Its merits outweighed its defects



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Alexander I, as the ruler of Russia, was original in the national interests of Russia kept Bosh, Finland and Bessarabia which the Russian troops had occupied during the Napoleonic War.
Alexander assumed responsibility for the direct march on Paris in 1814 joined in giving timely support to moderation in handling France, and by signing Poland at the Congress of Vienna, would virtually the entire Congress Settlement and also gave Russia her greatest westward extension of influence up to that time.
11. Examine the influence of Alexander I in the European politics during 1815-25.
Alexander I had gathered some liberal ideas from his French tutor, but as a Czar of Russia, he could not be a liberal at heart. In 1814, he was entrusted with the command of all the allied forces and it was he was persuaded Napoleon from Leipzig to Moris. The Russian military power remained undestroyed in the years following 1815. The victories now won and the military force at this command engrossed the Tsar, Alexander with ambition. For these reasons the Russian power constituted a threat to the international peace during 1815-25 despite his peaceful professions.
In 1814-15, he was the one who agrees with Castlereagh that France be treated leniently at the end of the Napoleonic War, and that she should have a constitutional monarchy to reconcile the forces of the old and the revolution. He urged Louis XVIII to grant the Royal Charter of 1814 to his subjects. Obviously Alexander I understood well if a European balance was to be maintained then France had to be kept intact as a counter-weight in the seal. Indeed after Napoleon had fallen out, Alexander I taught himself to be the master of Europe. If it could be alone, the structure of European balance should be turned to check the expansion of the British sea power.
At the Congress of Vienna, 1814-15 Alexander I negotiated with the sword in his hand. His proposal that Russia to be given the whole of Poland with Prussia to receive Saxony in it's entirely would extend the Russian influence further to the west if it were accepted. Castlereagh joined Metternich in resisting the Russian pain, and the crisis thus generated nearly brought about a war between Russian and Prussia on the one hand and Austria, Britain on the other. Talleyrand threw the French weight behind the weaker side. Only after the agree powers, Austria, Britain and France entered into the secret alliance of January 1815 that Russian and Prussian beat a retreat of compromise was reached by which Russia was to absorb a large share of Poland including the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and some Polish provinces previously held by Prussia, while Prussia gained a half of Saxony. Even under such an arrangement Prussia still dominate in the Eastern Europe with Austria to serve as an inflective barriers.
For deep in a religious mood, genuinely concerned with he well being of the Europeans and yet reviling with Metternich for the leadership in international affairs, Alexander I proposed on November, 1815 his famous plan for the maintenance of peace in the world. The primary aim of the Treaty of the Holy Alliance was to commit all nation to the codes of behaviors and conducts and the morality affirmed by Christianity and brother Holy at the Congress of Vienna too, Alexander I sought to prong instead the British naval power by proposing a general disarmament, collective instead of isolated British action against the Barbary pirates and limitation on British navy's rights to visit and search slave versions.
True it is a piece of mysticism and nonsense as Castlereagh had put it. Though it was conceived by Alexander I and advisers as a way to maintain the existing order and so to prevent a revolutionary reconstruction to the social and political order, it cannot be rightly considered as originating an international fire brigade against absolutism, when they signed the secret treaty at Munchengrats in 1833.
In 1815, Alexander I still appeared as one of the very few spokesmen for nationalism and played with the idea of liberty. Thus he claimed the revival of the Polish kingdom; secured a guarantees from the Congress of Vienna for the Polish constitution of 1815 which provided for a constitution monarchy in Poland and he took care to make clear that Poland was under his personal rule, and not to be ruled as part of Russia. Alexander I's liberal experiment in Poland proved to be failure. The Polish mobility was not cooperative, each to care for his own interest and the Polish nationalists refused to give up their dream of receiving Ukraine, then a part of the Russian Empire, and they were discontented for Alexander I refused to satisfy their claim on Lithuania.
