14/2/1919 Progress in Paris on the League of Nations, deadlock on German reparations

Negotiators in Paris have struggled over some of the conflicting claims presented to them, but one area where they have made remarkable progress is in preparing a draft covenant for the League of Nations. The League is Wilson‘s big idea, an international forum in which countries will be able to find peaceful ways of resolving their problems. Now, notwithstanding the awkward matter of Japan’s proposal to insert a racial equality clause, the draft covenant is largely complete. The covenant requires the League’s members to respect each other’s borders and independence. There will be a general assembly of all member states and an executive council comprising the five leading Allied nations as permanent members and another five elected from the rest; decisions of the executive council will require unanimity. For now Germany will not be allowed to join the League, though perhaps in due course it will be able to do so.

More problematic though are separate discussions on the reparation payments Germany is to make for the damage it has caused to Allied nations by the war. The French are seeking an enormous sum, both as recompense for the devastation inflicted on them and to keep Germany weak into the future. The British are arguing for a smaller though still very substantial amount. The Americans meanwhile are proposing a much smaller figure, fearing that if too much is sought from the Germans they will either not pay it or else be so impoverished that Germany will succumb to Bolshevism.

Discussions on reparations are now completely deadlocked. And they are likely to remain so for some time. President Wilson departs from Paris to make a short trip back to the United States. He is the first American president to visit Europe while in office and he wants to report to his compatriots in person on the good work he is doing in Paris, to avoid any suggestion that he has forgotten about them. Until he returns the Paris Conference will not be able to make any difficult decisions.

image source:

Wilson reading the League’s draft covenant, by Cyrus Leroy Baldridge (ResearchGate)

One thought on “14/2/1919 Progress in Paris on the League of Nations, deadlock on German reparations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.