Congress of Vienna,
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ADVANCED LEVEL EUROPEAN HISTORY NOTES
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The Congress of Vienna, 1814-1815
The rise of Napoleon and his subsequent conquests of the European states had upset the social order and the political system of the pre-Revolutionary days. A conference was needed to discuss solutions to these problems and thus was called at Vienna, the capital of Austria.
The root problem facing the European powers at the Vienna Congress was whether the changes made by Napoleon to the map and to the government of Europe be allowed to remain permanently or whether the former political and social order of Europe be restored. The decisions at the Congress of Vienna showed that the victorious powers chose to destroy the principles of the Napoleon had instituted. This was a reaction against the principles of the French Revolution. On the whole, the aims of the Congress of Vienna were the following:
the Congress of Vienna was said to be a congress to divide the spoils among the four victorious states – Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia ;
to sweep away the ideas popularized by the French revolution and Napoleon ;
to prevent future aggression from France ;
and to work out an effective means among the four great powers to tackle future problems were also important aims of the Congress of Vienna.
Outstanding personalities in the Congress:
The congress included all the European states except Turkey. Even France, the defeated nation, was represented. But the negotiations were dominated by 5 men.
Metternich of Austria:
He was the Austrian Chancellor and Foreign Minister who presided over the congress and became its guiding spirit. He became the most outstanding figure in Europe from 1815-1848 which was a period often referred to as the era of Metternich. He was the embodiment of the older Europe of the monarchies fighting against the newer Europe of revolutionary ideals. He devoted his life vanquishing revolutionary principles spread by Napoleon’s army. He regarded himself as the apostle of conservatism. His thoughts were too deeply rooted in the old order to find the ideas of liberty and equality attractive.
His policies in the congress:
He sought to prevent the outbreak of revolutions in Europe through the joint efforts of the five great European powers. He opposed nationalist and revolutionary movements as they would threaten the existence of the Austrian Empire which was multi-racial state.
He sought to preserve the Austrian Empire on the basis of a balanced society of European states and of an international alliance of like-minded rulers. He knew how to use the great powers’ fear of the revolution to create the concert of Europe. Thus, he was able to establish a balance of power among the five great powers which would counteract the increased power of Russia, the naval power of England and the diminished power of France.
As Metternich saw the need of some machinery for concerted action to maintain European peace, he supported the device of periodic congresses. In fact, Metternich’s idea was not only that rulers should meet frequently in congresses to decide what measures to take, but also that they should be able to intervene in a neighboring state to restore order when it was threatened. The contention of Metternich was that internal and international affairs are inseparable. In giving the European alliance its anti-revolutionary, anti-liberal character, Metternich had a very clear sense of serving first of all the interests of Austria, the power most vulnerable to popular attack.
Alexander I of Russia:
He had a major role in the downfall of Napoleon and through him, Russia could have assumed the leadership of Europe at the time. But he had neither the diplomatic skill nor the persistence of Metternich. He was inconsistent and too much of an idealist. At one moment, he was a champion of liberalism but at the next, an ambitious imperialist
Alexander I looked forward to territorial gains and he had an ambition over Poland. What he desired most was to have the whole of Poland. Such Russian aim was supported by Ferderick William of Prussia.
Talleyrand of France
Although he represent France, the defeated nation, he succeeded in establishing himself as an influential member of the congress by means of skillful diplomacy. All he wanted was to secure a lenient treaty for France, to promote and safeguard the interests of France and to end her isolation. He secured admission to the congress on the plea that it was not France but Napoleon whom the allies had been fighting. He was shrewd enough to set the victors against one another by making use of their different selfish interests in order to get he wanted for France. The allies’s quarrel over the question of Poland and Saxony offered an ideal opportunity to Talleyrand. He openly supported the Austrians in their resistance to Prussian acquisition of Saxony. When Harderbery of Prussia announced that any further interference would lead to war, Tallryand proposed to Castlereagh of England and Metternich a secret treaty of alliance against Prussia and Russia. The treaty was signed in 1815. Talleyrand could say in triumph that France was no longer isolated.
Hardenberg of Prussia
Hardenberg cared relatively little for the general European settlement but a great deal for the fortunes of Prussia. His attention was concentrated on gaining as much territories as possible for the loss of Prussian Poland to Russia and to reassure Prussia’s position in Germany.
Castlereagh of England
He was the British Foreign Minister. He had a typically practical Bristish mind as opposed to Alexander I’s idealism. What worried him most was how to keep the European continent open to British trade. Napoleon had tried to close Europe to British goods. He had also attempted to invade England. In fact, the Napoleonic war had greatly upset the British trade pattern. For these reason, he wanted to achieve peace in Europe. Only by this could it be possible for English trade and commence to proper and develop. As such, it was necessary to create a balance of power in Europe. The wealth, population and territory of the states needed to be carefully redistributed. This would ensure that no one power would be too strong to endanger to others. His idea of a balance was, first to contain France. He was adamant on keeping the French out of the lowland countries. The next problem was to strengthen central Europe as a buffer between France and Russia. He also believed that the joint meetings of persons in authority were a better method of removing international misunderstanding.
