Tag Archives: Treaty of Versailles

Nations United, League of – Whatever – Hail to the duc

The idea of Nations uniting for peace and tranquility has been around for more than 400 years as near as I can tell – the first outrageous proposal may have been the one proposed by the French duc de Sully in 1601. He wanted to call it “the very Christian Council of Europe” ; it would be composed of 15 roughly equal European states with a common army – imagine that. It was also called “The Grand Design, a Utopian plan for a Christian Republic.” Nice try, duc.

In 1859, another Frenchman, Jean Henri Dunant, while visiting in Italy, happened upon the village of Solferino, where a  battle in the Austro-Sardinian war had produced more than 40,000 dead and wounded. The experience inspired Dunant to publish “A Memory of Solferino” in 1863, a book that led Gustave Moynier, a Geneva, Switzerland lawyer to help organize an “International Committee for Relief of the Wounded” that became the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1876. The World War One role of the ICRC in saving lives, exchanging prisoners, enabling communication between combatants and families, maintaining troop morale, and more, can not be minimized. It was part of the late 19th Century movement toward global Internationalism led by men like the South African Jan Christian Smuts.

Smuts must have been a role model for Woodrow Wilson; it was Smuts who wrote the covenant of the League of Nations that Wilson insisted be included in the Treaty of Versailles, and that was seen by many as the first great flaw in the Treaty .

The War Guilt Clause wrestles with these issues, then moves on to the question of how did the civilian war survivors on both sides view the Treaty of Versailles?

Wilson’s Obsession – The League of Nations

Woodrow Wilson, is the only U.S. President with an earned doctorate – Ph.D. in Government and History, Johns Hopkins University, 1886. To say Wilson was a stubborn man would be like saying the Washington Monument is an obelisk. “Let them compromise,” became a mantra with Wilson – he knew better, and in the end it cost him dearly.

A month after the fighting on the Western Front ended in November, 1918, Wilson went to France to prepare for the Paris Peace Conference that would convene in January, 1919; his reception in Paris, London, and Rome was tumultuous; he was the conquering hero, the first international recognition that the United States was a GREAT NATION, and he was here to fashion a peace for the world. Sadly, it would end badly . . .  “A Peace to End All Peace,” said the title of David Fromkin’s 1986 book,

Max Blue in The War Guilt Clause, follows the peace conference through the eyes of correspondent Ed Frederick, and a bright-eyed, spiky Midwesterner with a pen of her own – Peggy Schooner, who enters Ed’s life at the first Paris press conference with the words “Wilson has it all wrong – the League of Nations is not the first priority – a peace treaty with Germany is.”

Wilson had it horribly wrong but was blind to see. He would not be swayed from his bull-headed insistence that the Covenant of the League of Nations must be included in the introduction to what became the Treaty of Versailles.

Here in 2013, it is widely seen that partisan politics is crippling the United States efforts to bring a better life to its citizens. In 1919, bitter hatred for a Democrat President, may have been worse :

Republican Senator William Borah of Idaho – “The Treaty of Versailles represents the most complete moral breakdown in the history of treaty writing.”

Democratic Senator James Phelan of California – “The President has achieved a great triumph; the Treaty of Versailles is a greater boon to mankind than the Magna Charta or the American Constitution.”

It remained for the much maligned future U.S. President, Herbert Hoover, to pen a phrase that might represent A Thought For All Seasons: “We are sadly in need of an idealism that transcends partisan politics – one rooted in principles beyond mere party allegiance.”