Campare and contrast the objectives and motives of the Big Four at the Paris Peace Conference?
The Paris Peace Conference soon devolved into a debate between Woodrow Wilson and his plans for a grandiose peace settlement and those of the European powers: Victor Orlando of Italy, David Lloyd George of Britain, and Georges Clemenceau, nicknamed "the tiger" of France.
Woodrow Wilson had previously promulgated a Peace Plan known as the Fourteen Points which provided for an independent Poland with access to the sea, self determination of all peoples, and a League of Nations whereby the nations of the world could discuss mutual issues of concern with each other, and hopefully thereby avoid war. Wilson's plan was idealistic at best, and did not consider the concerns of European nations to be protected from further German aggression. Clemenceau is said to have remarked at the beginning of the conference:
God gave us the Ten Commandments and we broke them; Wilson gave us the Fourteen Points. We shall see.
Clemenceau was determined to exact revenge on Germany for the war (France still had bitter memories of the earlier Franco-Prussian War) and also to erect a buffer state between Germany and France. He wanted Germany permanently demilitarized and reparations for the costs of the war. Wilson refused, and the conference was deadlocked and almost fell apart. Clemenceau relented only because he feared that a failure of the Conference would result in France facing Germany alone in the future. He therefore agreed to reduce his demands in exchange for a permanent alliance with Britain and the United States by the terms of which each would come to the aid of France if it were attacked.
Lloyd George was generally supportive of Wilson's League of Nations; but was more concerned with preservation of Britain's overseas Empire and the removal of the threat posed by the German navy. Delegates from Ireland had hoped to secure the right of self determination at the Conference, but failed. Lloyd George later commented that he felt he had done quite well at the conference
considering I was seated between Jesus Christ and Napoleon
a not so complementary reference to Wilson and Clemenceau.
Victor Orlando of Italy had hoped to gain substantial territory for Italy because of its losses during the war. His ability to negotiate, however was hampered by his inability to speak English. The other powers were somewhat concerned about Italy's ambitions, and as a result offered territory which Italy wanted to other nations. Orlando was furious when he left the conference.