Treaties signed before the Vienna Congress:
The treaty of Chaumont (March 1814)
By this treaty, Austria, England, Prussis and Russia promised:
to unite in alliance for 20 years;
to prevent Napoleon returning to Europe;
to restore the status quo, to quarantee the territorial settlement.
The First Treaty of Paris (May 1814)
The terms imposed on France were lenient:
France was not forced to disarm;
She did not pay any indemnity;
She did not restore the works of arts which she had removed from Italy or Germany;
Her boundaries were to be those of 1792;
France ceded Mauritius, Malta and other territories to England and Spain.
The Vienna Settlement:
The main part of the 1815 peace settlement was worked out at Vienna. The Vienna Congress rounded up its business with the signing of the Treaty of Vienna in June, 1815. Other arrangements relating to France alone were stated in the Second Treaty of Paris of November, 1815. To uphold the Treaty of Vienna (Sept,1815), two other arrangements were made, they were the Holy Alliance and the Quadruple Alliance (Nov,1815).
Problem of Poland-Saxony:
Immediately after the opening of the Congress of Vienna, quarrel broke out among the powers over Poland and Saxony. Before the Battle of Nations between France and Europe, Alexander I promised to abolish the Grand Duchy of Warsaw which Napoleon had created. The Tsar wanted to occupy Poland, Austria who wanted Poland was to be compensated by taking Lombardy and Venetia. Prussia desired to annex the whole of Saxony in exchange for the Polish territory she was surrendering to Russia.
Britain, Austria and France were against it. Britain was worried about the expanding influence of Russia in eastern Europe. Austria feared the strengthening of Prussia as her rival. France liked to see Poland independent. Seeing his rivals deadlocked, Tallreyrand won Britain and Austria over to a secret alliance. They would fight Russia and Prussia unless the latter withdrew their demands. In fact, neither side was willing to go to war at this moment. A compromise was then made:
Russia aquired greater part of Poland, to whom he promised a constitution within a dependent kingdom.
Austria got Galicia.
Prussia got about 2/5 of Saxony and retained a corridor to North Sea.
Cracow, Poland’s old capital, became an independent republic. (At this point, Napoleon escaped from Elba. War reopened in 1815 March. His reappearance made the powers unite again and then continued their work at Vienna.)
Balance of power – to prevent the status quo by preventing any of the Great powers from gaining too much and dominating Europe. For example, France was not dismembered but treated leniently instead for the peace makers of the Vienna Settlement felt that achieving in Europe as a whole was more important than punishing France.
To restrain the power of France – although France should not be punished too severely, she had to be restrained so that she would not be able to threaten the strong buffer states was put around France.
Legitimacy – It meant that the dynasties of Europe that had reigned in pre-revolutionary days should be restored to their thrones. This principle of legitimacy was supported by Talleyrand as a device for protecting France against drastic punishment and adopted by Metternich as a convenient expression of the general policy of resisting changes. The principle of legitimacy was looked upon as an insurance against future revolutions. Restored rulers were usually despotic and reactionary; die-hard supporter of conservatism and enemy of liberalism. They were thus expected to uproot any revolutionary movements to the detriment of peace and stability.
To reward the victors and punish the defeated – Austria, Prussia, Russia and England all gained new territories whereas France, Denmark and Saxony were reduced in size for supporting Napoleon.
Compensation – This was connected with the preservation of the balance of power. The map of Europe was rearranged so that the land lost to Napoleon and under Napoleon were restore, but where the powers aould not be restored or where restoration was not wise, there was compersation.
The Treaty of Vienna, June 1815
The important decisions made in the Congress were passed by the powers by the Treaty of Vienna.
The Bourbons, Louis XVIII, Ferdinand VII and Ferdinand I, were restored to France, Spain and Two Sicilies respectively.
The House of Orange in Holland and the House of Savoy in Pietmont-Sardinia were restored.
The Pope again ruled the Papal States.
Various German princes were restored to the throne.
Members of the Hapsburg family were restored to the thrones of Tuscany, Parma and Modena in Italy.
Balance of power, Reward and punishment, Compensation:
Russia – got Finland and parts of Prussian Poland; Bessarabia had been gained from Turkey during the Napoleonic Wars. In the opinion of Castlereagh and Metternich, Russian gains were too great and upset the balance of power. It was because Russia had negotiated with the sword in her hand and so secured more than the other allies liked.
