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Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Ground Up: The Congress of Vienna

After the defeat of Napoleon, there was a desire to convert back to the old order to contain revolution and revolutionary forces. This was attempted by a peace settlement in 1814 including four major enemies that used several approaches to eliminate the infighting within the global powers.

In 1814, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Austria met to ensure peace after the war. The Bourbon monarchy was restored in the way of Louis XVIII and all agreed to meet at the Congress of Vienna in September 14, 1814 to sign the peace settlement.

Prince Klemens von Metternich was the leader of the Congress of Vienna, however he was both arrogant and self assured. He was guided by the principle of legitimacy, which simply preserved the traditional institution by restoring legitimate monarchs. This had been done in France with the Bourbons, however it was ignored else ware. The congress treated Poland in that fashion, in that Prussia and Austria could lay claim to Polish territories. A Polish kingdom was established with the Romanov Dynasty as monarchs. Poland was granted independence and foreign policy was under Russian control. Prussia and Austria also received compensation for their losses.

Initially, these territorial agreements were meant to create a balance of power so that to prevent one country from dominating Europe. However, according to Metternich Austria and Prussia were defining their military forces, therefore if they united they would present an unconquerable barrier against any prince that may take the throne once again in Russia or France.

On the other hand, the Congress of Vienna didn’t recognize at first the strength of France, as it continued to not be weakened. They proceeded to put up barriers in order to delay any further expansions, thus attempting to weaken France’s ability to disrupt the peace. Additionally, a new kingdom in the Netherlands was established under King William I of the house of Orange, Piedmont was enlarged, and Prussia was given control of the east bank of the Rhine. Also, to replace the previous Napoleonic Confederation, the Congress of Vienna created the Germanic Confederation.

When Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France, it delayed the negotiations of the Congress of Vienna, however it did not change the agreement overall. Although the Congress of Vienna was able to avoid conflict for almost a century in Europe, their attempt to maintain the status quo met with partial success in the short term, but was bound to fail in the long term because it opposed the irresistible forces of historical change resulting from modernization. Those irresistible forces took the form of the dual revolutions of liberalism and nationalism.

As a result of the Congress of Vienna, the Quadruple Alliance and the Holy Alliance initiated a step towards European collaboration. Furthermore, the Concert of Europe , may be credited to the Congress of Vienna, although it did operate less than perfectly at times. In addition, the Congress was able to establish standard rules of diplomacy; however this disregarded any growing social changes that sparked revolution in 1848.

More interesting Articles:

Despite being one of the victors of the Napoleonic Wars the imperial power still faced a number of challenges, the main one being how to balance all the interests of the European powers who were growing in confidence daily. Read more about Castlereagh and Canning - British Foreign Policy 1815-1830


Picture Vienna
Picture Castlereagh

1 Comment:

RS Wing said...

A very interesting historical read here. The unity of the powers seemed to be dominated by the ruling powers that be, nonetheless, Europe did prevail in creating an alliance that made history.

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