Its merits outweighed its defects



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Questions and Answers: Concert of Europe
1. "Its merits outweighed its defects." Discuss this verdict upon the Treaty of Vienna.
The principal defects of the Treaty of Vienna wee four. First it ignored national feeling for unity in Germany and Italy, and other peoples under the rule of States which they opposed. Secondly it operated to discourage constitutional government in Europe. Thirdly, it was a settlement characterised by a cynical disregard for the interest of the small States by the Great Powers who dominated the Congress. Lastly, the settlement produced at Vienna failed to survive- a measure of its failure to solve the problems of Europe.
By the treaty Germany remained, like Italy, "a geographical expression". It consisted of thirty-nine separate States; and although these were organised in the Germanic Confederation; it posed no unifying power being dominated by Austria and Prussia, whose interests were to prevent a united Germany. Italy was mostly restored to its pre-revolutionary dynasties, most of whom were allied if not related to the Hapsburgs. Austria ruled Lombardy and Venetia directly and hence could obstruct any moves towards unity of the Italian people. The idea that there was an Italian nation was ignored by the peacemakers of Vienna. Of the smaller peoples, the Poles reminded divided under Prussian, Austrian and Russian rule; the Roman Catholic and partly industrialised. Belgians were placed under the rule of the Protestant and sea-faring Dutch; while the Norwegians were transferred against their wishes from Danish to Swedish rule. No attempt was made to meet the national aspirations of the different peoples in the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires or of the Irish under British rule.
The settlement opposed liberalism because it claimed to represent the principle of Legitimacy, which meant the restoration of the pre-1789 dynasties. Absolutism was completely restored in Spain, and most of the German and Italian States. Constitutions, where they existed, were usually only consultative in character and representative of only the wealthier citizens.
The smaller States of Europe, whether their monarchs were legitimate or not, were generally treated in a cavalier fashion by the Great Powers. The Kings of Denmark and Saxony, both indisputably legitimate, lost territory through having been too late in deserting Napoleon. None of the Great Powers suffered any net loss of territory, and even France was restored to her frontiers of 1790. Their gains were at the expense of the smaller States.
Finally the Treaty of Vienna failed to secure lasting peace or to maintain its own decisions for century. By 1871 much of the settlement had been destroyed with German and Italian unity and Belgian independence. By 1919 the settlement had been totally destroyed. Tsarist Russia and the Hapsburg monarchy had been blown to pieces by the forces which the Vienna settlement had sought to control. The men who made the settlement, cynical conservative aristocrats such as Metternich, Castlereagh and Talleyrand, assisted by the unbalanced personality of Alexander I, failed to understand the influence which ideas such as liberalism, nationalism and socialism would have on the next century, even though those ideas were already present in 1815. They also failed to foresee the social changes that would be brought by industrialisation and soon render their aristocratic and monarchical Europe obsolete.
The above arguments all make up a formidable indictment of the Treaty of Vienna; yet the case in defence of the treaty is stronger, when one considers the circumstances in which the peace was made. The men who made the treaty wee practical statesmen living in a world which had just seen the greatest war ever fought up to that time. They were not concerned with building an ideal Europe, but with preventing a recurrence of the type of war which had just ended and with curbing the ideas which that war had spread. Naturally they were conservative in outlook and opposed to nationalism and liberalism, the success of which would have destroyed the order which they wished to preserve.
There was in fact little sign in 1815 that nationalism was all- conquering force. Both in Germany and Italy the forces of particularism were far stronger than those of nationalism, which was confined to the small educated middle class that had been in contact with French ideas. There was indeed more pronounced national feeling in Poland, Norway and Ireland, but account could not be taken of this without offending the Great Powers, and this was simply not practical politics. There was no distinct sense of nationality overcoming the differences between Fleming and Walloon in 1815 to lead the Treaty-makers to guarantee an independent Belgium, and in this instance the peace-makers had taken care to guarantee complete religious toleration and religious equality to the Belgians. It is hardly a valid criticism of the treaty that the Dutch government failed to carry out these clauses.