Prussia – recovered the German territories which Napoleon had taken from her. She also acquired Swedish Pomerania about 2/5 of Saxony, the whole of Westphalia and most of the Rhineland. Prussia appeared on post 1815 maps as 2 separate areas – Prussia Proper in the N.E. and Prussia on the Rhineland. Prussia complained that she got less than the 1805 standard and this was true. But the gains in the Rhineland provided Prussia with great mineral resourses for her later industrialization. Besides, her membership in the German Confederation made her an important competitor with Austria for leadership in German affairs.
Austria – recovered Lombardy and acquired Venetia in exchange of Austrian Netherlands. The members of the Austrian Royal family were rewarded the thrones of the three duchies in Italy, they were Parma, Modena and Tuscany. She was also made the President of the newly established German Confederation. Also, Austria gained part of Poland which was called Galicia.
Holland – was given the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) to form with Luxembourg the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Britain – kept the balance by securing gains mainly in colonial field. She took final possession of Cape Colony in S.Africa, Ceylon and some islands in West Indies. She gained valuable naval bases of Heligoland in the North Sea, Malta in the Mediterranean and a protectorate over the Ionian Islands whuch gave her the command of the entrance to the Adriatic. Her acquisitions laid the foundation of the modern British Empire and added further to Britain’s position as a world power.
The Swiss Confederation was declared neutral.
The Italian Kingdom of Piedmont – was to take Nice, Genoa and Savoy from France and to unite with another Italian Kingdom, Sardinia.
Sweden – was compensated for the lost of Finland to Russia by gaining Norway from Denmark (which was penalized for her hostility to the Allies).
The powers were not willing to revive the Holy Roman Empire. During the Napoleonic conquests, the Holy Roman Empire was abolished. The Allies in the Congress did not have it restored. Instead, a German Confederation of 39 states was created.
To restrain the power of France
Barrier states were created around France do that all states on French frontiers would be strong enough to hold up any recurrence of French aggression long enough for the powers to mobilize their forces.
The Rhineland on the east were given to Prussia.
The neutrality of Switzerland was guaranteed.
Austria had acquisitions in Northern Italy.
Piedmont had Savoy and Genoa added to her.
Spain and Portugal were guaranteed against French attack.
In between France and Spain, there was the Pyrenees to ensure inconvenient French attack on Spain.
Belgium was given to Holland to form with Luxumbourg to form the United Kingdoms of Netherlands under the Dutch king.
The Second Treaty of Paris, Nov 1815:
French boundaries were reduced to those of 1790. This deprived her of the Saar Basin and certain strategic places on the frontier.
France had to pay a war indemnity of 700 million francs.
France had to support an army of occupation for 5 years.
France had to restore the art treasures to other countries on the frontier were taken away from.
Evaluation of the Congress of Vienna:
The adjustment of balance of power and the checking of France were on the whole successful. No power dominated Europe as it had been under Napoleon. It had created a lasting peace in Europe for about 40 years until the Crimean War broke out in 1854. It might even be said that this aim was achieved for about 100 years. Between 1815 and 1914, there was no general European War. The great powers in this period went to war only in isolated conflicts of a short period of time.
On the other hand, it might be pointed out that this long-term peace was not attributed to the 1815 settlement alone. It was also the outcome of other factors. The general exhaustion of the European powers after the Napoleonic wars was one of the reasons. Europe then witnessed the rapid industrialization. Many European governments were preoccupied with the improvement of conditions at home and suppression of revolutions. Thus, there was little time for them to wage war. Europe thus enjoyed long-term peace.
Another merit was the international guarantee of permanent neutrality of
Switzerland. Only a geographical expression in 1789, Switzerland became an independent state in central Europe after 1815.
Credit should also go to the 1815 Congress for its policy of moderation
Towards France. France was rather generously treated. She was allowed to attend the Congress of Vienna and was admitted as one of the five great powers in Europe. The significance was that hostile feeling both insude against Louis XVII and outside towards the European states was avoided. This would also have the effect of strengthening the constitutional monarchy headed by Louis XVIII. It was expected that constitutional monarchy would bring a reconciliation of the old and revolutionary forces. If France had internal peace, Europe would also be safe.
The 1815 Congress should also be credited for starting the system of
Settling international disputes through negotiation. It led to the Congress system which was a leading step to future international system of meeting whereby conflicts and problems common to the European powers after 1815 were settled.
By strengthening Prussia and Piedmont-Sardinia, the congress contributed
indirectly to the unification of Italy and Germany. The decisions taken by the 1815 peace-makers for Prussia and Piedmont-Sardinia to take up the leadership in the German and Italian unification and to found national states by 1871.
Largely through the effect of England, and important concession was
made to humanitarianism. Slave trade was declared inhuman and was abolished by Spain, France, Holland and Sweden and promised to be abolished by Portugal.
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