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Lloyd George on his principles

David Lloyd George was a brilliant politician – he was known as the ‘Welsh wizard’.   This is something you must take into account as you read these statements by Lloyd George about what he was trying to do at the Conference.   Remember that a good politician never says what he believes.   He does not even say what people want to hear.   A good politician (and Lloyd George was one of the best Britain has ever produced) says what he has to say to get his listeners to agree to what he wants to do – what he says may or may not therefore be what he actually believes.

  

  • Of the statements below, which do you think is most likely to be nearest to what Lloyd George actually believed, and why?
    • This question is simply a matter of opinion, provided you have a good explanation for what you think. However, Source 1 was probably influenced by the euphoria of victory (the kind of time, along with funerals, when people make meaningless, high-sounding statements), and Source 2 was a simple appeal to people’s baser instincts in an attempt to get their vote. My opinion, for what it is worth is that ‘we want to protect the future against a repetition of the horrors of this war’ is probably the best answer. Lloyd George was setting out to MPs before he went what he was going to try and do at the Conference, and we know that he was genuinely horrified by the slaughter of the First World War

  

Source A

1)         A ‘righteous’ peace (after a righteous war)

            We must not let any sense of revenge, any spirit of greed, any grasping desire override the fundamental principles of righteousness.   The mandate of this government at the next election will mean that the British Government will be in favour of such a peace.

           Lloyd George speaking to Parliament (12 November 1918)

                Note the date – this was the day after the Armistice.   How would the listening MPs be feeling?  What reaction was Lloyd George trying to produce in them?

 

2)         Demanding compensation

            We propose to demand the whole cost of the war from Germany

            Lloyd George, speaking at an election meeting (11 December 1918).   Why was he talking like this?

 

3)         A ‘hard but fair’ (and lasting) peace

            We want a peace which will be just, but not vindictive.   We want a stern peace because the occasion demands it, but the severity must be designed, not for vengeance, but for justice.   Above all, we want to protect the future against a repetition of the horrors of this war.

           Lloyd George speaking to Parliament (1919) before he went off to the Conference.

  

  

 

Verdicts on Lloyd George as a politician

  • What kind of man was Lloyd George? Remember as you read the following that – as a politician – Lloyd George had lots of opponents and that – as a successful politician – he had defeated his opponents (and made enemies of them). There may be, especially in contemporary comments, a fair degree of sour grapes?
    • You will not be able to say what YOU think about Lloyd George until you have studied in the rest of this section what he did

  

 

Source B

1)         David Lloyd George: a politician who never knew the truth

            From a modern website

 

2)         He had a morally disintegrating effect on all whom he had to deal with.

            Stanley Baldwin, a Conservative politician.  As a result of Baldwin’s attacks, Lloyd George fell from power in 1922.   Baldwin became Prime Minister in 1923.

 

3)         Although he never sold his soul he pawned it.   He had a natural penchant for working with his own opponents to get what he wanted.

            Written by Lady Violet Bonham Carter

                Lady Bonham Carter was the daughter of the Herbert Asquith (Prime Minister 1908–1916) and she married Asquith’s private secretary.   You have to remember that Lloyd George forced Asquith out of power to become Prime Minister in 1916, destroying the Liberal Party to do so, and that in the 1918 General Election Asquith and his supporters fought against Lloyd George (but was defeated).

 

4)         He was aggressive and determined to see things through…. On the other hand Lloyd George was arrogant and at times quite oppressive in his behavior.

                From a modern website (2004)

 

5)         The French View

            Today Clemenceau is angry with the English, and especially with Lloyd George.   “Lloyd George is a trickster," he said, “I don't like being double-crossed. Lloyd George has deceived me.   He made me the finest promises, and now he breaks them”

                From the Diary of Raymond Poincare (14th March, 1919), quoted on: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRgeorge.htm

                The French believed that Britain and the USA betrayed them at Versailles

 

  

 

Modern Historians on Lloyd George’s principles

Lloyd George was a VERY clever man.   Sometimes – in an effort to simplify history for people – some historians represent him simply as a faceless ‘man in the middle’ between Wilson and Clemenceau.

As you might expect, there was much more to Lloyd George than that!   He was able to take account of many different issues and he had a very sophisticated, multi-faceted approach to the negotiations.

In the quotes that follow, the first (C1) gives the traditional, simplistic explanation.   The sources following, however, introduce a number of other issues which influenced Lloyd George.

  

  • Make a spidergram of all the principles which underlay Lloyd George’s action at the Conference (I found 17):
    • Compromise between Clemenceau and Wilson
    • Need to punish Germany but not to the extent that she would never be able to participate in European politics again
    • Keep German business going
    • British public opinion (the ‘Hang the Kaiser’ campaign was riding high in the British press and many British people wanted to see Germany punished)
    • Maintain British naval supremacy (by destroying the German fleet)
    • Enlarge the British Empire (by getting German and Turkish colonies)
    • The British public was demanding revenge
    • He had promised in the 1918 election campaign to make Germany pay ‘to the limit of her capacity’
    • The Conservative party (Lloyd George’s allies at home) hated the Germans and wanted a harsh treaty
    • Germany to pay as much as she could for the damage she had caused
    • Reduce Germany's military strength
    • He felt that it would be unwise to persecute the new parliamentary leaders for the sins of the Kaiser
    • An over-harsh treaty might undermine them and create an embittered Germany
    • Lloyd George was also very concerned with the rise of communism in Russia and he feared that it might spread to western Europe – Germany should be left as a barrier to resist the expected spread of communism
    • A peace Germany could accept
    • The nations would have to work with Germany in the future
    • However, it would have been political suicide to have gone public with these views

   

 

Source C

1)      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

         The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2001)

 

2)      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.

            A modern website (2004)

 

3)      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 Clemenceau.

         A modern website

 

4)      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 these views.

         A modern website

 

5)      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.

         PenglaisSchool, Aberystwyth, History site

 

6)      Wilson 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”

from a review by Joel Blatt, University of Connecticut, for H-France Book Reviews (April 2001)

of The Legacy of the Great War: Peacemaking, 1919, ed. William R. Keylor (1998)