2. In what ways can it be said that the Vienna Settlement of 1815 was "realistic and sensible" ?
After 1/4 century of chaotic and confusion, the great powers met together in 1815 to discuss the peace settlement. Most of the powers were tired of war after such a bloody revolution caused by Napoleon I. Therefore, the basic principle of the settlement was based on maintaining peace, preventing war and restricting France from rising up again. Moreover, the balance of power should not be neglected in avoiding future war and the ensuring of balance of power was the principle of legitimacy. However, the ideas and effects left behind by the French Revolution should not be ignored. The powers realised that it was not possible to put the clock back", therefore, a compromise between the old and new order should be made. As we examine the settlement in further detail, one may a real that the Vienna Settlement in 1815 was realistic and sensible.

As regard the principle of legitimacy, the 'diving right' of king in Europe was deep-rooted. We could not uproot this long historic fact. Moreover, the new ideas left behind by the French Revolution, for example, nationalism, liberalism, democracy, etc. had no deep foundation in the hearts of the people since the history of these ideas in Europe had only 25 years. Furthermore, this principle was used as an instrument to maintain the balance of power. Therefore it was said by Talleyrand that "as it such a subordinate to the more comprehensive theory of balance of power". Thus, Bourbons was restored in France, Spain and some of the Italian States etc.


However, the statesman of the Vienna Settlement were sensible enough to see the tide of history. One of the principle of the Vienna Settlement was that "fait accompli", should be accepted. Therefore, new ideas of nationalism, liberalism, democracy should not be ignored. So the legitimacy was not blindly carried out. The statesman encouraged the French Bourbon should rule with a Charter, constitution and parliament. The German States should have their own parliament and constitution. Belgium own religion and government should be respected. It was said that "The formula of legitimacy loomed much larger in the conversation of Talleyrand than in the treaties of Vienna Settlement".
Well, on the field of balance of power and restricting France, the settlement was very realistic and sensible. France was surrounded by other powers to avoid her rising up again. Some weak states nears France was strengthened, ,for example,. Belgium united with Holland to form the Kingdom of Netherlands. Austria was given Venetia and Lombardy to counter balance the gains of Prussia from 2/5 of Saxony, Danzig and Posen. Moreover the Roman Empire was not received but was reduced to 39 States headed by Austria and Prussia. Austria and Prussia was made heads of the German Confederation to counter balance each other. Russia, being a victor, gained part of Poland and Bessarabia. In checking Russia, Austria and Prussia was thus strengthened and with the second purpose to counter act the growing power of Britain who like overseas expansion. Therefore after the settlement was carried out, the four powers emerged but with none of them gained the position of domination.

Some may argue that the settlement neglected the nationalism and liberalism of some states and caused revolution in later years. But was it really guilty for doing that? Of course not, it is because they should be made practical and sensible.


Taking the German Confederation as example, unification was not ready at that time. It should involve wars and blood in achieving the unification as we had seen up to 1871, it was by forced to unify the country of Bismarck. But in 1815, the most important solution at that time was peace. Moreover, the number of German States was reduced greatly compared with the past. It took a step forward for the unification.
As regard to Belgium, it was too weak to be independent and its dangerous proximity to France promoted its unification with Holland. Moreover not all of the Belgians desired independent. Although in 1830, it became independent, because in that time France was regarded as `manageable', it was not the case in 1815. Belgium's religion and government were to be respected. It was the fault of the Holland government not to give Belgium's religious freedom government achieve it but not the settlement. Norway has a long history under the foreign rule has been consulted before the transference to Sweden. Moreover she has her own army, naval, government etc. and her independence in the beginning of the 20th century means she was so far satisfied with the settlement.
Italy, under the Austrian rule because after the Hundred Days War, the powers were afraid and be wiser to tackle the settlement of Italy. It was in Italy that Napoleon III carried out his aggressive policy. It was in Italy that Bonarpartism was revived. Freedom in Italy could not help her but made her easily to be affected by France.
