Congress of Vienna

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The national boundaries within Europe as set by the Congress of Vienna, 1815.
A map of the world following the Congress of Vienna, 1815.

The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815. The objective of the Congress was to provide a long-term peace for Europe by settling critical issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. The goal was not simply to restore old boundaries, but to resize the main powers so they could balance each other off and remain at peace. The leaders were conservatives with little use for republicanism or revolution. France lost all its recent conquests, while Prussia, Austria and Russia made major territorial gains. Prussia added smaller German states in the west and 40% of the Kingdom of Saxony; Austria gained Venice and much of northern Italy. Russia gained parts of Poland. The new kingdom of the Netherlands had been created just months before, and included formerly Austrian territory that in 1830 became Belgium.

Historian Paul Schroeder argues that the old formulas for "balance of power" were in fact highly destabilizing and predatory. He says the Congress of Vienna avoided them and instead set up rules that produced a stable and benign equilibrium.[1] The Congress of Vienna was the first of a series of international meetings that came to be known as the Concert of Europe, which was an attempt to forge a peaceful balance of power in Europe. It served as a model for later organizations such as the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations in 1945.

Frontispiece of the Acts of the Congress of Vienna.

The immediate background was Napoleonic France's defeat and surrender in May 1814, which brought an end to twenty-five years of nearly continuous war. Negotiations continued despite the outbreak of fighting triggered by Napoleon's dramatic return from exile and resumption of power in France during the Hundred Days of March–July 1815. The Congress's "Final Act" was signed nine days before his final defeat at Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

In a technical sense, the "Congress of Vienna" was not properly a Congress: it never met in plenary session, and most of the discussions occurred in informal, face-to-face, sessions among the Great Powers of Austria, Britain, France, Russia, and sometimes Prussia, with limited or no participation by other delegates. On the other hand, the Congress was the first occasion in history where, on a continental scale, national representatives came together to formulate treaties, instead of relying mostly on messengers and messages between the several capitals. The Congress of Vienna settlement, despite later changes, formed the framework for European international politics until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

Preliminaries[edit]

The Treaty of Chaumont in 1814 had reaffirmed decisions that had been made already and which would be ratified by the more important Congress of Vienna of 1814–15. They included the establishment of a confederated Germany, the division of Italy into independent states, the restoration of the Bourbon kings of Spain, and the enlargement of Holland to include what in 1830 became modern Belgium. The treaty of Chaumont became the cornerstone of the European Alliance which formed the balance of power for decades.[2] Other partial settlements had already occurred at the Treaty of Paris between France and the Sixth Coalition, and the Treaty of Kiel which covered issues raised regarding Scandinavia. The Treaty of Paris had determined that a "general congress" should be held in Vienna, and that invitations would be issued to "all the Powers engaged on either side in the present war."[3] The opening was scheduled for July 1814.[4]

Participants[edit]

The Four Great Powers and Bourbon France[edit]

The Four Great Powers had previously formed the core of the Sixth Coalition. On the verge of Napoleon's defeat they had outlined their common position in the Treaty of Chaumont (March 1814), and negotiated the Treaty of Paris (1814) with the Bourbons during their restoration:

The other signatories of the Treaty of Paris, 1814[edit]

These parties had not been part of the Chaumont agreement, but had joined the Treaty of Paris (1814):

Others[edit]

Virtually every state in Europe had a delegation in Vienna – more than 200 states and princely houses were represented at the Congress.[16] In addition, there were representatives of cities, corporations, religious organizations (for instance, abbeys) and special interest groups – e.g., a delegation representing German publishers, demanding a copyright law and freedom of the press.[17] The Congress was noted for its lavish entertainment: according to a famous joke it did not move, but danced.

Talleyrand's role[edit]

oil painting of Tallyrand, the French ambassador
Talleyrand proved an able negotiator for the defeated French.

