The Treaty of Versailles

On June 18, 1919, exactly five years to the day of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, the Allied countries signed the Treaty of Versailles with Germany, immediately ending the First World War. Although not every country got what they wanted out of the treaty, each country still walked away with something.

Initially, France - who was represented by George Clemenceau - wanted to punish Germany gravely for the war they felt the Germans had caused.

France also wanted to regain its territory in the Rhineland. England, represented by David Lloyd George, wanted reparations, or payments for damages, from Germany, but it also wanted to prevent any future squabbles with the country. Lloyd George hoped that the two could have a trade relationship. President Wilson, representing the United States, had hoped to create everlasting global peace through the creation of a peace-keeping league. He also wanted to maintain fairness to Germany, even though the other countries placed immense blame on Germany for World War I.

The key components of the treaty did not favor Germany. The country was forced to accept full responsibility for causing and for the damages incurred. This was written into the treaty under Article 231, also known as the War Guilt Clause. Germany was also made to disarm its military, give up many colonies that it had acquired, and pay reparations for the destruction of the war.

Wilson got his wish in the creation of the League of Nations, whose goal was to put powerful countries together as an oversight committee in the hopes of preventing future wars. The continent of Africa and the area of the Middle East were put under Allied Powers’ watch, and in addition, France oversaw Syria while Great Britain oversaw Iraq.

The reaction to the Treaty was very different depending on who was polled. It is no surprise that the Germans disliked the components of the agreement, especially the War Guilt Clause, and took it as an insult to their country. Furthermore, some German citizens did not support the war, and therefore did not want to assume responsibility for it. On the other side of the globe, the United States Senate was in disagreement with the creation of the League of Nations, for it went against the idea of isolationism. Those who did not support the League of Nations argued that it might drag the United States into future conflicts if the U.S. ever intervened on behalf of an ally. Therefore, the U.S. never ratified the Treaty of Versailles, and subsequently never joined the League of Nations.

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