As early as 1818, at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, Alexander I proposed for the organisation of an international expeditionary force to help the Spanish Bourbons put out revolutions in the Spanish colonies in South America. In spite of Russia's own weakness of sea, Alexander I might hope in time to draw a reviving Spain, France and Holland and possibly even the United States to creating globally a balance of power like that which England naturally wished to confine to the continent of Europe. Earlier in 1825, he already transferred some old warships to Spain and even Holland by marrying his own sister to the Dutch crown Minorca as a naval base, though the attempt was short live.
In early 1820's there were the liberal revolts in Spain, Germany, Naples and Piedmont and the Greeks rose in a rebellion against Turkey. The right of the absolute rulers was threatened. In each of those cases, the reaction of England and Austria were different. But the two powers cooperated with chiefly because Castlereagh saw the necessity of bolstering up Austria as the pivot of the balance, that is, a barrier against Russian despotism in the East and against French revolutionary force in the West. In all cases Alexander I wanted allied intervention if he could have it. He aimed at imposing a moderate character on King and the insurgents. Hence Alexander I's approval of the Troppau Protocol and his acquiescence in Austrian's intervention in Italy and French occupation of Spain.
As regards Spain and the Spanish colonies, he still hoped to keep for Spain enough strength to be reckoned in the scale along the France against the sea power of England. His plan was made ineffective unity be Castlereagh's president's Monroe Doctrine of 1823 which was a death-blow to the so-called "Congress System".
The Greek revolt of 1821 against Turkey provided an occasion for Russia to extend her influences to the Mediterranean. Both Hypsilanti and Capodistrin had served with Alexander I and had received from the Czar confronted with Anglo-Russian combination, Alexander I had to deny any Russian encouragement to the Greek cause. Still Alexander I contemplate intervention. In January 1824 he proposed dividing Greece into three principalities with a self-governing state under Turkish Austeraisnty. This seemed to be merely a device for ensuring Russian predominance. The Congress at St. Petersburg at which Alexander I resided did not give Russia a mission to intervene on behalf of Greece, for Metternich feared that a change of the Near East would call to a drastic revision of the 1815 settlement.
In the years following the Congress of Vienna, the "conservative alliance" led by Alexander I rather than Metternich had been active and had gained the upper-handed. As a result, the European balance was tight to the advantage of eastern despotism. By 1823 Britain hardly had a foothold on the Continent of Europe. Canning was to seek his revenge first in the America and Portugal and then in the Near East.
12. "The Vienna Settlement caused a century of conflict and instability because it ignored the idea of progress and tried to restore the old order." Do you agree with this statement?
It is held by some historian that the Vienna Settlement had ignored the principle of liberalism and nationalism. It tried to embody the principles of reaction as the permanent basis of the European order. The reactionary character of the Vienna Settlement is contrasted with the democratic and progressive spirit of the Versailles Settlement of 1919. 1815 saw the restoration of reactionary dynasties; 1919 saw a world made 'safe for democracy' and devoted to 'the self-determination of peoples'. A study of the Vienna Settlement may help to disapprove of this view.
The allied victory did free Europe from the domination of the French. French soldiers and administrators were expelled from the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal. From all these areas there was removed the menace of conscription into the armies of a foreign despot, or the threat of having to fight is an army forcibly devoted to that despot's ambition.
The Vienna Settlement did not only restore the rights of nobles, clergy and property-owners and ignore the rights of the people. The principle of legitimacy was not strictly applied everywhere. It was ignored in Western Germany, in Poland, Saxony, Norway, the Austrian Netherlands and Northern Italy. It was exclusively applied to the French Bourbons, but it was only for them that Metternich invested this principle.
In terms of nationalism, the acceptance of the principle of nationalism in the sense of united and independent nation-state was, in the circumstances of 1815, either impossible, or undesirable, or both. In fact, the events of 1919-1939 may have shown that even by 1918, the application of nationalism in certain parts of Europe is still undesirable.
