Treaty of Versailles (1919)

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The Treaty of Versailles officially ended World War I. The treaty dealt specifically with Germany, and the other defeated powers had to negotiate their own separate treaties. Once the armistice was signed in November 1918, which provided for a cease fire so that peace could be negotiated, a peace conference began in Paris at the Palace of Versailles.

In addition to the British and French delegations, the United States also had representation at the peace conference. President Woodrow Wilson personally led the American delegation at Versailles. It soon became apparent that Wilson had a different view of the treaty than did the British and the French. These two countries had fought a long, bitter war against Germany. Both Great Britain and France had suffered tremendous casualties during the war and faced serious economic problems because of the war's costs. The two countries' leaders wanted to see Germany pay reparations for the cost of the war and accept the blame for causing the war. Wilson's intentions were very different. The American president desired to create a system that would keep future wars from happening, as well as promoting an American vision of democracy and peace. He believed that the best way to accomplish this goal was through the creation of an international organization called the League of Nations. Countries that belonged to the League would work together to stop potential wars in the future.

Ultimately, the Treaty of Versailles (1919) required Germany to accept responsibility for World War I and imposed reparations. It also called for the establishment of the League of Nations, as Wilson had envisioned. The treaty failed to create a long-term environment favorable to peace. Germans resented the treaty's provisions, and that resentment helped to fuel support for the Nazis in the 1930s and a return to war in World War II. Although Americans were happy to see an end to World War I, the United States Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Republicans in the Senate were unhappy that Wilson had not included them in the negotiations and refused to vote in favor of the treaty. The United States never joined the League of Nations, and that organization failed to be successful in its attempts to prevent future wars.