
The Allies demanded unconditional acceptance and when the Germans found no other alternative, they submitted. It was contended by the German representative that his country was submitting to “overwhelming force, but without on that account abandoning her views in regard to the unheard of injustice of the conditions of peace.”
It was difficult to find some prominent German to go to Versailles to sign the Treaty. Ultimately, the German Foreign Minister headed the delegation. For the second time, the German delegates were treated like prisoners during their stay in Paris. When the German delegates left Paris for Versailles where the ceremony of signing the Treaty was to be held in the Hall of Mirrors, the Parisian mob threw stones at them and also hurled abuses on them. It was in these circumstances that the German delegates signed the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June, the 5th anniversary of the murder of Archduke Ferdinand.
Provisions of the Treaty:
The documents containing the terms of the Treaty of Versailles consisted of 15 parts and had 440 articles and a score of annexes.
(1) Germany had to give Alsace-Lorraine to France, Eupen and Malmedy to Belgium, Memel to Lithuania and a large part of Posen and Western Prussia to Poland. She agreed to give Upper Silesia and the southern part of East Prussia to Poland if the people concerned were in favour of joining it and their wish was to be ascertained by means of a plebiscite.
When the plebiscite was actually held, the returns showed that more than 700,000 persons voted for Germany and 480,000 for Poland. When that happened, Poland demanded that he must be given those areas which had Polish majorities. The contention of Germany was that the entire region was an indivisible economic unit and could not be divided.
There was a deadlock for some time and ultimately it was decided to partition Silesia in such a way as to leave more than half of its people and the land area to Germany, but Poland was given more of economic resources. The latter got 53 out of 67 coal mines. She also got all the zinc and lead foundries and about three-fourths of the coal producing area. She also secured 11 out of 16 zinc and lead mines.
(2) Danzig was taken away from Germany and set up as a Free City under the League of Nations. Poland was given special rights in the city of Danzig.
(3) The Rhineland was demilitarised. Germany was forbidden to “maintain or construct any fortifications either on the left bank of the Rhine or on the right bank to the west of a line drawn 50 kilometers to the east of the Rhine.” The existing fortifications were to be destroyed. No military force was to be maintained in that area. No manoeuvres of the army were to be held in the Rhineland.
(4) “As the compensation for the destruction of the coal mines in the north of France and as part payment toward the total reparation demand from Germany for the damages resulting from the war,” Germany had to give the coal mines of the Saar Valley “in full and absolute possession, with exclusive rights of exploitation.” The Saar Valley was put under the League of Nations for 15 years and then a plebiscite was to be held to decide as to whether the Saar Valley was to remain under the League of Nations or go to Germany or France. When the plebiscite was actually held, the people of the Saar Valley voted for Germany.
(5) It was provided that the fortifications and the harbours of the Islands of Heligoland and Dune were to be destroyed. Germany promised to acknowledge and respect the independence of Austria.
(6) Germany was forced to give up all her rights and titles over her overseas possessions to the Allies and those were divided among themselves by Great Britain, France, Japan, Austria, New Zealand, Union of South Africa and Belgium. Japan got the lease of Kiao-Chow and other German concessions in the province of Shantung. New Zealand got the German portion of the Island of Somoa. England got the German West Africa, England and France divided among themselves the Kameroons and Togoland.
(7) The complete independence and full sovereignty of Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia were recognised by Germany. She also agreed to cancel the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest.
(8) Germany gave up her special rights and privileges in China, Thailand, Egypt, Morocco and Liberia. The Allies also reserved to themselves the right to retain and liquidate all property, rights and interests of the German nationals or companies abroad and the German Government was required to pay compensation to them. The property and concessions enjoyed by Germany in Bulgaria and Turkey were forfeited.
(9) An attempt was made to cripple once for all the military strength of Germany. The German General Staff was abolished. The total strength of the German army was fixed at one lakh. The German army was to be maintained only for the maintenance of law and order within the country and the protection of her frontiers.
It was specifically provided that the number of the customs officials, coast guards and forest guards was not to exceed the figure of 1,913. The police force was to be increased only in proportion to the increase in the population. Restrictions were put on the manufacture of armaments, munitions and other war materials by Germany.
Both the import or export of war materials was banned. She was neither to make nor to purchase from outside tanks, armoured cars and poison gases. There was to be conscription in Germany. The German soldiers and officers were not to be retired prematurely and frequently to add to the effective military strength of the country.
