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European Powers Between 1815 And 1830

Why and with what results, did major European powers intervene to suppress revolutionary movements between 1815 and 1830?

Among the effects of the French Revolution on European political thought, perhaps the most important, and certainly the most immediate, lay of concentrating the attention of European reformers on the possibility of universal peace. The French Revolution inspired the belief in the writers that the dawn of peace was at the hand, and that democracy would unite in the bonds of lasting freedom and peace.

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The close of the revolutionary epoch left Europe satiated with blood, and painfully anxious to devise a form of international government, which would serve as security against the menace of future wars. The Holy Roman Empire was the earliest form of the European confederation, and it represented a rudimentary attempt to give substance to the vision of Isaiah a world united in peace.

The first step to keep peace in Europe was the Congress of Vienna. They faced three-main tasks. The first one was to make or approve detailed arrangements for sharing the spoils of victory, bearing in mind that the great powers had already made a number of preliminary agreements. This had to be done without setting the victors at each other’s throats. The second task was, in so doing, to create a stable Europe unlikely to suffer further great upheavals. The third task is to prevent political revolutions, such as French Revolution and maintain the status quo.

The main representatives were strong and fascinating personalities. Foremost Metternich, foreign minister of the Habsburg Emperor of Austria who was a brilliant negotiator determined to get the best deal of Austria but convinced also that Europe’s future peace depended on the major states of Europe being more or less balanced in strength.

Britain’s representative was Lord Castlereagh who a cold and shy man and who believed that balance of power between the major states was essential to the future peace of Europe. The Russian Tsar, Alexander I and the Prussian King Fredrick William III were also present and France was represented by Talleyrand.

The steps taken by the congress to re-establish a balance of power among the countries of Europe and have peace between the nations were France was deprived of all territory conquered by Napoleon and the French monarchy was restored under the rule of Louis XVIII. Austria was given back most of the territory it had lost and was also given land in Germany and Italy that is Lombardy and Venice. Russia got Finland and control over the new kingdom of Poland.

Prussia was given much of Saxony and important parts of Westphalia and the Rhine Province. Britain got several strategic colonial territories, and they also gained control of the seas. The Dutch Republic was united with the Austrian Netherlands to form a single kingdom of the Netherlands under the House of Orange. Norway and Sweden were joined under a single ruler. Switzerland was declared neutral and Spain was restored under Ferdinand VII.

The need for a lasting settlement in Europe led to the development of the Congress System The congresses system took place between 1818 and 1822 resulted from the agreement, made by the Quadruple Alliance, to hold a periodic meeting to discuss what measures should be taken for the repose and prosperity of nations and for the maintenance of the peace of Europe”.

The first congress was the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818. The main topic was France. The army of occupation was withdrawn and the alliance expanded to include France as a fully-fledged member. Britain moves more clearly out of step with Castlereagh successfully opposed Tsar Alexander’s aim of using the alliance to support all exciting governments against the revolution.

The Congress of Troppau in 1820 continued and completed Laibach in 1821. The main topic was a revolution. In 1819 students in the universities of the germen confederation rioted in favour of German unity. A playwright, called Kotzebue, was murdered because he was believed to be a Russian spy. Metternich reacted swiftly and sharply. He had the Carlsbad Decrees passed in 1819, which brought the Press and universities within the confederation under strict government control. In 1820 there was a military revolt in Spain against the appealing rule of the restored Bourbon, Ferdinand VII. The Spanish colonies declared themselves independent. In Naples, another incompetent, restored Bourbon, Ferdinand I, was forced to grant a constitution.

At the Troppau Congress Alexander insisted that the Great Powers must intervene against the revolutionary menace and Russia, Austria and Prussia that is the Holy Alliance signed the so-called Troppau Protocol by which they claimed the right to intervene, as they saw fit, to prevent revolutionary change.

Britain was not represented at Troppau. In a now-famous document, the state paper of 5 May 1820, Castlereagh had already made Britain’s attitude clear. The Quadruple Alliance, he argued, had been formed to interfere in the internal affairs of particular states. Such interference was extremely undesirable. Britain’s objections were ignored. At Laibach, the Holy Alliance agreed that the Austrian army should go to the aid of Ferdinand I in Naples. He was soon restored to his previous position and a revolt in Piedmont was also crushed.

The last congress was that of Verona in 1822. The main topic was continuing disturbances in Spain. The French government, shocked by the recent murder of the Duc de Berry nephew of their King, was ready to support the Holy Alliance and take action against revolutionary. Britain, represented now by the Duke of Willington, stuck to the position laid down in Castlereagh’s State Paper. Once again Britain was ignored. The French marched to the aid of Ferdinand of Spain and by the end of 1823, the Spanish revolt was over. There was a nationalist feeling among the conquered people to gain independence, which at that time was quite futile, and which only revolted in small disturbances which were easily crushed by military and diplomatic effort.

Britain now decided to withdraw from the congresses. Her now foreign secretary, Canning, worked actively with Monroe, President of the USA, to support the former Spanish colonies in their independence. By the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, the USA made it clear that European interference in the New World would not be tolerated and Holy Alliance’s plans to win the colonies back for Spain had to be abandoned.

The so-called Congress system was over. From now on, the great powers looked for allies, depending on the particular situation at the time. For example, the revolt of the Greeks against the Turks, and very much against the advice of a Metternich. Nonetheless, though periodic congresses of the major European powers were no longer held, the idea that a concentrated effort should be made act together to maintain peace, that there was in fact a ‘concert of Europe’, remained an influential one or many years to come.

The Congress proved to be highly successful in achieving its goal, for the peace in Europe was left nearly undisturbed for almost 40 years.

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