Its merits outweighed its defects



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Nevertheless, in so far as the congress system meant that the great powers of Europe could usefully meet together from time to time to resolve disputes among them and to preserve balance of power in the continent, it met with partial success and help to keep the peace. But in so far as it came to serve the Quadruple Alliance, it was a disturbing force in Europe. Hence, to conclude, the Congress System was successful to preserving the Vienna Settlement only in the sense that powers cooperated to maintain a general peace up to the Crimean War of 1854. As concerned with other aims at the Vienna Settlement legitimacy, nationalism, liberalism, balance of power, the Congress System was a complete failure in achieving its task.
14. "The Congress System failed to maintain peace during the nineteenth century." Comment.
By 1815 all the great powers of Europe including Austria, Russia, Britain, Prussia had already calmed down Europe by suppressing the Napoleonic conquest of Europe and reduced French power to the reasonable low level such that it could not harm the general peace of Europe. It was this period that gave it seemed that general peace of Europe was the main concern of all powers and states and that all countries treasured this peace even though some sacrifices had to be made. Therefore, in the Vienna Settlement, may small countries consent to the judgement of the peacemakers like Belgium which was to be combined with Holland to form the Netherlands and Spain which was to be under the guardians of the Bourbon and Italy and Germany also had to be under the Austrian rule. This settlement, although at first sight was unfair to the small states but there was no doubt that all these countries followed the instruction willingly. Besides, there was also other states like Switzerland and Poland who benefited from the settlement by having their independence and constitution. Therefore, there was no complaint among the great countries and small states.
The atmosphere of 1815 was then harmonized by the contentment of the European countries and hope was thrown to them that further co-operation that can be seen in future. That was why in 1815, besides the compensation of counties and the redrawing of map of Europe, the peacemaker also did not hesitate to form some basic idea to guard the future trend of Europe. Like Talleyrand proposed the legitimacy idea--- although this idea was to the countries a kind of pressure and suppression, trending to eliminate their independence and future but no doubt most counties urged for peace so much that they were willing to accept the uphold of ancient regime. To the great countries this principle was extremely true to Austria whose country contained a cosmopolitan nature and without such legitimate principle, other principalities would rise and get their own freedom and hence endangered the Hapsburg Empire. As Francis Joseph once said "my reign is like a worn-eaten house it one part fall, one will imagine how much will fall" and hence in ruling Austria, Metternich also treated Europe as part of his country such that the external stability will help to maintain his internal affairs. Moreover, it was also to, note that before the settlement, there were also some pre-congress promise to restore the prince of Roman Tuscany and Modena in Italy as well as Bavaria, Wurttemberg and Baden in Germany for their help in forming the 4th Coalition against Napoleon. Hence if such matter was not settled, discontent would arise and no general arise and no general peace will be achieved. Apart from this, to check French military forces was also a main direction to general peace in Europe. To all powers especially Britain, France power was a direct threat to her trade in war time as Castlereagh proclaimed Britain would commit herself only to the return of Napoleon and his family to the French throne hence to all powers to check a single domination of power in Europe was necessary and essential therefore all Europe needed now was also a balance of the powers through suppressing French excessive power.