“Educational establishments, the universities, societies of discharged soldiers, shooting or touring clubs and generally speaking associations of every description, whatever be the age of their members, must not occupy themselves with any military matters.”
(10) The German Navy also met with a step-motherly treatment. Germany was allowed to have only 6 battleships, 6 light cruisers, 12 destroyers and 12 torpedo boats. No submarines were to be allowed.
Submarine cables were to be surrendered. A new warship could be built only to replace on old one and not otherwise. The navy was not to have more than 15,000 men including officers.
The members of the German merchant marine were not to get naval training. All the surplus war vessels were to be destroyed or converted into merchant ships or handed over to the Allies. Germany was not to have any military, naval or air force. She had to surrender all aeronautical war materials. The Allies reserved to themselves the right to appoint commissioners to find out whether the above military provisions were being carried out faithfully by Germany or not.
(11)William II, the German Emperor, was charged with “the supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties.” He was to be tried by a tribunal. This provision became in-fructuous because the Government of the Netherlands refused to hand over the German Emperor to the Allies. Germany also agreed to surrender other persons “accused of having committed acts in violation of the laws and customs of war.” However, only a dozen unimportant German war criminals were tried by the tribunal and given light punishments.
(12) Germany had to admit that she was responsible for the war of 1914-18. To quote Article 231, “The Allied and Associated Government affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.”
However, it was realised that Germany could not pay for all losses and damages and she was allowed “to make compensation for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allied and Associated Powers to their property, by land, by sea and from the air.” There were 10 categories of losses and damages in the Annexure. Germany was to compensate Belgium for all the money borrowed by the latter during the war. She was also to pay interest at the rate of 5%.
(13) Provision was made for the appointment of a Reparations Commission to determine the total amount of reparations to be paid by Germany and the methods by which the same was to be done. However, up to May 1921, Germany was required to pay about 500 million dollars.
The economic resources of Germany were to be employed for the physical restoration of the invaded areas. Germany agreed to deliver specified quantities of coal to France, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg. France was also to receive certain quantities of benzal, ammonium sulphate and coal-tar.
(14) Germany was required to return the trophies, works of art and flags taken from France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. She was to compensate the University of Louvain for the destruction of her manuscripts and documents. She was to restore the original Koran of the Caliph Othman to the King of Hedjaz. She was to restore to England the skull of the Sultan Mkwawa.
(15) The Elbe, Danube, Oder and Niemen rivers were internationalised. The River Rhine was put under the control of an international commission. The Kiel Canal and its approaches were opened to all nations. Germany was to give on lease free zones to Czechoslovakia for 99 years in the ports of Hamburg and Stettin. The Allied goods were to be given a favourable treatment on the German railways.
(16) Provision was also made for the enforcement of the above clauses. The German territory west of the Rhine, together with the bridgeheads, was to be occupied by the Allied troops for a period of 15 years. If Germany carried out her obligations faithfully, the bridgehead at Cologne was to be evacuated after 5 years, that at Coblenz after 10 years and that at Mainz after 15 years. If Germany misbehaved, the occupation was liable to be prolonged. As a matter of fact, all the troops were withdrawn by 1930. The Reparations Commission was duly appointed and ultimately it fixed the war-indemnity at 54 billion dollars.
5. Treaty of St. Germaine (1919):
This treaty was made between Austria-Hungary, and the Allies. Austria recognised the complete independence of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia. She gave up many territories which formerly were included in Austria-Hungary. The result of this treaty was that Austria was reduced to a small Republic with an area and population smaller than those of Portugal. She was deprived of her sea-ports. Her army was reduced to 30,000 men. The International Reparations Commission was to fix the war-indemnity to be paid by Austria.
According to Grant and Temperley, “The Treaty of St. Germaine reduced Austria to less than half her old population. She surrendered seven and a half million Slavs in Galicia to the new Poland, and over a million other non-Germans. She gave up also nearly four million Germans, of whom three and a half millions went to Czechoslovakia. Austria’s new boundaries confined her to the Austrian Archduchies, Styria and the Tyrol, with a population of about eight millions odd, nearly all of pure German race. The once proud Austria, which had ruled over twenty million subjects and fifteen different races, was reduced to less than half of her former size, and lost a third of her purely German population. She became miserably poor and dragged out a pathetic existence from this time, and was annexed by Germany in 1938.”
