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When World War I ended, a peace treaty needed to be developed. The leaders of the Big Four controlled the discussion that would lead to the development of the Versailles Treaty. The Big Four included David Lloyd George from Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau from France, Vittorio Orlando from Italy, and Woodrow Wilson from the United States.

Woodrow Wilson had very different ideas regarding the peace treaty when compared to what the other leaders wanted to see from the treaty. Wilson presented a somewhat idealistic view of the postwar world, as he called for an easier peace treaty on the defeated Central Powers. Wilson’s ideas were based on his Fourteen Points, which included independence based on the concept of self-determination, eliminating secret treaties, reducing weapons, and developing an organization, called the League of Nations, that would try to help countries resolve their problems peacefully.

The other leaders of the Big Four were not too excited with Wilson’s ideas. They were concerned that Germany would once again become a strong and aggressive nation. They wanted to see Germany severely punished. They pointed out that while the United States was separated by the Atlantic Ocean from Germany, they had to deal with Germany on a daily basis since Germany was very close to these countries and, in fact, bordered France. These leaders wanted to be sure Germany would never again have the power to do what it had done during World War I. They also reminded Wilson that the United States did not enter World War I until April 1917, while the other countries were involved in the war for a much longer period of time.

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The term “Big Four” is most commonly used in history to refer to the leaders of the allied countries who had the most input at the peace conference following World War I.  These men had the most influence over the eventual shape of the Treaty of Versailles.

Three of these men were the leaders of countries that were heavily involved in the war.  These were the American President, Woodrow Wilson, the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, and the French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau.  The British and the French had borne the brunt of the fighting during the war.  The US was an important country because its entry into the war in 1917 changed the balance of powers and allowed the Allied Powers to win the war.

The fourth member of the Big Four was less important.  This was the leader of Italy Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando.  Italy had not played a very important part in the war.  This made it much harder for Orlando to get the provisions he wanted included in the treaty.  It was difficult enough that he left the peace conference in protest for a period of time.

These men are commonly known as the Big Four.

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