All these principles thus lay the foundation for the immediate, if not future, peace of Europe. And to hope that such peace will continue, the power did not hesitate to form alliance to maintain peace like the Holy Alliance and Quadruple Alliance which were proposed by Russia and Britain respectively. The main aim of the Holy Alliance was to make all powers rule according to the doctrine of Christianity, but such ideology in politic was a bit absurd and vague. Hence, it was to Castlereagh "a great piece of mysticism and nonsense" and to Metternich "a high sounding nothing". Yet, it still held some value in combining the conservative power together for further movement. The Quadruple Alliance was a little matter, it was more practicable and sensible in creating the concert of Europe to discuss the matter of Europe so as to prevent another similar type of French Revolution and the person Napoleon. This was this alliance that pave way to the Congress System by which the powers tried to sit together to solve problem by concert and not war.
At first sight, this congress system was a product of all genuine idea and principle of all powers. As purpose of creation was a merit, and due to the sacrifice themselves in system.
However, things turned out to be rather different from the ideal in the Congress System. It no longer maintain the ideology of the settlement but tending to create a tension between the powers and this was due to several reasons the most apparent and obvious one was that in political aspect, ideology had not hold long in a great period of the whole nineteenth century and that on ideology might not suit the other countries. Hence in the Congress System when the European have concern with the internal affair of the countries, such ideology would be abandoned like in the Aix-la-Chapelle. The idea of suppression of slave trade and the pirate by Britain and Russia was destroyed by the mutual suspicion of the 2 countries as well as the others. It was true that Britain was intending to secure her influence in the Mediterranean against Russia and Russia was also making use of the opportunity to extend her power to the area and to minimize British total dominance in the Mediterranean. However, such selfish policy of intervention in their internal policy was the main hindrance for co-operation. In dealing with the suppression of revolution in Spain too. Revolution proposed a cross continental march to Spain. Such idea was of course immediately suppressed by Austrian and Prussian for it meant a Russian troop crossing their countryland. Besides, jealousy and suspicion of Russian domination in the problem and her intention, her enthusiasm to partial help of Europe was dismissed.
Therefore, without trust among the powers. Co-operation was impossible and of course the harmonized atmosphere after the settlement was easily distorted by the revelation of self-interest of all powers. However, despite of solving problem, more problems were created by the power themselves with tightened up the political tension once again and such was their conflicting idea of intervention.
In the system, Austria and Russia and Prussia were mainly for intervention as such policy would help to closer her control on her Empire over all people, races and principalities which might have potential to become and individual unit. Besides, to them, every incident in the internal unrest of other states was regarded as a direct influence of other counties and Europe, therefore to suppress them was necessary. However, such idea was rejected by Britain that "she only commit herself to...... the territorial arrangement of 1815 settlement" and to her the main concern was trade and domination in the Mediterranean as well as to check France and Russia. internal unrest was then to her a minor affair, hence with such different interpretation of the Congress System. Britain and other powers began to break as in the Treaty of Troppau and Laibach. She only recognized Austrian right in Spanish area but rejected all co-operated action to suppress other countries. Besides, as Britain was a constitution country brought by the 17th century Revolution, it would cause a lot of embarrassment in her suppression.
Hence it was in this Congress System that see a clash of power instead of co-operation and while the powers began to oppose one another, the peace of nineteenth century was also endangered, it was eventually true as revealed in the late nineteenth century. Although the first 40 years been backed to be a peaceful period, it was under the domination of the Metternich system and other conservative power like Nicholas I that help to maintain the surface peace of Europe but it was to realize that this general peace was by suppressing the right of other states and not by compromise and it was revealed in late nineteenth century the peace was distorted by the great powers instead of the revolution of the small states. That is to say the Congress System marked the conflict of powers and laid foundation for their open cleavage in late nineteenth century.