The Belgians were transferred without their consent from Hapsburg Empire to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. But as independent Belgium would have been thought in 1815 to have no chance of survival at all, because of its perilous proximity to France. Not even all the Belgians wasted independence, even in 1830. The reason why Belgium was able to achieve independence as a neutral country under a European guarantee was that France under Louis Philippe pursued a foreign policy which the other European countries, especially Britain, found it easy to handle. In 1815 when the memory of French expansionism was still so very fresh, the men of Vienna would not have given Belgium an independence that would make it defenceless in the path of the largest and most aggressive nation in Western Europe.
Similarly, the failure of the Kingdom of the Netherlands can not be ascribed to the 1815 arrangements. This was due to the failure of House of Orange to apply faithfully the spirit of and the terms of the document on which the union of the two regions was based. The 1815 Settlement imposed on the Dutch the duty of guaranteeing religious toleration and commercial equality to their new Belgian subjects. But the Dutch did not comply with this arrangement. So the Dutch and not he men of 1815 made the mistake that led to the breakup of the unions.
The unification of Germany was not practical in 1815. Nobody at the Congress wanted it. Prussia and Austria did not like the idea. Other powers rejected the idea because it would mean the expansion of Prussia and Austria, resulting in the increase of German power. Certainly, the diplomats at Vienna would not agree to any settlement that would lead to the end of their own countries. The unification of Germany would mean exactly the disappearance of Prussia and Austria as independent countries. In any case, the 1815 Settlement did create a German bund with much smaller number of states than before. The Germany of 1815 was much less divided than it has been in 1789, since the Congress of Vienna did not undo the work of Napoleon in Western Germany. Moreover, the act setting up the Confederation required the rulers of the German states to establish constitutions. Although the Carlsbad Decrees were designed to nullify this provision, liberal constitution of some kind were not banished from Germany in the years after Vienna either in theory or in practice; their absence was in any case not prescribed by the 1815 settlement.
The settlement of Italy may seem the most objectionable part of the arrangements in western Europe. Except in the Kingdom of Sardinia, and with the doubtful exception of the Papal States. Italy was given over more completely than ever to the rule of the foreigner. Northern Italy passed into the control of the Hapsburgs. But this arrangement is understandable in the light of past developments. Bonapartism was born through the Italian campaign. The lesson of the past was that the lack of Austrian control in Italy would result in the French domination of Italy and not in Italian freedom. In 1815, after such a long period of war, the overriding aim of any settlement was to achieve general peace. It is possible to argue that the unification of Italy was premature even in 1870. So it is much too early to think of a united Italy in 1815. Metternich and the other conservative statesmen did see that changes had been made and they did not try to reverse the changes. On the whole, the Vienna statesmen did not put the clock back in 1815; they only tried to keep the clock stopped at 1815 for the next half-century. This was certainly the aim of Metternich, the Russians and the Prussians; their negative policy in the years after 1815 is far more at fault than the Vienna Settlement itself.

The Polish arrangement also seemed to deny the idea of liberty and nationality. On the surface, Poland was made an independence country with a constitution. In fact, it was very much under the Russian influence. The apparent independence statehood and the constitution was an attempt to get the support of the liberals and nationalists of the Polish region. But it was in fact a creation of the Czar Alexander I in an effort to extend Russian influence in Eastern Europe. Alexander I tried to create a Polish client-state by means of which he would extend the influence of Russia into Europe further than before. Russian ambition frightened both Austria and Britain and even France. In fact, the Polish question helped to draw these powers together and restore France back to the rank of the Great Powers.


Norway was transferred from Denmark to Sweden, against the wishes of the Norwegians. The Norwegians protested. So the Act of Union between the two countries declared that their unity had been achieved 'not by force of arms but by free conviction'; and Norway had its own government, parliament, army and navy. The Great Powers accepted this solution; this proved the practical sense and realistic wisdom of the men of 1815. The fact that the settlement of Norway endured till 1905 and was then ended peaceably, is sufficient indication that he difficulties that persisted through the century were not major ones.