Finally, Poland should not be independent because a small and weak independent Poland meant a puppet state of Russia. The great powers saw the threat that Russia might use Poland as a stepping stone and extended her influence in the other place in Europe. Therefore, the suggestion of an independent Poland by the Czar was turned down. As Russell observed `he always has such an excellent motives for doing himself a good turn. 'As observed by Seaman `Freedom offered as an act of grace with guilt-complex was meaningless. '
Besides these, in restraining and punishing France, the settlement has a moderate and wise decision . The admitting of France into the Quintuple Alliance well meant that when France took any action, she must consult the other powers first. It achieved in retraining France. Furthermore, the indemnity that France had to pay was not much and the occupation of army was soon withdraw from France.
France was treated so leniently that she had no excuse for revenge and these maintain peace in the following years.
It was realistic and sensible for the powers had adopted such a moderate and lenient terms to France. The settlement was unlike the Versailles Settlement which was humiliated and harsh to Germany and it provided an excuse for the rise of dictators and revenge which caused bloody and disastrous world war in later years.
Actually wars are neither caused nor prevented by treaties, but policies. However, realistic and sensible settlement of Vienna `offer no clause to any of the powers for an excuse of war' which did actually maintained peace in Europe for the following 40 years until the Crimean War in 1854 took place.
3. "The Congress of Vienna saw in change the greatest threat to the welfare of Europe." Discuss
In reninscence, the Congress of Vienna did preserve peace in Europe and help to prevent a major European war for almost 40 years. Despite its achievements, the Congress was being criticised of ignoring the forces of change particularly nationalism and liberalism. Maybe the 1815 statesmen did so really because they saw in change the greatest threat to the welfare of Europe. Nevertheless, to concede this argument will undoubtedly over-estimate the potentiality of the forces of change and complicate the aim of the Congress.
The Congress of Vienna was held to end a war, not to discuss every national aspiration in Europe in sympathetic detail. Its chief intent was to preserve peace in Europe after the Napoleonic Upheaval in a desperate way. It is beyond doubt that they had no contemplation of change , or else, wars might be broken out to coerce Austria into accepting German unity, to evict the Russians from Poland or the Turks from the Balkans.
Simultaneously, France was still regarded as enemy to the Allies and was perilous(dangerous) to European security. The powers were afraid of the revival of a new Napoleonic Era in the Continent; so to eliminate the possibility of any future French aggression became another instant task of the Congress. Under such circumstances, acceptance of nationalism and liberalism would undoubtedly assist French ambitions, for they believed that France was the symbol of the force of change. Above all, France had once regarded herself as the liberator of Europe under Napoleon's reign.
Even if the statesmen did take into the account of change, what would they do? The question of the independence of Belgium caused a great many troubles to the statesmen in Vienna . The former Austrian Netherlands was transferred, without the consent of the Belgians, to the Kingdom of Holland, but an independent Belgium seemed to have no change of the Hundred Days in mind, the 1815 statesmen would have considered it a betrayal both of the general peace and of the Belgians to give them an `independence' that would have left them defenceless in the path of the largest and most aggressive nation in West Europe. So it is obvious that the acceptance of change in this sense was either impossible, or undesirable , or both under such circumstances.
The situation of Italy was the same to that of Belgium. The unification of Italy was obstructed by Metternich while Northern Italy passed into the hands of Hapsburg. This seems objectionable but past reminded that the abdication of Austrian control in Italy was likely to result, not in Italian freedom, but in Italian subjection to France. Will the Allies rejoice to see this happen?
Likewise, the Vienna Settlement showed no concern with German nationalism which was to be fulfilled half a century later.
None of the powers was delighted to have the unification of Germany for fear of the aggrandisement of Prussia. Enforcement of the unification would undoubtedly result in a new war which was against the will of the liberals. However, the ambitious desire of the Tsar was more threatening to the stability of the continent than the expectation for liberalism and nationalism. This became the guideline of the statesmen in making peace settlement.
