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The Paris Peace Conference, 1919 Parts One and Two

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Denis Smyth

The Paris Peace Conference, 1919 Parts One and Two Wednesday, March 2 / 2011  Fundamentally unfair caricatures of the actual characters at the peace conference (with the way they reacted, etc)  Clemenceau was not quite the rigid champion of internal France (on Franco-German relations) that he was seen  Woodrow Wilson – survived the Keynesian – he was an idealist – he believed in consequences for international criminality  The most unfair and inaccurate of the portraits painted by the critics of Versailles was that of David Lloyd-George (far from humiliating the Germans, etc) – he was in many ways the primary architect of the moderation and compromises  The first principle that the allies had to agree was a legal one – they were advised that to be able to charge Germane reparations, they would have to conform to an agreement – Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles (the War-Guilt Clause)  When the German delegates presented the treaty (June 1919) – told to accept it or expect a renewal of the hostilities – they wanted this altered  Even Wilson found the German initial refusal incomprehensible  “Today, they are still declaring that it is not they who caused the war – this attitude is unbelievable”  It wasn’t over the principle, but the actual amount by the Germans was the main issue amongst the ally coalition  Keynes was right when he said that it didn’t support the economic side of things  Kents argument: for Germany to be able to pay economic reparations on any level, those same state would have had to have been willing to accept a level of imports from Germany that their own business people/populations would not have tolerated  It was also about satisfying public opinion within the allied states – not just about economics  The Americans were prepared to take back any right to demand or receive reparations  This was undermined by several factors: 1. The much greater material done to Britain and France compared to the US  Again, the American argument was subverted by their demand for full payment (cut across their statement that they were going to be generous)  In the end, it was Lloyd-George that carried the day  He had 3 aims: 1. Ensure that Britain got as large a share of reparations as possible; 2. Wanted Germany to have some sort of economic prosperity  He wanted time to pass and then he though the reparation settlement could be reviewed for the Germans  The real fight emerged between the Anglo-French on the one side  Should Germany have been charged? – that’s what the Americans wanted  This would remove the cloud of uncertainty for the Germans economy  Lloyd-George stated his opposition to this option  June 9 – 1918 – the arguing went on almost to the last minute – he stared the alterative case  Either the figure we would fix would terrify the Germans, or it would be impossible for Clemenceau to get it accepted by public opinion  Solution: to declare Germany reliable in principle, but not to specify any figure for their obligation under that liability  Instead, a commission of interested powers would send delegates to a commission on reparations, which would present a final reparations bill by May, 1921  In many ways overall, the
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