The 18th of January 1919, is a stand-still moment in History as 75% of the world’s leaders came together and prepared to discuss a single topic, the situation of the post-war world. With the exclusion of the defeated states, there was a total of 32 Leaders that attended the Paris Peace Conference. Whilst there was a large majority of attendees, there were three that wielded more power over the other nations. These major participants consisted of Clemenceau from France, Woodrow from USA and Lloyd-George from Britain, because of the power they possessed the name “The Big Three” was given to them.
Georges Clemenceau was appointed to be the French Prime Minister in 1916, immediately he clearly conveyed his ideas for Germany to be smashed so that she could never again embark on a war. The devastating blow that the French took during the war and especially at Verdun was still apparent in the French publics mind. Clemenceau would not take the chance of Germany once starting another war, so he proceeded to argue his aims as being of high importance.
Clemenceau believed the complete stripping of Germany was the only sure way to know they would be harmless and not be seen as a strong power in the future. This meant the removal of their navy, air-force and a decrease in the size of their army. France wanted their border to meet with Germany’s along the Rhine and to lose all of their overseas territories, the more important being the return of Alsace- Lorraine.
Clemenceau also felt the need to restrict the relations of Austria-Hungary and Germany in order to make sure the two countries would not once again join forces together. His nationalistic ways shown at the Paris Peace Conference meant that his views often conflicted with those of Wilson’s. “President Wilson had come to Europe with a program of peace for all men. His ideal was a very high one, but it involved great difficulties, owing to these century-old hatreds between some races.” (Clemenceau)
Woodrow Wilson was the American President and came to Paris with a great reputation of being a peace maker. Wilson is perhaps better known for his 14 idealistic aims for a peace initiative. These were in his mind, the perfect way to produce peace between the struggling nations and to restore power to its rightful owners; however these aims were viewed as impractical and too far- fetched.
One of the more important points included was “self determination” for the successor states in Europe. There was also to be no secret treaties between powers like the treaties that had helped to cause the First World War. (Open Diplomacy) This was similar to Clemenceau’s aim to destroy the Austria-German relation.
Some of his more general points were the freedom of the seas, free trade and the creation of a League of Nations which observed world events and offered peaceful solutions. “A statement that I once made that this should be a peace without victory holds more strongly today than ever. The peace that we make must be one in which justice alone is the determining factor.” Wilson sincerely believed that only through justice could peace be restored, and an established society rebuilt.
David Lloyd-George became the British Prime Minister in 1916 and already had an established background. His creation of the Defence of the Realm Act meant he knew what lengths Britain had to extend to in order to fight in the war. Lloyd-George acted as a mediator between Clemenceau’s harsh nationalism and Wilson’s idealistic nature.
Lloyd-George’s biggest aim was to reduce the threat of a German up rise, but he didn’t want them to become economically inadequate. With an economically strong German country, Lloyd-George believed they would be able to uplift the European trade industry. The threat of communism was also a problem, and if Germany was a weaker power at the time, they were at risk of becoming a communist nation, in turn affecting the immediate countries surround Germany.
The aims of these three leaders differed by the degree of punishment they thought Germany deserved. Clemenceau had a more aggressive stance and wanted revenge on the German people for their particularly violent acts at Verdun. Wilson tried to take a more passive approach towards Germany; he had 14 strong points but was not forceful enough to put them all into place.
Finally, Lloyd-George wanted to keep Germany economically stable to use them as an advantage to the European industry. The three leaders were all looking at the best interests of their own country and they wanted Germany to repay the sufferings caused.