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

By Arthur Walworth | Go to book overview

14

Boundaries for Germany

In March, when The Four formed the habit of meeting for secret talks, questions of national boundaries were considered not only by them, but by the territorial commissions and by the council of foreign ministers.

Neither the speeches of Wilson nor House's commentary on the Fourteen Points drew precise lines for the frontiers of postwar Germany. According to the commentary, occupied areas were to be "restored," and Alsace-Lorraine was to be "restored completely to French sovereignty" in order "to right the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871." No definite plan had been advanced for the future of many borderlands. Yet the studies that the Inquiry had carried out for the past year made it possible for the Americans to take part intelligently in the work of the territorial commissions not only with respect to Germany's eastern and western frontiers, but also with respect to questions that affected its boundaries on the north with neutral Denmark and the Netherlands. Nevertheless, when the time came to apply academic wisdom to the drafting of articles for a peace treaty, no one could say with authority how much German territory could be conceded to claimants on several fronts without causing the fall of the new Weimar Republic. Territorial specialists such as Haskins and Lord tended to sympathize with the national claims that they had studied ; and their prime concern was for a satisfied France and a strong Poland rather than for a sound government in Germany. 1.

The English-speaking political chiefs, however, had profound respect for the opinion of the German people. Lloyd George, fearing there would be an explosion in Germany if they took too much of its territory and wealth, dismissed Foch's fervent pleas by declaring that Foch, a great general, was "just a child" in his thinking on political questions. Wilson, supporting Lloyd George, said in a session of The Four on March 27; "We do not want to destroy Germany and we could not do so. Our greatest mistake would be to furnish her with powerful reasons for seeking revenge at some future time. Excessive demands would be sure to sow the seeds of war." In modifying frontiers and changing national sovereignties, he said, they must not give their enemies "even an impression of injustice." 2.

The demand for the creation of strong and friendly states to stand between Germany and Russia increased as the prospect of rapprochement with the Soviet regime grew dimmer. Foch included Poland with Czechoslovakia and Romania in a projected cordon sanitaire. However, the "liberated" peoples could not be expected to form an effective barrier so long as they themselves engaged in petty wars in defiance of the edict that the Peace Conference had issued. Hostilities became chronic,

____________________
1.
Schwabe, Woodrow Wilson, Revolutionary Germany, and Peacemaking, pp. 161-171.
2.
Mantoux, Proceedings, pp. 24-29.

-255-

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