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The Versailles Treaty

Updated on September 12, 2014

After the abrupt ending of the Great War, American President Woodrow Wilson presented his form of a peace treaty to many heads of state at the Palace of Versailles in January 1919. This treaty would later be called the Versailles treaty. This was an important treaty in our history.

Pushing all else away, this treaty was made specifically by President Wilson and he did not want Republicans to have anything to with it. While separating himself to gain full credit for the treaty, he upset many controlling powers in a now Republican ran America.

The treat was vast and quite harsh, especially to Germany. Supposed to be based off of Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points earlier described as the country went to war, all involved were surprised at what was now stated in this new treaty. Germany was to be limited to 100,000 soldiers, as well as a ban on the country for use of submarines. They were also losing about 13.5% of their 1914 territories, as well as all of their over-seas possessions. Giving only a few weeks to agree to the treaty under duress, the treaty was signed by the German in June 1919. Many believe that the harsh criteria towards Germany would later give rise to the Third Reich and World War 2.

Another major proponent of the treaty was the making of League of Nations. This part of the treaty, was Wilson’s hope to stabilize peace in the world, as well as iron out all the issues found in the rest of the treaty. The Allied powers agreed to the treaty because many of the new nations created or freed were anticommunist. Germany didn’t have a choice but to sign the treaty, however back in the now Republican ran Congress, the treaty found severe resistance.

Most Americans were in support of the treaty, however when asked of the Congress to ratify it, heavy resistance was founded for many reasons. Politically, a Republican ran Congress did not want their Democratic partners to gain credit for the peace and a victorious war against such a powerful Nation. Traditions in foreign relations were also being changed and many Republicans raised questions because of this, while most Democrats were on board.

Two opponents were brought together to fight against the ratification of the Versailles Treaty called the Irreconcilables and the Reservationist. The Irreconcilables were worried that joining a New World Order like the League of Nations would allow for the gaining of power by Imperialist nations like Britain. They also worried that being in this League of Nations would also cause them to have to help out in any issues that may arise with the other member’s nations. They wanted more to be done for civil liberties and freedoms at home, as opposed to getting involved in everyone else’s problems. Heavy reparations to be made to the British by Germany and changes to colonies also gave this group a moment for pause in ratification of this explosive supposed peace treaty.

The Reservationist had their own list of qualms with the treaty, especially article 10. They believed that this article would take away the congressional power to decide when the country could go to war and would leave more power to others. This new League bothered them with the idea that they may try to interfere with American policy, namely immigration.

Wilson fought the resistance to the treaty by going on an 8000 mile, 37 speech push at which time he collapsed in Colorado due to poor health. In his recuperation, his administration was immobilized and the treaty was killed by the Senate in 1920. Furthermore his immobilization caused chaos to many in the country while prices soared, as well as inflation. Those returning from the war fought with women and African Americans for their old jobs and the country was in a state of crisis, the treaty was forgotten.

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