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The Congress of Vienna

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Julio Ventura

on 13 March 2014

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Transcript of The Congress of Vienna

European heads of government were looking to establish long-lasting peace and stability on the continent after the defeat of Napoleon. They had a goal of the new European order—one of collective security and stability for the entire continent. A series of meetings in Vienna, known as the
Congress of Vienna
, were called to set up policies to achieve this goal. Originally, the Congress of Vienna was scheduled to last for four weeks. Instead, it went on for eight months.
SETTING THE STAGE
The Congress of Vienna
The great powers affirmed the principle of
legitimacy
—agreeing that as many as possible of the rulers whom Napoleon had driven from their thrones be restored to power. The ruling families of France, Spain, and several states in Italy and Central Europe regained their thrones. The participants in the Congress of Vienna believed that the return of the former monarchs would stabilize political relations among the nations.
Legitimacy
Although the leaders of Europe wanted to weaken France, they did not want to leave it powerless. If they severely punished France, they might encourage the French to take revenge. If they broke up France, then another country might become so strong that it would threaten them all. Thus, the victorious powers did not exact a great price from the defeated nation. As a result, France remained a major but diminished European power. Also, no country in Europe could easily overpower another.
Balance of Power
The Containment of France
PoliticalChanges Beyond Vienna
Metternich’s Plan for Europe
Most of the decisions made in Vienna during the winter of 1814–1815 were made in secret among representatives of the five “great powers”—Russia, Prussia, Austria, Great Britain, and France. By far the most influential of these representatives was the foreign minister of Austria,
Prince Klemens von Metternich
(MEHT•uhr•nihk).
Metternich distrusted the democratic ideals of the French Revolution. Like most other European aristocrats, he felt that Napoleon’s behavior had been a natural outcome of experiments with democracy. Metternich wanted to keep things as they were and remarked, “The first and greatest concern for the immense majority of every nation is the stability of laws—never their change.” Metternich had three goals at the Congress of Vienna.
First, he wanted to prevent future French aggression by surrounding France with strong countries. Second, he wanted to restore a
balance of power
, so that no country would be a threat to others. Third, he wanted to restore Europe’s royal families to the thrones they had held before Napoleon’s conquests.
The Congress took the following steps to make
the weak countries around France stronger:
The former Austrian Netherlands and Dutch Republic were united to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
A group of 39 German states were loosely joined as the newly created
German Confederation, dominated by Austria.
Switzerland was recognized as an independent nation.
The Kingdom of Sardinia in Italy was strengthened by the addition of
Genoa.
These changes enabled the countries of Europe to contain France and prevent it from overpowering weaker nations.
The Congress of Vienna was a political triumph in many ways. For the first time, the nations of an entire continent had cooperated to control political affairs. The settlements they agreed upon were fair enough that no country was left bearing a grudge. Therefore, the Congress did not sow the seeds of future wars. In that sense, it was more successful than many other peace meetings in history.
By agreeing to come to one another’s aid in case of threats to peace, the European nations had temporarily ensured that there would be a balance of power on the continent. The Congress of Vienna, then, created a time of peace in Europe. It was a lasting peace. None of the five great powers waged war on one another for nearly 40 years, when Britain and France fought Russia in the Crimean War.
In what ways was the Congress of Vienna a success?
Full transcript