One may sad that the Vienna diplomats were reactionary at home as well as in the conference. The 1919 statesmen blamed the Congress of ignoring the interests of the people and of employing suppressive policies against the revolutionaries. Yet, how about their settlement? Versailles, in retrospect, laid seed to a new catastrophe. As a matter of fact, the Congressmen did apprehend the change. They had imposed on the Dutch the duty of guaranteeing religious toleration and commercial equality to their new Belgian subjects. It's only the Dutch, not the diplomats, to be responsible for the drastic situation in 1830. On the other hand, a similar arrangement was made to Sweden and Norway which looked successful. The union between the two lasted till 1905 and was then ended peacefully. Nevertheless, the powers did not count the change as a cause leading to war. They seemed that before revolutions could make wars, there must first be the wars that endeavour the revolutions. Hence, albeit(even if)they aimed to conceive the forces of change, they did not see in it `the greatest threat to the welfare of Europe'. And the fact that the Vienna Settlement contained no clause that offered any of the great powers a pretext for war is its complete and sufficient justification.
4. Do you think that the Vienna Settlement is a moderate and progressive one?
The Vienna Settlement was definitely not a progressive one. As to its moderation, we simply cannot dichoticise it present as a picture of discrimination--- it was moderate towards the big powers even defeatist France, yet it was ruthless in face of the minor states for as Grant and Temperly remarks, "the small powers were sacrificed for the great ones."
France was indeed treated with great leniency even though she was guilty of turning Europe into a turmoil in the past decade. Yet, in the first Treaty of Paris, France did not have to pay any indemnity; she was allowed to retain her colonies and most important of all her boundary remained that of 1792 and not 1789. A comparatively more demanding treaty was imposed on her in November 1815. This was done only as a just punishment for the comeback of Napoleon who again attempted to disrupt the peace the Allies were trying to create. However, even this more demanding treaty, was still a moderate one for France was permitted to her keep her boundary at 17910, though she was now asked to pay an indemnity of 700 million francs.
The Settlement shows itself to be moderate to France especially when we compare it with the Treaty of Versailles for Germany, the guilty and the defeatist was made to bear 'the War guilt clause' deterred from attending the Conferences and the indemnity designed to 'cripple her economy.' France, in 1815, however, however, was allowed in the words of Castlereagh 'to keep intact her integrity'. She was allowed at the peace Settlement. She joined in with the alliance, afterwards, for example, the Holy Alliance and by and by she was treated as one to the great powers. The settlement no doubt was moderate to France for "the powers could have been as vindictive as they wanted, but the fact was they were not.
Fairness was also done to the Victors for their loss of territories as well as for their contribution to the stoppage of war in Europe. All the powers were handsomely compensated. Austria got Lombardy and Venetia for the loss of Belgium. Norway was given to Sweden since Finland was given to Russia. yet at this point, it is interesting to note that all this moderation towards the great powers were accomplished at the expense of the small powers. For example, Poland and Italy were forced to be divided. Posen was given to Prussia, while the rest was given to Russia. Austria got Venetia and Lombardy from Italy. The minor states were further sacrificed to achieve the encirclement of France. Holland and Belgium were forced to join up together despite their difference in custom, language and industrial development, for the sake of having a strong front to the north of France. These minor states were thus exploited. The big powers disregarded their national unity or independence. The settlement cannot be considered as moderate to them for these were revolts in all of these states, Belgium, Italy, Poland and Swiss. Moderate is hitherto said to be practised only in consideration of the big powers.
Progressive was definitely not one of the characteristics of the Vienna Settlement. Progressiveness is defined as the eagerness to more forward with new ideas. At first sight, the Vienna Settlement may give one a taint of progressiveness. It was the first time in European history where the powers decided to come together to settle their differences; to divide fairly and equally the spoils and not fight barbarically over them. They came together to devise a system which would help to maintain peace, security and prosperity in Europe. From the fact, that they were largely successful, seems to indicate that the settlement was a progressive one. Moreover, through the defeater was still allowed to negotiate in the peace settlement, the powers really seemed to be very democratic indeed.