6. Treaty of Neuilly (1919):
This treaty was signed on 27 November 1919 between Bulgaria and the Allies. Bulgaria gave up most of those territories which she had got during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and the World War I. She gave up a part of Macedonia to Yugoslavia and the whole of Dobrudja to Rumania. She gave the Thracian Coast to the Allies and the latter gave the same to Greece. Bulgaria was to pay a war-indemnity of about half a million dollars. Her army was reduced to 33,000 men.
7. Treaty of Trianon (1920):
This treaty was signed on 4 June 1920 between Hungary on the one hand and the Allies on the other. By this treaty, Hungary gave up the non-Magyar population. While Slovak provinces were given to Czechoslovakia, Transylvania was given to Rumania and Croatia was given to Yugoslavia. Banat was divided between Yugoslavia and Rumania. The Hungarian army was reduced to 35,000 men. The population of the new State of Hungary was eight million and area about 35,000 sq. miles.
8. Treaty of Sevres (1920):
Turkey had fought on the side of the Central Powers and she too was defeated along with them. The Treaty of Sevres was signed on 10 August 1920 between Turkey and the Allies. By this treaty the Arab State of Hedjaz was nominally freed and put under British control. Armenia was created into a Christian Republic and she was put under an international guarantee.
Mesopotamia, Trans-Jordan, Syria and Palestine were taken away from Turkey; Syria was given to France under the Mandate of the League of Nations. Palestine, Mesopotamia and Trans-Jordan were given to England under the Mandate system.
Galicia was recognised as a French sphere of influence. Southern Anatolia was recognised as an Italian sphere of influence. Adrianople, Gallipoli, the Islands of Ambros and Tenedos, Smyrna, and the territory on the coast of Asia Minor were given to Greece.
Greece also got the Dodecanese Islands with the exception of two islands. The Dardanelles and the Bosphorus were internationalised. Turkey was to pay a huge war-indemnity.
The treaty with Turkey was a harsh one and was extremely unpopular. This led to the rise of Mustafa Kamal in Turkey. The Turks resisted the Treaty of Sevres under his leadership. There was a lot of confusion and ultimately, a war broke out between Greece and Turkey. Nobody joined on any side and consequently, the war dragged on. Ultimately, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed on 9 July 1923 with Turkey. By this treaty, Turkey got very favourable terms.
However, he agreed to give up Trans-Jordan, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Syria and Hedjaz. She was allowed to retain the whole of Anatolia, Armenia, Adrianople, Eastern Thrace, Smyrna, Galicia, Adalia, etc. The Dardanelles and the Bosphorus were internationalised.
The three partitions of Poland in the 18th century had effaced the name of Poland from the map but the Poles put up a heroic struggle for freedom during the 19th century. During the World War I, as Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany suffered defeats, they relaxed then holder Poland.
The Poles took foil advantage of that opportunity and became a free nation before the actually ended in November 1918. When the Peace Conference recognised the independence of Poland, it merely acknowledged an accomplished fact.
The Great Powers fixed a boundary line for Poland which represented the eastern limit of purely a Polish territory. This was known as the Curzon Line which ran from Punsk in the North to Grodow-Vlodava, north of Kholm and from there to the boundary of Eastern Galicia. This was not acceptable to Poland and she occupied East Galicia and Vilna. She fought against Soviet Russia and by the treaty of Riga (1920) she got a population and territory about double of that recommended Z the Curzon Line There were some 27 million people in all Poland in which the Ruthenians and Lithuanians were aliens.
10. Criticism of Peace Settlement:
The Treaty of Versailles was assailed by the Germans as “Carthagian peace”, a dictated peace, a shame and an outrage, an unheard of robbery of the German people fraudulent, selfish and even vulgar. It was a dictated peace because it was dictated to a mortified foe and because throughout the three and half months spent in drawing up the first draft, the Gemans were not consulted at all.
The armistice was periodically reviewed and with every renewal, the threat of invasion was given to a blockaded Germany and more concessions were extorted. The following statement of Lloyd George shows the spirit in which the Treaty of Versailles was imposed on the people of Germany. “These terms are written in the blood of fallen heroes. We must carry out the edict of Providence and see that the people who inflicted this War shall never be in a position to do so again The Germans say they will not sign. Their newspapers say they will not sign. If you don t do so in Versailles, you shall do so in Berlin.” The German representatives signed the Treaty at the point of bayonet.
They were threatened with the invasion of their country if they did not sign. E.H. Carr says that nearly every treaty which brings a war to an end is in one sense a dictated peace but in the Treaty of Versailles, the element of dictation was more apparent than in any treaty of modem times.
