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An extract from Andre Tardieu, the Truth About the Treaty (1921)

Tardieu was one of the French delegates, and a friend of Clemenceau.   After the Treaty was signed he wrote his book to defend the peacemakers against attacks in the French press by journalists who said the peace was to lenient.

 

chapter iii  

[The Huge Task Facing the Peacemakers]

   

 

THE work which awaited the framers of the Peace was as great and as unprecedented as the war which was to be brought to a close.

  

Great and unprecedented in its scope: for the first time in history entire nations had fought. Seventy million men had been mobilized, thirty million had been wounded and nearly ten million had died. Nothing in the past could compare with it. The dead alone outnumbered all the Armies of Napoleon. Great and unprecedented in its complexity: nation having fought nation, there had been brought into play the sum total of all national forces: agricultural, industrial, commercial and financial. All these potent factors of international life had to be taken into account in making the Treaty. Read over the great peace treaties of the past,---for the most part child's play compared to this! Frontier changes limited to a few fragments of the map of Europe; indemnities of a few millions! Those peace treaties had certain classic outlines which were filled in according to more or less settled traditions.

  

[But at Versailles,] the map of the world had to be remade, and under what conditions Germany's persistent savagery had left more ruins in the victorious countries than the invasions of the barbarians had ever made in the lands they overran and conquered. The resources of all the belligerents had been equally exhausted by the duration of the struggle, and as the damages rightly demanded by the creditors rose, the capacity for payment of the debtors fell. Mr. Lloyd George had said in 1918, "Germany shall pay for everything." When the Conference met, it was of necessity obliged to ascertain how much and in what manner Germany could pay. And ways had to be devised to extend the time of payment; for it was quite evident a country no matter how rich could not pay hundreds of millions in a few months and no matter how criminal could not have undergone so prolonged a strain without diminishing its resources.

  

The execution of the peace terms thus became not a matter of months but of years. It implied a lasting union of the forces which had won the war. Not the victors alone but the whole world had to be given the certainty that Germany would not repeat her offence. The fundamental aims of Liberty and Justice which for fifty-two months had furnished the moral strength and stimulus of the nations in arms had to be realized. Finally the unity of the Allies which had led to their victory had to be maintained and made closer so that they might be as well prepared for common action in the future as they had been in the past. Failing this, the Peace would be lacking in the essential factor that had won the Victory.