Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Peacemakers Flock to Paris

When the Great War ended on November 11, 1918, the euphoria quickly moved toward the post-war settlement.  Paris became the hub of the world as leaders and hangers-on flocked there, pressing concerns and special interests.  The Big Four, the leaders of the United States, England, France, and Italy, would have the pivotal role in drafting the Treaty of Versailles. 

But there was scores of others, including Winston Churchill, seeking to rebuild his reputation and promote the interests of the British Empire; T.E. Lawrence, the legendary Lawrence of Arabia, with special interests related to the Middle East; and Ho Chi Minh, trying to get support for the end of colonialism in Indochina.

Woodrow Wilson arrived in Paris to a tumultuous welcome on December 16.  The articulator of the Fourteen Points, his views would clash with Old World statesmen such as French premier Georges Clemenceau. Wilson, then sixty-two-years old, would be entering the last and most significant periods of his life:  seeming triumph in Paris, an inability to compromise and get the Treaty of Versailles ratified in the U.S. Senate, and his debilitating stroke.

While the war which lasted four years—much less for the United States—was a significant and tragic event, the post-war settlement had profound impacts.  Not only did the “war to end all wars” not prevent a far greater conflagration twenty years later, decisions were made and boundaries were drawn which affect us one hundred years later, often to our detriment.

This image, meant to portray the Versailles confrees on June 28, 1919, is entitled “The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors" and was painted by Irish-born artist Sir William Orpen.  Orpen had painted scenes of World War I.  By William Orpen - Imperial War Museum London, http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/20780, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22842011

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