The peace settlement was made in a spirit of revenge. The principle underlying the settlement was. “To the victors belong the spoils and the Allies are the victors.” Lloyd George won the famous Khaki election with the following slogan, “We shall hang Kaiser and make Germany pay to the last penny” The peace-makers of 1919-20 ought to have known that a lenient treatment of Germany was more likely to maintain peace in Europe. William II, the real author of the War, had run away from Germany and a Republican Government had been set up.
The victors ought to have treated with leniency the newly created German Republic. As they failed to do so, the Republican forces in Germany were weakened from the very beginning.
The harsh treatment of Germany by the Treaty of Versailles and the subsequent behaviour of the Allies, particularly France, towards Germany, destroyed all chances of the Republican regime in Germany.
That facilitated the rise of Hitler to power in 933. The Allies who made the Peace Settlement of 1919-20, paved the way for the World War II. If the treatment of France by Bismarck in 1870-71 led to the War of 1914, the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 was partly responsible for the War of 1939. The terms of the Treaty were resented by all the patriots of Germany. The humiliation was so great that it was not possible to put up with the same.
The Treaty of Versailles was the peace of the statesmen and not of the people. John Smuts writes, “The promise of the new life, the victory of the great human ideals, for which the peoples have shed their blood and their treasure without stint, the fulfillment of their aspirations towards a new international order and a fairer, better world, are not written in this treaty. There are guarantees laid down which we all hope will soon be found out of harmony with the new peaceful temper….There are punishments foreshadowed over most of which a calmer mood may yet prefer to pass the sponge of oblivion. There are indemnities stipulated which cannot be exacted without grave injury to the industrial revival of Europe and which it will be in the interests of all to render more tolerable and The real peace of the peoples ought to follow, and amend the peace of the statesmen.”
The Treaty of Versailles was based on transitory passions and not on permanent wisdom. It embodied the momentary hatred, bitterness and resentment and not balanced judgement, sagacity and justice. To quote Lord Bryce, “Peace can come only with content. If the result of these treaties is to make nations discontented, you are preparing for revolts and wars.”
The reparations demanded from Germany dislocated the economy both of the giver and the taker. To quote Churchill, “History will characterise all these transactions as insane. They helped to breed the martial curse and the economic blizzard. Germany now borrowed in all directions, swallowing greedily every credit which was lavishly offered to her. This is a sad story of complicated idiocy in the making of which much toil and virtue was consumed.”
The Treaty of Versailles was “harsh in the wrong places and lenient in the wrong ways.” It was not realistic to insist on German acceptance of the war guilt clause. To quote David Thompson, “A sense of moral responsibility could not be created by including a statement of it in a document which German representatives were compelled to sign.” The demand for reparations was fixed in astronomical figures which could not be paid by Germany The 15-year administration of the Saar by the League of Nations and its return to Germany in 1935 was hardly justified. The Allied occupation of the Rhineland proved illusory as it implied the Allied withdrawal just after the interval of a period which Germany required to regain her military power.
Since reciprocity was not observed in the disarmament, transportation and economic clauses of the treaty, Germany virtually signed away her sovereignty and put herself into the hands of the receivers. All the ideals upon which the Treaty of Versailles was based were forced upon Germany alone and completely disregarded by the Allies. With reciprocity in all matters where it would have been for the common good, the treaty would have been a peace of justice. Without reciprocity, it was a peace of force and its terms were possible of execution only so long as the force that caused Germany to sign it continued to make them execute it.
So far as the terms of the Peace Settlement deviated from the Fourteen Points of Wilson, they constituted a breach of faith. The attempt of France to get the Rhine frontier, of Italy to get Dalinatia and of Poland to secure the Whole of Upper Silesia could not be justified on grounds of nationality. Although a compromise was reached on the above points, the very desire of the victorious Powers for such aggrandisement was not consistent with their loyalty to the Fourteen Points.
The Peace Settlement fragmented Europe. Before 1914, Europe comprised of 19 States and after 1919, there were 26 States. Many of those States were so small that from an economic point of view they could not sustain themselves and economics played an even more important role after 1919 than it had before the opening of the War. When those small States were seized by a tariff psychosis, their policies seriously interfered with the flow of goods from one part of Europe to another.
Self-determination had been heralded as one of the comer-stones of new Europe but that principle was not applied universally. After the treaty had been put into effect, millions of Europeans still lived beyond their national homes. Several of the new States carved from Austria-Hungary were only smaller replicas of the Empire whose abuses had stimulated their own nationalistic demands for independence.
