The period of 1919-1924 was a time of conflict due to the involved nations disagreeing on the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. This Paris Peace Conference was aimed at preparing external peace, and to President Wilson it was the war treaty to end all wars. Each nation had different aims and this created conflict. According to American historian William Keylor, the treaty failed less because of its inherent defects than because it was not put into full effect (European Dictatorships). The personal motivations of the countries contributed to this. They didn’t put the treaty into full effect and it therefore influenced efforts towards peace. France and the United States influenced peace efforts because of their different and conflicting personal motivations.
President Wilson was motivated by his main goals which were to ensure peace and democracy for all nations, promote the idea of self-determination, and establish the League of Nations. He wanted to create an everlasting peace because of the devastating impact of World War I. In his eyes, it was “the war to end all wars” (European Dictatorships). Americans in general were supportive of self-determination because of their strong sentiments towards the policy of isolationism. Wilson’s 14 Points Peace Plan in hand with the League of Nations would create a system for establishing peace and it was a point that Wilson wanted all peacemakers to consider above all. The League of Nations would allow for means to enforce these ideas of peace and self-determination ideally.
Contrary to the U.S., France motivations were to dismantle Germany so that they wouldn’t ever be a threat, make Germany pay reparations, regain Alsace-Lorraine, and cancel any recognition of Germany as a nation. The French were motivated to revoke Alsace-Lorraine because it was a source of pride for France and it had many French citizens; however, it was not a primary goal. The French felt justified for reparations from Germany because of the large quantity of French land destroyed during the war. This was a main way of securing revenge and weakening the German government. Due to the fact that the reparations guaranteed that Germany would never again have a substantial economy, imposing the reparations on Germany was France main aim (European Dictatorships).
As a result of France disagreeing with the U.S. ideas and goals, the U.S. refused to ratify the treaty. The effect of this was that the U.S. wasn’t present at various treaty meetings and because of this and the fact that the U.S. was the only superpower at the time, the treaty lost its support, backbone, and enforcement. France was only willing to compromise because Britain and the U.S. promised to help France if Germany ever attacked them. But since the U.S. didn’t ratify the treaty, this promise ceased to exist. Furthermore, when the U.S. failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, France became aggressive and hostile towards Germany. France went around trying to weaken Germany and get their reparations on their own which is visible in the Ruhr and Rhineland in 1923 when France took Germany’s main coal fields. This made France look like a bully; however, their justification was that Germany was not paying reparations, so they would take them themselves. This ultimately led to the Dawes Plan in which Germany received an international loan which would hopefully allow for an European economic recovery to actually begin. It was to this extent that the personal motivations of France and the United States after World War I influenced the peace efforts from 1919 to 1924.
In summary, the U.S. and France had different personal motivations which impacted the peace efforts to the extent of creating a weak and unstable treaty that was ineffectively carried out and enforced. Each nation involved in the Paris Peace Conference had different aims and intentions which led to each nation unofficially altering the terms of the treaty.
Todd, Allan. The European Dictatorships: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.