Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919

By Arthur Walworth | Go to book overview

PART ONE

A New Order for a New Era

THE American peacemakers of 1919 viewed the postwar chaos from the perspective of a nation that was remote and self-sufficient. The United States, entering the war late, had the good fortune to escape the exhaustion that had overtaken the European Allies. Its surplus resources put it in a position to exert a stabilizing influence in vacuums that had been created.

The American people were shocked by the breakdown of European diplomacy in 1914 and were in revolt against what they vaguely denounced as "the old system." Distrustful of precedent, they saw no adequate basis for a lasting peace in what one of them called "a re-weaving of the Penelope's web" that had been unraveled by every peace congress of the past two centuries. 1. Many Americans advocated a league of all the nations, and some looked to such a league as an influence for social justice as well as for peace. They foresaw a conflict of their ideals with the purpose of European peacemakers who hoped to safeguard peace by a policy of strategic security and by accommodation of national interests through traditional diplomacy. 2.

Actually Georges Clemenceau, president of the French Council of Ministers and also minister of war, was convinced that the peace terms would have to be enforced upon Germany. His people demanded above all some assurance that France could exist next to its potentially powerful neighbor without danger of becoming a satellite. Determined to avoid any concession to the enemy that might weaken the resilience of his own people after the ordeal of war, he could be expected to advocate measures that would guarantee strategic security for France.

Prime Minister David Lloyd George, representing an empire at the height of its sway and probably not yet fully aware of the gap that had widened during the war between British power and British responsibilities, saw less need to be concerned about national security. The two essentials of his policy in the peacemaking were to produce a treaty that would dispose Germany to keep the peace, and to bring the United States into the European settlement in a permanent and practical way. 3. Lloyd George's task was complicated by demands of the Dominions for the annexation of

____________________
1.
Tasker H. Bliss to Secretary of State, December 15, 1918, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1919, Paris Peace Conference (hereinafter designated as F.R., P.P.C.), vol. 1, p. 296.

Complete bibliographic information, when not given in the footnotes, may be found in the List of Abbreviations (p. 571) and in the Bibliography (pp. 572-585).

2.
See Arthur Walworth, America's Moment: 1918, pp. 2, 3, 6.
3.
D. R. Watson, "The Making of the Treaty of Versailles."

-1-

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