Initially, the representatives of the four victorious powers hoped to exclude the French from serious participation in the negotiations, but Talleyrand skillfully managed to insert himself into "her inner councils" in the first weeks of negotiations. He allied himself to a Committee of Eight lesser powers (including Spain, Sweden, and Portugal) to control the negotiations. Once Talleyrand was able to use this committee to make himself a part of the inner negotiations, he then left it,[18] once again abandoning his allies.

The major Allies' indecision on how to conduct their affairs without provoking a united protest from the lesser powers led to the calling of a preliminary conference on protocol, to which Talleyrand and the Marquis of Labrador, Spain's representative, were invited on 30 September 1814.[19]

Congress Secretary Friedrich von Gentz reported, "The intervention of Talleyrand and Labrador has hopelessly upset all our plans. Talleyrand protested against the procedure we have adopted and soundly [be]rated us for two hours. It was a scene I shall never forget."[20] The embarrassed representatives of the Allies replied that the document concerning the protocol they had arranged actually meant nothing. "If it means so little, why did you sign it?" snapped Labrador.

Talleyrand's policy, directed as much by national as personal ambitions, demanded the close but by no means amicable relationship he had with Labrador, whom Talleyrand regarded with disdain.[21] Labrador later remarked of Talleyrand: "that cripple, unfortunately, is going to Vienna."[22] Talleyrand skirted additional articles suggested by Labrador: he had no intention of handing over the 12,000 afrancesados – Spanish fugitives, sympathetic to France, who had sworn fealty to Joseph Bonaparte, nor the bulk of the documents, paintings, pieces of fine art, and books that had been looted from the archives, palaces, churches and cathedrals of Spain.[23]

Polish-Saxon crisis[edit]

The most dangerous topic at the Congress was the so-called Polish-Saxon Crisis. Russia wanted most of Poland, and Prussia wanted all of Saxony, whose king had allied with Napoleon. The tsar would become king of Poland.[24] Austria was fearful this would make Russia much too powerful, and it was supported by Britain. The result was deadlock, for which Talleyrand proposed a solution. Admit France to the inner circle and France would support Austria and Britain. The three nations signed a secret treaty on 3 January 1815, agreeing to go to war against Russia and Prussia, if necessary, to prevent the Russo-Prussian plan from coming to fruition.[19]

When the tsar heard of the secret treaty he agreed to a compromise that satisfied all parties on 24 October 1815. Russia received most of the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw as a "Kingdom of Poland" – called Congress Poland, with the tsar as king ruling it independently of Russia. Russia, however, did not receive the district of Poznań, which was given to Prussia as the Grand Duchy of Poznań, nor Kraków, which became a free city. Furthermore the tsar was unable to unite the new domain with the parts of Poland that had been incorporated into Russia in the 1790s. Prussia received 40% of Saxony-later known as the Province of Saxony, with the remainder returned to King Frederick Augustus I as his Kingdom of Saxony. With Prussia's gains in the west, the effect was to shift Prussia and Russia further to the west.

Final Act[edit]

The Final Act, embodying all the separate treaties, was signed on 9 June 1815 (a few days before the Battle of Waterloo). Its provisions included:

The Final Act was signed by representatives of Austria, France, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Sweden-Norway, and Britain. Spain did not sign the treaty but ratified it in 1817.

Other changes[edit]

The Tsar mounted on his horse
Alexander I of Russia (1812) considered himself a guarantor of European security.

The Congress's principal results, apart from its confirmation of France's loss of the territories annexed between 1795–1810, which had already been settled by the Treaty of Paris, were the enlargement of Russia, (which gained most of the Duchy of Warsaw) and Prussia, which acquired Westphalia and the northern Rhineland. The consolidation of Germany from the nearly 300 states of the Holy Roman Empire (dissolved in 1806) into a much more manageable thirty-nine states (4 of which were free cities) was confirmed. These states were formed into a loose German Confederation under the leadership of Prussia and Austria.

