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Woodrow Wilson | Article

David Lloyd George

David Lloyd George at White House, Washington, D.C. 1923. Courtesy: Library of Congress

When Woodrow Wilson arrived at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, one of the men he faced at the negotiating table was British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. It was Lloyd George who served to balance Wilson's Fourteen Points against the harsh demands of French premier Georges Clemenceau and who, with his "conference diplomacy," did much to shape the final version of the peace treaty.

Born in 1863 in Manchester, England, one of three children of Welsh parents, David George incorporated his mother's maiden name Lloyd into his own last name from early manhood on. After the death of his schoolteacher father, he was sent to Wales to be raised by his maternal uncle -- a Baptist preacher and a political liberal. After becoming a lawyer in 1884, Lloyd George frequently defended men against the "poaching" laws. Sympathetic to the farmers and the poor, he soon became a spokesman for the Liberal Party. His marriage to Margaret Owen in 1888 produced three children, but his frequent infidelities guaranteed an unhappy union.

Lloyd George's election to Parliament from Caernarvon Boroughs in 1890 established him in politics. He would hold that seat for 54 years. His reputation as a social reformer grew as he rose through the ranks of Parliament, first as president of the board of trade, then as chancellor of the exchequer. In 1911, he delivered a speech at the London lord mayor's residence, Mansion House, that garnered national attention. In the Mansion House speech, Lloyd George warned an expansionist Germany not to interfere with British interests. He asserted that Britain would not stand by and let its power and prestige be assailed, stating that "peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure."

Lloyd George was reluctant at first to see Great Britain join the conflict of World War I. But as minister of munitions, then as minister of war, he soon advocated a fierce, swift offensive against Germany. In 1916 he deposed Herbert Asquith, the leader of his own party, to form a coalition government with the Conservative opposition, and took Asquith's place as Prime Minister. Lloyd George's aggressive war policy caused frequent clashes with Allied military leaders. However, he advocated and was able to establish a unified Allied command under Marshal Ferdinand Foch. Lloyd George would lead the British through the war's end.

The Paris peace agreement did little to ease post-war tensions in Britain. When the Conservatives withdrew from Lloyd George's coalition government in 1922, claiming that the prime minister had intervened recklessly in a Greek-Turkish crisis, Lloyd George's ministry was over. He would hold no position of true power again. He died in Wales in 1945.

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