At the Paris Peace Conference, Lloyd George exercised a
moderating influence on both the harsh demands of Georges Clemenceau and
the idealistic proposals of Woodrow Wilson, and to a large extent he
shaped the final agreement
Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2001)
Of the ‘Big Three’ it was Lloyd George who understood the
necessity to punish Germany but not to the extent that she would never
be able to participate in European politics again. French
demands for the total overthrow of German business were simply folly to
Lloyd George. However, he could not neglect the voice of British public
opinion. The ‘Hang
the Kaiser’ campaign was riding high in the British press and many
British people wanted to see Germany punished. The
Royal Navy had its eyes on the German fleet and the foreign office its
eyes on Germany and Turkish colonies.
David Lloyd-George the British Prime Minister was in a difficult
position. Britain had suffered huge casualties in the war and the
general public was demanding revenge. Typical headlines in British
newspapers such as 'Make Germany Pay' and 'Hang the Kaiser' reflect
public feeling. Lloyd-George was determined to maintain Britain's naval
supremacy and to enlarge the British Empire. He had also announced in
the 1918 election campaign that he expected Germany to pay as much as
she could for the damage she had caused. Lloyd George was also prepared
to see Germany's military strength reduced. On the other hand he was
also aware that the new Weimar leaders of Germany were different to
those of the Kaiser's time and that an over harsh treaty might undermine
them and create an embittered Germany. He was also concerned that if the
peace treaty humiliated Germany it might provoke a Bolshevik revolution.
Whilst he was prepared to talk in harsh terms for the people home in the
UK, Lloyd-George worked to ease some of the harsher terms wanted by
David Lloyd George of Great Britain had two views on how
Germany should be treated.
His public image was simple. He was a politician and politicians
needed the support of the public to succeed in elections. If he had come
across as being soft on
Germany, he would have been speedily voted out of office. The British
public was after revenge and Lloyd George's public image reflected this
mood. "Hang the Kaiser" and "Make Germany Pay" were
two very common calls in the era immediately after the end of the war
and Lloyd George, looking for public support, echoed these views.
However, in private Lloyd George was also very concerned with the
rise of communism in Russia and he feared that it might spread to
western Europe. After the war had finished, Lloyd George believed that
the spread of communism posed a far greater threat to the world than a
defeated Germany. Privately, he felt that Germany should be treated in
such a way that left her as a barrier to resist the expected spread of
communism. He did not want the people of Germany to become so
disillusioned with their government that they turned to communism. Lloyd
George did not want Germany treated with lenience but he knew that
Germany would be the only country in central Europe that could stop the
spread of communism if it burst over the frontiers of Russia. Germany
had to be punished but not to the extent that it left her destitute.
However, it would have been political suicide to have gone public with
Lloyd George was anxious to preserve Britain’s naval supremacy
and was prepared to enlarge the British Empire (under Conservative
pressure). He was all too aware of the strong anti-German feeling
in Britain and in the 1918 election campaign he announced that he
expected Germany to pay ‘to the limit of her capacity’.
He was prepared to destroy German militarism but he distinguished
between the old imperial German leaders and the German people as a
whole. He felt that it would be unwise to persecute the new
parliamentary leaders for the sins of the Kaiser. Lloyd
George was inclined towards leniency since he felt that to leave an
embittered Germany would be to store up problems for the future, as the
Germans would wish to exact retribution. Lloyd George also
feared the possibility of an excessively humiliated Germany being drawn
into the arms of the Bolsheviks.
Aberystwyth, History site
appealed for a peace of “justice, not vengeance”. In the "Fontainebleau Memorandum," David
Lloyd George also called for a moderate peace.
Having advocated a tough treaty during the election campaign of
December 1918, and after achieving a number of his goals, the British
Prime Minister changed direction.
He worried that a severe peace could destabilize German politics
and spread “Communism from Russia to the Rhine”.
He pressed for a peace the Germans could accept.
The British Prime Minister also requested Clemenceau’s
territorial restraint. He said: “Germany will remain,
despite everything, and it would be folly to believe that we can
reconstruct the world without her assistance”
by Joel Blatt, University of Connecticut, for H-France Book Reviews
Legacy of the Great War: Peacemaking, 1919, ed. William R. Keylor