However, besides this Congress System, other factors also contributed to the building of peace in Europe, and it was necessary to follow the time sequence of politics. After 1815, peace was rest-method of maintenance. This peace war in 1789 threatened people and make people turned back for order and peace under ancient regime. Their main purpose was directed to French aggression and Napoleon. However, in the Congress, since Austria wanted France to enter and suppress revolution. The Quadruple Alliance was for this was already a distortion of the 1815 settlement that now there was no common enemy in Europe. France was readmitted to the great power list and helped by others. So without a common antagonism, the cohesion of powers all break and distorted the peace by suppressing France. Britain who was so concern with France revival of power left distaste and had already no desire to continue the Congress for peace in Europe.
Besides, in the Congress, it also revealed that the anti-French motive was now changed to anti-Russian for their jealousy in seeing Russia took a upper hand in proposing the solution for Europe. Besides it was also from maintain peace of Europe to anti-revolutionary system by intervention policy. Hence, as all powers clashed their aim and saw no sense of co-operation it the system. Britain withdrew and marked the failure of the Congress System in dealing with European problem.
Foreign hindrance was also a factor testing the validity of the system and check whether it could help keeping peace in Europe or not. The Monroe Doctrine which was proclaimed but he American to forbade intervention of European powers in American Spanish affair had held the system of co-operation in suspension and limit its power to help Europe, besides, it revealed the self-interest of all states and laid foundation for their future conflict like between Britain and Russia as well as Austria.
Besides, there was also the change of minister in Britain that change the atmosphere. Canning who replaced Castlereagh was a more absolute minister and favoured isolation policy. He is a less compromising man than Castlereagh, therefore, as he saw there was no sense of co-operation, he did not sit in the meeting of the system but carry on his policy in Greek Revolution and Spain revolution which was opposed to the idea of all others powers and distort peace. His visit to Richard Rush of America also marked a direct clash with all powers. He treated himself as the Saviour of Europe though the middle way of despotism and revolution while Metternich wanted a total conservatism and autocracy. Such conflicting ideas was then heightened and marked a future compromise as seen in his redrawn of Verona Congress of 1822. Hence with his withdrawal, the system also broke.
15. Did the Congress System give Europe general peace?
First of all, it may be argued that although there were congress after 1815, there was little that was systematic about them. There was little that was systematic about them. There was no agreement between the powers as to what Congresses were for, and there was no permanent organisation for international co-operation such as the League of Nations or Untied Nations Organisation. The Congress System may be just an invention of historians.
The basic reason why the great powers continued their cooperation after 1815 was the thought that by continuing their cooperation they could keep the peace as they had won the war. In 1818, the victorious nations even restored the power status of France and the Quintuple Alliance replaced the Quadruple one. This was a pragmatic move by Metternich and Castlereagh to balance the growing power and expansionism of Russia and Prussia.
What made it possible for the Great Powers to cooperate after 1815 was the fact that until 1820 no problems arose on fundamental issues. The powers were not divided on any fundamental issues. But in 1820, there arose the problems of the Spanish and Neapolitan revolutions. Austria, Russia and Prussia wanted to intervene on the basis of the Protocol of Troppau. It announced as a general principle that the great powers should interfere, if necessary by force, to restore any government which had been overthrown by revolution. In his State Paper of May 5th 1820, Castlereagh rejected intervention and recognised only the Treaty of Chaumont and Paris as the basis of international cooperation. This division between