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As this volume opens, Wilson faces new serious crises at the Paris Peace Conference: Italy demands not only territory along the Dalmatian littoral, but also sovereignty over the Adriatic port of Fiume, while Japan insists on the fulfillment of secret treaties that award her complete control of the Chinese province of Shantung. Achievement of these ambitions would in Wilson’s opinion grossly violate the letter and spirit of the Fourteen Points. Debates in the Council of Four over Fiume reach a pitch of high emotion, and the victorious Western alliance seems on the verge of dissolution. Wilson issues an appeal to the Italian people for a fair and just settlement of the Adriatic problem. In response, the Italian leaders withdraw from Paris, and Italy’s imperial ambitions continue to be the chief stumbling block to Western accord. Meanwhile, Wilson accepts a compromise that gives only Germany’s former economic rights in Shantung to the Japanese and requires of them a promise to return Shantung to the full political control of China.
In spite of all discord, the Big Four submit a preliminary peace treaty to the Germans on May 7, 1919. This begins a six-week period of intense negotiation between the victors and the vanquished.