Woodrow Wilson, Revolutionary Germany, and Peacemaking, 1918-1919: Missionary Diplomacy and the Realities of Power

By Klaus Schwabe; Rita Kimber et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V

The United States and the German
Question during the Crisis of the Peace
Conference (April 1919)

i. The Danzig Compromise

ONE

The first move toward revising the preliminary decisions reached during Wilson's absence did not come from the President but from Lloyd George. The British Prime Minister raised the issue of Germany's eastern border again, a question which, as we recall, had already been settled by the Paris commission on Polish affairs. Paul Cambon, the chairman of this commission, presented its recommendations to the Supreme Council on March 19. Lloyd George immediately objected to the placement of 2.1 million Germans under Polish sovereignty, which would have been the result of locating the border where Cambon indicated that it would be drawn. Would not a German irredenta of this size pose a constant threat to the peace? And was it absolutely necessary, Lloyd George asked, that Danzig and the eastern portion of West Prussia, two predominantly German-speaking areas, be given to Poland? Could not the language borders be adhered to more accurately by making Danzig a free port? Wilson, influenced by his pro-Polish advisers Bowman and Lord, defended—in principle at any rate—the decisions of the Commission on Polish Affairs: Poland's free access to the sea and its economic as well as its strategic needs were more important to him (and of greater significance in a "scientific" assessment of the situation, as he put it in another context) than the right of self-determination and the distribution of national populations. Poland was, he went on, a traditionally weak state confronted with the superior power of Germany on its western and northern borders. 1

Despite Lloyd George's objections and contrary to a Supreme Council recommendation of March 19, the Commission on Polish Affairs stuck by its decision, and on March 22 the Supreme Council accepted that decision, although only provisionally. At the request of the British Prime Minister, a definitive decision would not be made until the victorious

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