Britain on the one hand and Austria, Russia and Prussia on the other made it impossible for the powers to work on 'common interest' as the basis of cooperation. Apparently, it had split Europe into west and East: England and France, as opponents of the Troppau Protocol; Austria, Russia and Prussia as its supporters. What prevented this division from producing any open clash was that neither side was ever fundamentally united. The eastern powers were less united than it seemed. Austria and Russia had conflict of interests in the Balkans; Austria and Prussia in Germany. Even England and France had conflict over the Netherlands and overseas trade. So England and Austria may sometimes cooperate against Russia; England and Russia against France. So there was all through the century a gap between the political philosophies of the liberal West and absolute East, but there was never any iron curtain. The alliance and cooperation among the powers were fluid and mobile.
But the understanding between Austria and Russia was important to preserve peace. For their understanding would keep their conflict in the Balkans under control. It was the explosion of Austro-Russian conflict in the Balkans that led to the outbreak of the First World War. From 1815 to 1848, the existence of an understanding between Austria and Russia more than anything else helped to ensure peace throughout Europe. Any conflict that did take place was localised rather than generalised into full-scale hostility among the powers. But this understanding between Austria and Russia was broken by the Crimean War. After this, it was possible to revive the Vienna Settlement by diplomacy and war. Because Austria was isolated from an aggrieved Russia. Napoleon III and Bismarck could create the new Italy and Germany at Austria's expense. Like Metternich, Bismarck tried to keep Austria and Russia away from fighting each other in the Balkans. Only by preventing Austro-Russian conflict in the Balkans could a general European war by avoided. Metternich had done so by binding the three powers Austria, Russia and Prussia bound three powers together in the Three Emperor's League against republicanism and socialism. But this cooperation could in the long run not last long because the conflict between Austria and Prussia over German supremacy, Austria and Russia over the Balkans was so fundamental that nothing could keep it from becoming the focus of attention and section for ever.
To counteract the principle of intervention, the British devised the principle of international action. That means the problems of Turkey should dealt with by all the powers acting together and never by anyone or two in isolation. Over the Greek revolt, therefore, the British and the Austrians, acted together in restrain the Russians. The Greek questions was eventually settled by international action and Russia was successfully restrained. In 1834, Austria and Russia signed the Munchengratz Agreement which guaranteed the status quo in Turkey. Austro-Russian cooperation was again ensured in the Near East. Troppau and Munchengratz thus marked the high tide of Austro-Russian understanding and cooperation. In this case, European peace was ensured.
Apart from Austria and Russia, the conflict between Prussia and Austria was also kept under control. Prussia had also signed the Munchengratz Agreement so this means that the struggle for German leadership between Austria and Prussia was for the time being subsided under an appearance of good will and cooperation. With this sold understanding among the eastern powers, the general peace of Europe would be definitely guaranteed. For the expansionism of France would be easily contained and Britain would never seek to extend her influence over the continent. British interests lie overseas and she had no territorial ambition in the continent of Europe. Her primary concern was to maintain the overall balance of interest and power. So the inclined to support a strong Austria and later on a strong Germany as a strong centre against both Russia expansionism in the east and French expansionism in the west. Unfortunately, when the strong central powers became aggressive, it proved hard to restrain them with the concerted action of weak powers at the periphery. In any case, an understanding and cooperation among Austria, Russia and Prussia helped ensure the general peace of Europe, rather than any 'congress system'.
16. Examine the significance of Austrian and British diplomacy on the Concert of Europe during the period 1815-1848.
The Question