The Peace Conference was not a Conference at all but a tribunal before which the Central Powers were summoned to hear their doom. In spite of the claim of Clemenceau that the Conference “called in all parties interested” and “all who had anything to say were heard,” the Treaty of 1919 was imposed. As Germany did not participate in drafting the Treaty, the Conference was deprived of energetic opposition and no voice of prudence warned the negotiators against extremism.
As no Germans were consulted in drafting the Treaty, it was almost impossible to mobilise any opinion in Germany in support of it. The framers of the Treaty of Versailles should have kept in view the following dictum of Castlereagh when he went to the Congress of Vienna (1815). “We have assembled here not to bring back trophies of victory but to restore Europe to the paths of peace.”
The Treaty of Versailles was the work of parliamentarians and not of diplomats. It was full of explanatory clauses which were open to rebuttal and debate. That weakness in the formulation of the Treaty was important in paving the way to War in 1939.
Certain failures of the Conference were immediately discernible. Two important objectives of erecting safeguards against a revived Germany and drawing boundary lines to achieve ethnic unity were incompatible. Czechoslovakia was set up to include 30,000,000 Germans and more than a million outsiders.
Austria was denied the right to join Germany which it wished to do and which self-determination required. One-third of the population of Poland belonged, by racial test, to other States, but were assigned to Poland to strengthen her against Germany and to give her economic viability and access to the sea. In spite of drastic revision of boundaries, national minorities persisted in the States of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, totaling more than one-fifth of the population.
The Allies were condemned for their attitude towards the Christians of Armenia who had suffered terribly under Turkish rule as a result of wholesale massacres from time to time. During the War, Britain declared that the Armenians would be liberated from Turkish yoke, but when the final settlement was made with Turkey at Lausanne, the promise was not kept. The unfortunate Armenians were left entirely at the mercy of the Turks to suffer terribly later on.
Not only Germany, even her allies were given a shabby treatment. Austria-Hungary was reduced to a tiny state. Her Empire, dynasty and army disappeared in the whirlwind. The Hungarians declared themselves independent. The Czechs and Slovaks broke away. The Serbs also took advantage of their victory and a big Yugoslavia was created partly at the cost of Austria-Hungary.
Ultimately, a small Republic of six million souls was all that was allowed to remain out of the mighty Empire of Austria-Hungary which once dominated the politics of Europe in the time of Mettemich. She became an insignificant state in Europe. The same was the case with Hungary. She was deprived of her non- Magyar population. Slovakia was given to the Czechs. Transylvania was captured by Roumania. Croatia was annexed by Serbia. About six lacs of men and women of Magyar race and 45 lacs of her former subjects were put under alien domination. That was a great humiliation for the Magyars.
The Treaty of Versailles contained a series of bargains and compromises between the high- minded but often unrealistic desire of President Wilson, the nationalistic and realistic demands of Clemenceau and the somewhat unstable and opportunistic aims of Lloyd George. The pledges of the Secret Treaties were preferred to the vague slogans of democracy and self-determination. Many frontiers were drawn in violation of the principle of self-determination. The inclusion of South Tyrol in Italy was a concession to Italian claims for a strategic frontier. Likewise, the Polish Corridor was in defiance of national considerations.
The Treaty of Versailles inaugurated a new stage in the struggle of European nations for world power. Upto 1919, international law made a distinction between the property of a Government and that of its nationals and private property was not seized. According to the Treaty of Versailles, a belligerent country, within its own dominion or those of its allies, could confiscate property of any nature belonging to the subjects of an enemy country and if victorious at the end of the war, could compel the Government of the defeated country to agree to indemnify its own nationals for the property thus confiscated. That created a new precedent for the future.
About the Peace Settlement of 1919-20, J.I. Carvin writes that Europe was balkanised, i.e., broken into many fragments, jarred by violent antipathies of the irredentist problems like Alsace-Lorraine more were created than were solved. The new States were as protectionist as military. The Fourteen Points of Wilson became Fourteen Disappointments. General Smuts observed, “I have signed the Treaty, not because I consider it a satisfactory document, but because it is imperatively necessary to close the War.”
A day after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles Colonel House wrote thus in his diary. “I should have preferred a different peace.” No wonder, the Senate of the United States refused to ratify it. The Peace Settlement was described by some critics as “Clemenceau peace” for no map of Europe, save that drawn by Napoleon I, had ever been more clearly marked “Made in France ” President Wilson was outwitted by Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Orlando.
