ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology

The Myth of American Conciliation at the Treaty of Versailles

Updated on February 4, 2018
Woodrow Wilson, the American President at the Treaty of Versailles
Woodrow Wilson, the American President at the Treaty of Versailles

Myth: Woodrow Wilson was a peace-maker who tried to create a lenient peace for Germany, but was sabotaged by French Prime Minister Clemenceau.

The memory of Versailles revolves around three men : Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States, David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France. Popular memory remembers them, incorrectly, as Clemenceau as a devil filled with hatred for Germany, David Lloyd George as a neutral arbitrer, and Woodrow Wilson as a kind man interested in peace and a form of justice that would treat Germany leniently. Wilson was interested in justice and peace, but his version of justice was an intensely moralizing one which called for heavy punishments on Germany. The 14 points married themselves to a stern biblical and moralistic outlook, which required punishment for the guilty to show them the error of their crimes.

The 14 points were Wilson's idea, but Wilson was a much more complex man than just them alone.
The 14 points were Wilson's idea, but Wilson was a much more complex man than just them alone.

On issue after issue at the Paris Peace Conference, the United States was as bellicose as its allies. The US was generous towards Poland in the revision of the Polish eastern frontier. It advocated reparation numbers similar to the French number, and close to the ultimate sum derived - $30 billion and $33 billion respectively. It supported a German army of 100,000 men and German general disarmament. It was the United States, not France, which penned Article 231, which Germany interpreted as the "war guilt clause" assigning them guilt. The United States was many things : merciful did not rank as one of them.

It is perhaps, a myth which dates from the famous caricature of the British economist Maynard Keynes at the conference. Keynes, who attended the conference and wrote the highly influential book The Economic Consequences of the Peace, had a rosy view of the American president Wilson, while simultaneously denigrating his French counterpart Clemenceau. His description of Wilson ran as follows :

When President Wilson left Washington he enjoyed a prestige and a moral influence throughout the world unequalled in history. His bold and measured words carried to the peoples of Europe above and beyond the voices of their own politicians. The enemy peoples trusted him to carry out the compact he had made with them; and the Allied peoples acknowledged him not as a victor only but almost as a prophet. In addition to this moral influence the realities of power were in his hands. The American armies were at the height of their numbers, discipline, and equipment. Europe was in complete dependence on the food supplies of the United States; and financially she was even more absolutely at their mercy. Europe not only already owed the United States more than she could pay; but only a large measure of further assistance could save her from starvation and bankruptcy. Never had a philosopher held such weapons wherewith to bind the princes of this world. How the crowds of the European capitals pressed about the carriage of the President! With what curiosity, anxiety, and hope we sought a glimpse of the features and bearing of the man of destiny who, coming from the West, was to bring healing to the wounds of the ancient parent of his civilisation and lay for us the foundations of the future.

Unfortunately for Mr. Keyne's view, while Wilson had his idealistic side, this idealistic side also in no way implied his leniency towards Germany. Perhaps the most evident singular quotation from the American president Wilson in April 1919 was that "The treaty which ends so terrible a war, must unavoidably seem harsh towards the outlaw who started the war." He joined this in speaking about the Versailles treaty and saying that it "seeks to punish one of the greatest wrongs ever done in history, the wrong which Germany sought to do to the world and to civilization; and there ought to be no weak purpose with regard to the application of the punishment. She attempted an intolerable thing, and she must be made to pay for the attempt." American justice, rather than meaning European reconciliation and peace, was instead a moralistic and harsh punishment for Germany for their crimes. Wilson, not Clemenceau, was the man at Versailles in 1919 who carried the most predilection for vengeance, revenge, and an inability to forget the past.

© 2017 Ryan Thomas

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)