~You should first trace the diplomatic development of European history from 1815-48, then, try to see how did both countries involve in those issues and events, at last, you need to evaluate/ assess the effects of their involvement in those affairs, i.e. maintain Concert of Europe?


Foresee problem

~Candidates may just describe those facts without explaining adequately the significance of the role of both countries.


The Suggested framework

~It seems that, as usually argued, Austrian diplomacy ruined the relationship among powers and hence led to the breakdown of the Concert of Europe, or at least the Congress System. To Britain, It is also argued that her insistence on liberal principles also worsened the relationship among powers. Was it true?


~Such arguments could not explain the real picture and hence underestimated the contribution of both Austria and Britain. On the role of Austria, such view could not explain why did Austria, and other Eastern powers alike, still call for the Congress of Laibach even though they had already proclaim the Troppau Protocol. Besides, why did Austria constraint Russian move on Greek Revolt? On the role of Britain, such view is also inadequate. Take for an example, why did Britain accept, though not yet encourage, Russian intervention on the Hungarian Revolt in 1848. Such move was undoubtedly against the liberal principle of British government and hence on a pragmatic ground. In a word, it is a generalization that Austria ignored the Concert of Europe. It also jumps too far to argue that Britain insisted on ideological principle and hence helped little on maintaining peace in Europe.
~Explain how both Austria and Britain tried to maintain the Concert of Europe in the Congress of Vienna. i.e. on balance of power and Polish-Saxon question. Austria also tried to maintain the Concert of Europe during the Congress System. i.e. explain in what sense the Troppau Protocol was a test for British attitude and the Laibach was a response to British attitude. Besides, suggest why Austria supported the French intervention, and not the Russian, on the Spanish revolt. Clearly, Austria tried to stop Russian support on Greek Revolt was also a gesture of self-constraint on the side of Eastern Powers. Yet, after the Congress System, there were several changes, for which Austria lost her role as a gravity of diplomacy in Europe. The changes were: Nicholas I, who did not welcome Austrian advice on Russian policy, came to reign over Russia British strong hold on her interest in Belgian issues and Eastern Questions. Austrian attention was diverted on internal revolts. During the period 1830's and 40's the gravity was at London.
~Explain how Britain made a deal with the Eastern Powers on Belgian issue and hence could maintain both peace and Concert of Europe. On Eastern Question, though there was severe conflict between France and Britain, Britain and stopped French move on Egypt without ruining the Concert of Europe since France at last yielded. On the 1848 Revolution, Britain accepted intervention on revolts and hence maintained the good relationship among the powers.
17. Assess the extent to which the policy of England was responsible for the breakdown of the Congress System.
According to the Quadruple Alliance (1815) of Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia signed in the Vienna Settlement, the four powers agreed to hold periodic meetings to discuss matters of common interest and to consider measures that could be "most salutary for the repose and prosperity of the nations and for maintaining the peace of Europe". So there came the Congress System. In the period between 1818-22, four congresses including the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, Congress of Troppau, Congress of Laibach and Congress of Verona were held. However, the Congress System proved to be a failure and it broke down in 1826. The policy of England was responsible for the breakdown of the System to a certain extent. Nevertheless, other factors such as the mutual suspicions among the powers and the rise of revolts also led to the breakdown of the Congress System.
England's policy was quite important in leading to the breakdown of the Congress System. England's policy after 1815 was to cooperate in the Concert of Europe without becoming involved in further entangling commitments, to preserve the Continental balance of power, to maintain the maritime supremacy of England as well as to promote and retain markets for English goods and manufacturers in Europe and the New World. England carried out this policy throughout the Congress System. In the Congress System, she favored the principle of non-intervention to the internal affairs of their states. However, when other big powers took action which would endanger the balance of power, she had to intervene. This created much conflicts between her and the Holy Alliance.
There were conflicts between them from the very beginning. In the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818), Alexander I proposed an "Alliance Solidaire" suggesting that all European states should mutually guarantee not only each other's territories and possessions but also the existing form of government. However, it was rejected by Castlereagh who stated that each state must be allowed to rely for its security upon the "justice and wisdom" of its own system. The powers then began to contemplate separate combination among themselves. The Alliance System and the Congress System were doomed from that moment. Later, there were revolts in Spain, Portugal, Naples and Piedmont. Alexander I proposed in the Congress of Troppau taking intervention against the Spanish Revolt. However, Castlereagh once again rejected it by declaring a "State Paper". No longer, Metternich presented to the Congress a Protocol claiming that any state had succumbed to revolution had to cease to be a member of the Holy Alliance automatically and that other Powers had a duty to coerce the state "back to the bosom of the Alliance". Britain vigorously opposed it because it could make the Allies "the armed guardians of all thrones". The Congress was adjourned and the rupture between Britain and the three autocratic powers was widened. The adjourned Congress of Troppau was resumed later at Laibach. Austria and Russia took military intervention to suppress the revolts in Naples and Piedmont. Britain withdrew from the Congress for it was a direct violation to her principle of non-intervention. So the rupture between Britain and the three Eastern Powers was further widened.

Later in the Congress of Verona, Russia and Austria supported the despatch of a French expeditionary force to quell revolt in Spain. Britain again protested and later withdrew from the Congress System altogether because Canning who succeeded Castlereagh believed that if Britain was to lead the world along the middle path between despotism and revolution, she must dissociate herself from the Holy Alliance and place herself in the vanguard of the new movement of nationalism and democracy. Afterwards, there came the question of the Spanish American colonies. Hoping to promote the growing trade between Britain and the former Spanish colonies in South America, Britain openly supported the revolt of the Spanish American colonies, cooperating with the Americans in making the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that any influence by a European power in the American continent would mean unfriendly act against the USA. The serious disagreement between Britain and the other powers made the breakdown of the Congress System inevitable.

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