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The opening of this volume finds the Big Four in the midst of the gravest crisis of the peace conference set off by the British cabinet’s demand for drastic softening of the terms of the peace treaty to be concluded with Germany. In response to a wave of appeasement sweeping through the British Isles, Lloyd George says that he cannot and will not sign the peace treaty unless his colleagues agree to negotiate sympathetically with the Germans on their reparations obligations, their early admission to the League of Nations, and other matters.
For the entire period covered by this volume, the atmosphere of the Council of Four is supercharged by bitter debates and recriminations. Wilson and Clemenceau try to hold to the terms of the preliminary treaty. As the bitterness of the debates in the Council of Four grows in intensity, Wilson, weakened by a small stroke just before the eruption of the crisis, gradually loses the will and strength to oppose Lloyd George. Throughout, Wilson tries to play the role of peacemaker between Lloyd George and Clemenceau but ends by capitulating to Lloyd George’s demands. The result is that the final peace treaty taking shape constitutes the first step in the appeasement of Germany.