The Peace Treaties of 1919-20 have their defenders, apologists and critics. While signing the Peace Settlement, we must not forget the conflicting difficulties and the complicated problems facing the peace-makers in Paris. Moreover, they had before them the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest, imposed by Germany herself on the defeated states and the peace-makers in Paris were undoubtedly, affected by their contents.
11. Wilsonian Peace:
In January 1918, President Wilson appealed to the world to back the Allies as they were fighting for certain fundamental principles and he described those fundamental principles in his famous Fourteen Points.
These Fourteen Points provided for the following:
(1) Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at and not secret diplomacy.
(2) Absolute freedom of navigation upon seas, outside the territorial waters, both in times of peace and war.
(3) Removal of all barriers to international trade.
(4) Reduction of national armaments.
(5) Impartial adjustment of all colonial claims. The interests and sentiments of the subject peoples were also to be considered and not only the claims of the colonial powers.
(6) Evacuation of Russian territory. Russia was to be given full opportunity to decide her future course of action.
(7) Evacuation and restoration of Belgium.
(8) Evacuation and restoration of French territory and the righting of the wrong done to France in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine.
(9) Readjustment of Italian frontiers along her recognizable lines of nationality.
(10) Autonomous development for peoples of Austria-Hungary.
(11) Evacuation and restoration of Serbia, Montenegro, Rumania and an outlet to the sea for Serbia.
(12) Securing of sovereignty for the Turkish portion of Ottoman Empire, with autonomy for other portions and freedom of shipping through the Straits.
(13) Establishment of an independent Poland with access to the sea.
(14) The creation of an international organisation to guarantee independence and territorial integrity to small and big States of the world.
President Wilson elaborated and extended his general principles of peace-making in a number of speeches between February and September 1918. However, the specific points were never modified His most important additions to the general principles were two. “Each Part of the final settlement must be based upon the essential justice of that particular case and upon such adjustments as are most likely to bring a peace that will be permanent.” “The impartial justice meted out must involve no discrimination between those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be just.”
This concept of absolute justice gave a lot of headache at the time of the peace settlement. No arrangement conceivable in modem Europe could be expected to reach the ideal of absolute justice. The peace aims of Wilson were broadly endorsed by the Allied Governments and were made the basis on which the German Government accepted the armistice in November 1918. However, the Allied Governments made it clear that they wished to reserve judgment about the exact meaning of the “freedom of the seas” and what “restoration” of invaded territories meant for them.
They also made it clear to Germany that compensation will be made by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and their property by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea and from the air.” These principles, aims and interpretations were all communicated to the Germans before they agreed to end hostilities.
It cannot be denied that although the Fourteen Points of Wilson had to be compromised in many ways with a view to adjust them to the mutual commitments of the Allies, yet many of them were put into the Peace Settlement of 1919-20. As regards the creation of an international organisation, it is rightly pointed out that without the whole-hearted support of President Wilson; the Covenant of the League would not have been drafted then and placed within the framework of the treaties.
The idea of a League of Nations was not original with Wilson. It was an Anglo-Saxon conception which germinated during the course of the World War I in the minds of peace-loving people. Those ideas were given the shape of definite proposals and most important of them were drafted by General Smuts and Lord Phillimore. Wilson took over the drafts of Smuts and Phillimore and put them in the forefront of the discussions of the statesmen who had assembled at Paris.
He himself presided over a commission which drafted the Covenant of the League of Nations. It was his great authority that helped him to bring the work to a successful conclusion.
President Wilson was prepared to compromise on any other point but he was absolutely determined to embody the Covenant of the League of Nations into the peace treaties. Thus, the League of Nations came into being.
The Peace Settlement also acted upon the principle of self-determination. The Poles, Croats, Czechs, Letts, Finns, Alsatians, etc., were released from subjection to alien rule. It is rightly pointed out that in no previous settlement so much of attention was paid to the principle of nationality. Plebiscites were held in some cases and thus the people were given an opportunity to express their own wishes. No other treaty ever “emancipated” so many people’s living under alien yokes as the Peace Settlement of 1919-20 did.
In 1914, there were 40 million people living under alien rule, but in 1919 their number was reduced to 16 millions. The calculation of Herbert Fisher was that only 3 per cent of the whole population of Europe was left under alien rule.
It goes without saying that in actual practice, ethnic anomalies ran never be eliminated completely and the territorial adjustment can completely solve the problem of minorities, but an attempt was made to do everything that could possibly be done. Special provisions were made for the protection of the minorities. They were to be protected in matters of religion, language and citizenship.