However, to say that the Settlement was progressive is to merely judge it by its appearance. For progressiveness was more apparent than real. Why was France so 'democratically' allowed at the Peace Conference? One of the reasons was that Talleyrand, came up with the principle of Legitimacy--- that is the restoration of the rightful rulers of France, the Bourbons to undo the 'evil work' of the French Revolution and Napoleon. This shows us with crystal clarity how conservative the Settlement was. The Principle of Legitimacy corresponded to Metternich's Principle of Restoration. Both stressed a reactionary policy, to restore autocracy as the rightful rule in Europe. Moreover, the principle of legitimacy was to undo the evil works of nationalism, liberalism and democracy which had been fought for in the French Revolution. These were the new ideas. To be progressive meant to go forward with these new ideas vanish with a magical mind.
Moreover, the system of international cooperation to seek for compromise and hence peace seemed to be progressive Metternich's principle of Restoration aimed at restoring the supremacy of the Austria Empire as it was in the century--- Autocratic and monarchical. These ideas however, were already out-dated while the divinity of Emperor was possible with the advent of the French Revolution in this idea was no longer accepted, people no longer cherished the myth that the Monarch was the father of the people. hence, what Metternich was trying to do was not only not progressive, but in fact even regressive. Metternich was the engine drivers of the Settlement and he was a die-heart conservative, if where was the possibility of the settlement bring a progressive one?
The concept of the Balance of power may seem to some as a new ideas, a new concept of attaining peace. Hence the adherence of the powers to this principle indicated they were progressive. However, the means to achieve the balance of power were again conservative ones. It used back the age-old method of territorial adjustment without taking into consideration the socio-politico-economic changes of society. It totally neglected the importance and impact of the size of the muddle class, nationalism and liberalism. Territorially there might have been a balance of power, bit not politically Belgium was joined with Holland there was the Belgium revolution in 1830 because the middle class struggled for independence and democracy. Part of Italy was given to Austria there were revolts among the Italian urging for unity. All the revolutions of the later age were revolts fighting for the principle of nationalism and democracy because the Vienna Settlement entirely neglected them. History of the later years proved that the Settlement was not a progressive one.
The Vienna Settlement only used "progressive" means to achieve an ultimately conservative ends there were constitution granted to many countries. Poland was given a constitution and France had a charter. Yet all the was done to pacify the people. The French fought for the new principle with their blood and tears, if it were entirely anticipate another revolution. Hence, the Charter can be said to be a means to suppress the revolutionary spirit a 'progressive' mean to attain a conservative end. Even the constitution given to the German Confederation was only a share for it never aimed at the promotion of German unity, but only a superficial kind of unity. The neutrality given to Switzerland was also not out of any progressive ideals but merely a means to achieve the encirclement of France. A constitution was given to Poland only because the other powers feared too powerful influence from Russia on Poland.
Nevertheless it might be argued that the Settlement was as progressive as it could be in 1815 under those particular circumstances Seaman believes that whether it was progressive or not should be assessed from the situation at that time and not with modern ideas. He believes that ideas of liberalism and nationalism were still in its embryonic form. And if they had been taken into consideration in the settlement, the consequence would have been drastic. 'Acceptance of the principle of nationalism in the circumstances of 1815 were either impossible or undesirable on both. He quotes the example of Belgium by saying that an independent Belgian would have no chance of survival because of the idea of democracy. To say that these ideas were still in the embryonic form is merely to find excuse for the Powers. If they were in their infant stage, these would not have been so many revolutions of insurgent 'nationalism' after the reactionary Vienna Settlement. Moreover, it would not have been pre-mature for the Allies to grant a parliament to Belgium. She was the first country to start industrialisation which meant that by 1815 she already witnessed a rise of a prosperous bourgeois class. This was already a pre-requisite for her to have a democratic government. If England who started industrialisation later than Belgium have a parliament what justification is there to say that the idea was pre-mature in Belgium? The same situation applied to the other states. Germany already started to build up a strong central authority and a truly nationalist army with a system of education designed to infuse a common spirit into her people during the Napoleonic Era. In Spain, their nationalism was so strong that they were able to defect Napoleon in the Peninsular War. Napoleon himself remarked 'the Spanish War destroyed me'. All these examples reveal that as early as 1800s, ideas of nationalism and democracy were already active and creating a very positive force, they were going towards maturity, by neglecting them in the settlement, the powers were in fact attempting to make the clock stop at 1815.
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