The 14 Points and the Treaty of Versailles
ZIn January of 1918, the First World War was coming to a close, and President Woodrow Wilson wanted nothing more than to assure the American and the European public that a war of this nature would never again occur. Wilson drafted and read his plan aloud to Congress, a multi-step plan that he titled his 14 Points. Wilson then took the plan to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, where some, but not all, of the points were adopted. The end result of the Peace Conference would be the contentious Treaty of Versailles, and although some of Wilson’s original points were present in the Treaty, there were some other elements which surprised him as well as Germany.
As far as his original 14 Points was concerned, Wilson proposed an end to secret alliances, for he had seen the effects of countries forming secretive military relationships with one another. He encouraged self-determination and freedom of the colonies, freedom of the seas, and the ability to promote open trade. He also advocated for Italy’s borders to be redrawn.
The Treaty of Versailles, on the other hand, featured some components that angered the Germans. Many of the global leaders who attended the Paris Peace Conference were upset with Germany, and they wanted to impose harsh penalties. Namely, they wanted the treaty to stipulate that Germany would be forced to give up their colonies, hand over the Kaiser and other German leaders for punishment, and pay reparations, or money owed to other countries that experienced damages and casualties during the war. This essentially put the blame on Germany for the war, and the treaty made it all but necessary that Germany accept that blame. In return, the treaty stated that the Allied soldiers would leave Germany if all the requirements were adhered to.
There were nevertheless some shared components between Wilson’s 14 Points and the ultimate Treaty of Versailles. Namely, both called for a reduction of armed forces in Germany. German soldiers would be removed from other territories, while any territories which were taken from France would be returned to them swiftly. Belgium would also be granted its independence, and new nation states would be born from the Autro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, namely Poland, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Hungary, and others. Finally, the two documents both featured the creation of the League of Nations, which would act as a multi-country organization to ensure that something like World War I would never happen again.