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The First World War – when and how did it end?

President Wilson’s Fourteen Points

Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points were first outlined in a speech Wilson gave to the American Congress in January 1918. Wilson’s Fourteen Points became the basis for a peace programme and it was on the back of the Fourteen Points that Germany and her allies agreed to an armistice in November 1918.

1. No more secret agreements (“Open covenants openly arrived at”).

2. Free navigation of all seas.

3. An end to all economic barriers between countries.

4. Countries to reduce weapon numbers.

5. All decisions regarding the colonies should be impartial.

6. The German Army is to be removed from Russia. Russia should be left to develop
her own political set-up.

7. Belgium should be independent like before the war.

8. France should be fully liberated and allowed to recover Alsace-Lorraine.

9. All Italians are to be allowed to live in Italy. Italy’s borders are to be “along
clearly recognisable lines of nationality.”

10. Self-determination should be allowed for all those living in Austria-Hungary.

11. Self-determination and guarantees of independence should be allowed for
the Balkan states.

12. The Turkish people should be governed by the Turkish government. Non-Turks in the old Turkish Empire should govern themselves.

13. An independent Poland should be created which should have access to the sea.

14. A League of Nations should be set up to guarantee the political and territorial independence of all states.

The Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on the 28 June 1919 and was designed to ensure long lasting peace in Europe through punitive treatment of Germany based on four principles of heavy fines, sacrifices of land, limitation of German military for the indefinite future and a guilt clause requiring Germany to take full international responsibility for the aggression of the First World War.

These sanctions and conditions were set out by the American President Woodrow Wilson in his 1918 speech to the House of Representatives in which he put forward The Fourteen Points agenda that was to be the focal point of discussions at the Paris peace summit in 1919.

Sanctions against Germany demanded by the Allies
The principle players at the Paris peace conference were Great Britain under Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the USA through President Woodrow Wilson, France represented by Georges Clemenceau and Italy led by Vittorio Orlando.

These world leaders demanded different things of peace and were fractured over the means to accomplish the goals of the conference.

As the conference continued Wilson’s Fourteen Points began to take a back stage to more pressing political concerns and the will of the people of the various Allied nations which demanded harsh punishment of Germany under the treaty.

Clemenceau of France was only too happy to oblige as France had suffered greatly at the hands of the German army both during the First World War and historically losing both prestige and territory to Germany on a frequent basis. Examples of this are losing the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany in 1871. France in 1918 wished to repay Germany for this humiliation and so insisted upon extremely harsh peace terms including the return of these territories.

This harsher view was also held by Italy as Orlando was largely ignored during the negotiations and so supported Clemenceau in order to achieve the most favourable terms for Italy namely select German territories in the near east.

This was not the view of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George who despite the public outcry for punishment believed that the only way to secure long term peace was through sufficient punishment of Germany tempered by reconstruction and good governance. Lloyd George sought to punish Germany but at the same time allow her the ability to meet the allied terms without compromising her own stability and government. This inevitably happened in 1933 with the rise of the Nazi party and the Third Reich. Lloyd George’s view was rejected by France, Italy and the USA.

As signed the terms of the Versailles treaty deprived Germany of around 13.5% of its 1914 territory (some seven million people) and all of its overseas possessions marking a substantial reduction in German economic power.

Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France and Belgium was enlarged in the east with the addition of the formerly German border areas of Eupen and Malmedy.

Among other territorial re-arrangements, an area of East Prussia was handed over to Lithuania, and the Sudetenland to Czechoslovakia. The German army was limited to a maximum of 100,000 men, and a ban placed upon the use of heavy artillery, gas, tanks and aircraft. The German navy was similarly restricted to shipping less than 10,000 tons, with a ban on submarines.