Nevertheless, the Vienna Settlement must not be regarded as having of itself prevented European war for a century. It is possible to say that it contained in none of its provisions the seeds of a future war between the great powers, and must thus be rated a better peace than Versailles. Versailles humiliated the Germans; created democratic but defenceless new nations; abolished old minority problems only to create new ones; disappointed the Italians but inflate the French; released the irrational forces of the masses instead of the orderliness of Vienna due to the ignoring of the masses. For the disregard of Liberalism and nationalism at Vienna did not cause war. They were right in thinking in 1815 that before revolutions can make wars, there must first be the wars that encourage the revolutions. They saw that the issue of peace and war are decided by the great powers and by them alone. Hence the simple 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.
Yet ultimately, wars are neither caused nor prevented by treaties, but by policies. What prevented a major war until 1853 was the determination of the great powers that there should not be such a war: a determination made easier by the fact that the Vienna Settlement involved no major injustice to any one of them, not even to the defeated. The cause of peace was not seriously jeopardised until Louis Napoleon became Napoleon III. He was the first ruler of a great power consciously to desire the overthrow of the Vienna system: and it is his arrival on the scene that very largely accounts for the wars of the 1850s and 1860s. These wars broke the alliance of the great powers, on which the maintenance of the Vienna System depends, and then destroyed the Vienna Settlement in Italy and Germany. By 1871, neither the territorial boundaries nor the political institutions of the European powers bore much resemblance to those of 1815. If there was peace in Europe for forty years after 1815, the credit must go mainly to Metternich, but also to Palmerston and to Nicholas I. That there were wars between 1853 and 1871 was due mainly to Napoleon III. That there was no general war between 1871 and 1917 does not mean that peace prevailed in any sense in that period. There might have been wars in 1875, 1878, 18855, 1898, 1906, 1911 or 1912. Thus, it was avoided on each of these occasions had nothing to do with the Congress of Vienna. It was due to the lack of reasons to go to war for each Great Power. Or rather, the developments of events have not yet reached a point when war seemed to the statesmen to be the inevitable solution to the internal and international problems they faced at home and abroad. One vital difference is in the economic developments of various countries in the years 1815 to 1914. In the years of 1870 to 1914, economic growth of Europe had undergone a tremendous leap and the development of economic imperialism has given international relations a new tension and a whole new dimension of conflict. The economic basis of power conflicts combined with the nationalist unrest of multi-national empires and the militant expansionism of ruling classes to throw countries into war with one another. The conflict of interests among various powers underlie the cause for the outbreak of the First World War rather than the shortcomings of the Vienna Settlement. Generally speaking, the Vienna Settlement can be considered a wise, practical and pragmatic arrangement that meets the realistic needs of existing time in 1815.
13. How successful had the Congress System managed to preserve the Vienna Settlement up to 1848?
After the defeat of the Napoleonic Empire, the victorious powers met at Vienna for a peaceful Settlement. The powers aimed at maintaining the balance of power, preventing wars and revolutions, restraining France, restoring legitimacy and accepting the fail accomplished. Moreover, at the Congress, the powers suggested further cooperation to settle all disputes that might endanger the Settlement and the peace of Europe. Hence, the Congress system was thus derived. As it trained out, however, powers clashed over problems of common interest. This contributed to the breakdown of the Congress System and the increasing tensions created by mutual suspicion opened the doors to liberal and nationalist revolts in the later years. Eventually, the Vienna Settlement was also destroyed. The events up to 1848 was essential proving that the Congress System failed to preserve the Vienna Settlement.