The creation of the independent States of Yugoslavia, Poland and Czechoslovakia and the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France were in accordance with the Fourteen Points of Wilson. The peace-makers did not hesitate to create even small petty States in accordance with the principle of “one nation, one State.”
12. Rejection of Treaty of Versailles by the U.S.A.:
Although President Wilson was the prime-mover in the Peace Settlement of 1919-20, the U.S.A. did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Particularly, the Covenant of the League of Nations was the main target. While the Democrats supported the Peace Settlement, the Republicans condemned the same.
The American constitution demands that a treaty must be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. Many amendments were proposed by the Senate but they were rejected by the Democratic majority. However, when the vote was taken on 18 November 1919, there were 55 votes in favour and 39 against it. Thus, there was no requisite majority.
The Treaty was brought before the Senate once again in March 1920. Although 57 voted in favour of it and 37 against, the Treaty was not ratified as required by law. During the Presidential election of 1920, the question of the ratification of the treaty was very prominent and that was one of the important causes of the rout of the Democratic Party. However, the new administration entered into separate treaties with Germany, Austria and Hungary and those treaties were ratified by the Senate in October 1921.
According to Gottschalk and Lach, “A striking result of the war was the shift of the centre of gravity, political, military, and economic (but not yet cultural), from Europe to America. Before the war six great powers had manoeuvred for advantage in Europe. When the war was over, Austria-Hungary had ceased to exist, Russia was in the turmoil’s of civil war, intervention, and revolution; Germany was in a state of chaos; only Great Britain, France, and Italy were left as Europe’s great powers, all three in a state of exhaustion.
The might of two non-European powers, the United States and Japan had correspondingly increased. The United States had provided the Allies with guns, ammunition’ and other military equipment long before it had entered the war. The Allies became heavily indebted to the United States largely because of loans made by the Washington Government. A transfer of capital from Europe to America had taken place as European corporations and investors liquidated their holdings to meet the demands for money arising from increased taxes and the expansion of war industries at home. For the first time American loans and investments abroad were greater than foreign loans and investments in the United States.
The United States was transformed from a debtor country into a creditor country. The stock exchange of New York became the world’s foremost stock market, replacing London in that role. Europe was weary, damaged, and impoverished, and the United States was still fresh. Europeans felt that Americans had suffered little and profited much, from the war. Americans believed that without their timely aid Europe might have been crushed by the heel of Prussian militarism.”
13. Lloyd George on Peace Settlement:
It may be interesting to refer to the view of Lloyd George on the Peace Settlement. He declared in the House of Commons in 1919 “I do not think anyone can claim the terms imposed constitute injustice to Germany unless be believes justice in the war was on the side of Germany.” He pointed out that some of the terms of settlement were terrible because the deeds of the Germans were also terrible. “The world is rocking and reeling under the blow that failed. If the blow had succeeded, the liberty of Europe would have vanished.”
Referring to the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine, Schleswig and Poland, he remarked that “they are all territories which ought not to belong to Germany.” To quote him again, it was not vengeance “to take every possible precaution against a recurrence of the war and make such an example of Germany as will discourage ambitious rulers and peoples from ever again attempting to repeat this infamy. The German people approved the war, and, therefore, it was essential in the terms to show if nations entered into unprovoked wars of aggression against their neighbours, what lies in store for them.”
Again, “Having regard to the uses Germany made of her army, there is no injustice in scattering and disarming it. If the Allies had restored the colonies to Germany after the evidence of the ill-treatment of the natives and the part the natives have taken in their own liberation, it would have been a base betrayal. Then take the trial of those responsible for the war. If wars of this kind are to be prevented, those personally responsible for them, who have taken part in plotting and planning them, should be held personally responsible. Therefore, the Entente decided that the man who undoubtedly had the primary responsibility, in the judgment, at any rate of the Allies, should be tried for the offences he committed in breaking treaties he was bound to honour, and by that means bringing on the war. It was an exceptional course, and it is a pity it was, because if it had been done before there would have been fewer wars.”
Again, “These terms are written in the blood of fallen heroes…. We must carry out the Edict of Providence and see that the people who inflicted this (war) shall never be in a position to do so again. The Germans say they will not sign. Their newspapers say, they will not sign. The politicians say the same. We say, ‘Gentlemen, you must sign, if you don’t do so in Versailles, you shall do so in Berlin’.”
According to Seaman, “The Peace Treaties of 1919 have a clear justification as an attempt to contain the German Reich by the liberation of the Slavs, and the peasants of Transylvania. The cause both of peace and justice was served in Eastern Europe by the treaties; and better, served than they had been for centuries. It was not the Versailles system but the success of the Germans in wrecking it in 1938 and 1939 that caused the Second World War. The real German grievance against the settlement was not that it was a ‘diktat’ or that they had been cheated by President Wilson. It was chiefly that it prevented them from dominating and exploiting the valleys of the Vistula and the Danube and kept them away from the approaches to Asia Minor and the Ukraine, and because it emphatically asserted that in south-eastern Europe the Slavs had as much, right to an independent existence as the Germans and Magyars.”
14. Responsibility for the War:
When, the First World War was over. Article 23 of the Peace Treaty forced Germany to accept “responsibility for all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” However, this forced acceptance of responsibility by Germany did not settle the issue and the question of responsibility for the war has agitated the minds of politicians, journalists and historians of the world. The present view is that it was not Germany alone that was responsible for the war but all the great powers had their share of responsibility, although some had a lesser share than that of others.
So for as Serba was concerned, she cannot avoid a certain share of the war guilt. It cannot be denied that the Serbian officials were accessories to the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand.
The Serbian Government did not discourage the nationalist and Irredentist Serbian societies. It ought to have taken action against those societies which had their headquarters in Serbia and which were responsible for the murder.
However, it cannot be denied that after the commission of the crime, when Austria-Hungary made certain demands on Serbia, the latter was willing to make honourable amends, although she was not prepared to accept dishonourable conditions. All the European Governments, including that of Germany, thought that Austria should be satisfied with the reply of Serbia. War could have been avoided if Austria had shown satisfaction with the reply and not insisted on impossible demands. It is true that Serbia was the first country to begin mobilisation but that was principally meant for defensive purposes.
So far as the responsibility of Austria-Hungary was concerned, it cannot be denied that she was very bitter and was determined to blot out of existence her enemy, Sarbia. Austria- Hungary hoped that she would be able to finish Serbia before any great power could come to her help. However, she was sadly mistaken.
Russia at once showed her willingness to come to the help of Serbia. It is pointed out that it was the action of Austria that forced Russia to mobilise. It cannot be denied that the Austrian Government was guilty of aggression against Serbia and provocation of Russia.
As regards the responsibility of Russia, it cannot be denied that she was the first big power to decide mobilisation. She was not prepared to allow Austria-Hungary to have the upper hand and was determined to keep her out of Eastern Europe.
The provocation of Russia was great and that forced other countries also to mobilise at once. After mobilization by Russia, it became impossible to localise the war. The Russians must be held guilty of taking the first steps that moved the issue from the realm of big power diplomacy into the realm of big power military strategy.
The result was that the major decisions were withdrawn from statesmen and were left to be decided by soldiers. It is pointed out that if Russia had not mobilised, it was possible that the controversy might have been settled by a quid pro quo arrangement short of war.
As regards the responsibility of Germany, it cannot be denied that she was guilty of having given a carte blanche to Austria from the very beginning. Germany realised the gravity of the situation and tried to put a check on Austria but by the time she did so, the situation had already gone out of control Moreover, the German Government was guilty of many miscalculations.
Germany thought that she will be able to have a quick victory over her enemies. Experience showed that their calculations were wrong. They actually failed to achieve what they thought of achieving.
If Germany had not begun the shooting among the big powers, Russian mobilisation might not have led to war with Austria as Austro-Russian negotiations had in fact begun and the Allies of Russia were anxious to submit the whole controversy to pacitic international consideration.
The war guilt of Germany was great but she was not the only culprit. France and Great Britain were also guilty for having encouraged Russia in her aggressive action. Both the governments had given Russia an understanding that they would come to her help against Austria-Hungary and Germany We must not ignore the fact of French passion for revanche, her commercial competition with Germany and the bitterness between France and Germany created by the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, the Morocco Crises, etc.
If the French Government had not supported Russia whole-heartedly, the situation would not have become so dangerous. A similar charge can be brought against Great Britain. It is true that Great Britain and France were not so aggressive in their actions, but it cannot be denied that they did not put a check on their allies in time, and hence were dragged into the war.
The real culprit in 1914 was not a man or a government or a people. It was an international system which was responsible for the war of 1914-18. Europe was divided into two armed camps and each camp was determined to defeat the other and under the circumstances war was inevitable.