In 1818, the powers first met at Aix-la-Chapelle to discuss the question of France. At Vienna, Russia suggested the Holy Alliance and met with failure. Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia, on the other hand, had agreed to form the Quadruple Alliance in defence of the Vienna Settlement by upholding the Congress System, in order to maintain peace and the balance of power, France was admitted to join the Quadruple Alliance and then thus it became the Quintuple Alliance. Moreover, to restore the principle of legitimacy, the powers agree to withdraw the army of occupation at Paris so as to strengthen the position of Louis XVIII. This marked the first success of the Congress System in preserving the Vienna Settlement.
However, at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, powers disagreed over some issue: allies standing army in Belgium to suppress revolution, the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean and the slave trade. This marked the fast failure of the powers cooperation upheld by the Congress System in preserving the Vienna Settlement.
In 1820, as revolutionary movements were active in the New world, powers met at Troppau so as to find revolution. As a result, the Troppau Protocol was signed with British refusal. The powers were now separated between the East and the West. Though Britain refused to intervene, the Troppau Protocol aimed at suppressing the revolts, maintaining peace, restoring war and cooperation of Russia, France, Austria and Prussia. The congress was still successful to preserve the Vienna Settlement even though it marked the difference between the policies of the powers.
The Congress of Laibach (1821) was adjourned Congress of Troppau and by which Austria was allowed to send troops to put down revolts in Naples and Piedmont and to restore their King, Charles Felix. This slowed that Metternich was very eager to try his best effort in suppressing revolts to consolidate his own interest. This meant that the main reason for the Vienna Settlement through the upholding of the `Congress System' was just pushed forward by the forces of conservatism. This was in fact invented by Metternich,as Thomson had said. Hence, over several problems concerning their own interest and thus the Metternich System failed to preserve the status quo in 1815.
In 1822, revolution broke out again in Spain. Hence, the Congress was called at Verona. France slowed her eagerness to intervene but Britain first refused to support. Later, in 1823, America put forward the Monroe Doctrine. As a result, there was no intervention from South American Colonies. Nevertheless, the balance of power was still maintained as each power feared of the growing position of others. Moreover, peace was maintained as the revolt was suppressed. However, it was very cleaned that the real aim of the powers cooperation to preserve the Vienna Settlement was to consolidate their own interest. Consequently, after the four congresses, jealousy and suspicion among powers lead to separation among them. From that time onwards, revolts and revolutions broke out frequently. Though most of these revolts met with failure, it showed that Vienna Settlement was indeed going into failure.
In 1821, the Greek revolted. In view of the revolt, Alexander I wanted to extend her influence in Balkans though the of the Greeks. In 1827, Britain, Russia and France signed the Treaty of London to help the Greek revolt with the opposition of Austria and Prussia. Finally, the Greeks were able to get Independence. The division of opinion and action eventually broke up the Congress System and hence proved a failure of the system in preserving the idea of suppressing revolution made at the Vienna Settlement.
Between 1821 to 1830, revolts were common the South American states, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Prussia and Austria. In 1824, Britain recognized the Independence of the South American states. In 1830's, where revolutions were sparked of by the "July Revolution" in everywhere Belgium, with the aid of Britain and France, also success in gaining Independence from Holland. Though some other revolts met with failure, the idea of nationalism and liberalism take it root from that time onwards. The powers separated by their self-interests no longer cooperated to preserve the Vienna Settlement.
The years between 1830 to 1848 was known as the years of Revolution. As countries saw the successful made by the Spaniards, the Greeks and the Belgians, they gained aspiration from them. Hence, during this period, Posen, Cracow, Switzerland, Greek, Serbia, France, Germany, Austria and Italy started revolutions. The revolutions further spread the idea of nationalism and liberalism against the foreign powers. At the end of 1848, what had laid down in the Vienna Settlement almost been destroyed powers did not cooperate, legitimacy was overthrown, nationalism and liberalism gained ground, France was strengthened as Napoleon III came to the thrown in 1848 and this broke the balance of power.
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