Representatives at the Congress agreed to numerous other territorial changes. By the Treaty of Kiel, Norway had been ceded by the king of Denmark-Norway to the king of Sweden. This sparked the nationalist movement which led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Norway on May 17, 1814 and the subsequent personal Union with Sweden. Austria gained Lombardy-Venetia in Northern Italy, while much of the rest of North-Central Italy went to Habsburg dynasties (the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Modena, and the Duchy of Parma).[26]

The Papal States were restored to the Pope. The Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia was restored to its mainland possessions, and also gained control of the Republic of Genoa. In Southern Italy, Napoleon's brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, was originally allowed to retain his Kingdom of Naples, but his support of Napoleon in the Hundred Days led to the restoration of the Bourbon Ferdinand IV to the throne.[26]

A large United Kingdom of the Netherlands was created for the Prince of Orange, including both the old United Provinces and the formerly Austrian-ruled territories in the Southern Netherlands. There were other, less important territorial adjustments, including significant territorial gains for the German Kingdoms of Hanover (which gained East Frisia from Prussia and various other territories in Northwest Germany) and Bavaria (which gained the Rhenish Palatinate and territories in Franconia). The Duchy of Lauenburg was transferred from Hanover to Denmark, and Swedish Pomerania was annexed by Prussia. Switzerland was enlarged, and Swiss neutrality was established. Swiss mercenaries had played a significant role in European Wars for a couple of hundred years, and the intention was to put a stop to these activities permanently.

During the wars, Portugal had lost its town of Olivença to Spain and moved to have it restored. Portugal is historically Britain's oldest ally, and with its support succeeded in having the re-incorporation of Olivença decreed in Article 105 of the Final Act, which stated that the Congress "understood the occupation of Olivença to be illegal and recognized Portugal's rights". Portugal ratified the Final Act in 1815 but Spain would not sign and this became the most important hold-out against the Congress of Vienna. Deciding in the end that it was better to become part of Europe than stand alone, Spain finally accepted the Treaty on 7 May 1817; however, Olivença and its surroundings were never returned to Portuguese control and this question remains unresolved.[27] Great Britain received parts of the West Indies at the expense of the Netherlands and Spain and kept the former Dutch colonies of Ceylon and the Cape Colony as well as Malta and Heligoland. Under the Treaty of Paris, Britain obtained the protectorate over the United States of the Ionian Islands and the Seychelles.

Later criticism[edit]

The Congress of Vienna was frequently criticized by nineteenth-century and more recent historians for ignoring national and liberal impulses, and for imposing a stifling reaction on the Continent.[28] It was an integral part in what became known as the Conservative Order, in which the liberties and civil rights associated with the American and French Revolutions were de-emphasized, so that a fair balance of power, peace and stability, might be achieved.[28]

In the 20th century, however, many historians came to admire the statesmen at the Congress, whose work prevented another widespread European war for nearly a hundred years (1815–1914). Among these is Henry Kissinger, who in 1954 wrote his doctoral dissertation, A World Restored, on it. Prior to the opening of the Paris peace conference of 1918, the British Foreign Office commissioned a history of the Congress of Vienna to serve as an example to its own delegates of how to achieve an equally successful peace.[29] Besides, the main decisions of the Congress were made by the Four Great Powers and not all the countries of Europe could extend their rights at the Congress. The Italian peninsula became a mere "geographical expression" as divided into seven parts: Lombardy–Venetia, Modena, Naples–Sicily, Parma, Piedmont–Sardinia, Tuscany, and the Papal States under the control of different powers.[30] Poland remained partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Austria, with the largest part, the newly created Kingdom of Poland, remaining under Russian control.

The arrangements made by the Four Great Powers sought to ensure future disputes would be settled in a manner that would avoid the terrible wars of the previous twenty years.[31] Although the Congress of Vienna preserved the balance of power in Europe, it could not check the spread of revolutionary movements across the continent some 30 years later.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paul W. Schroeder, . "Did the Vienna settlement rest on a balance of power?" American Historical Review (1992) 97#3 pp 683-706. in JSTOR
  2. ^ Frederick B. Artz, Reaction & Revolution: 1814–1832 (1934) p 110
  3. ^ Article XXXII. See Harold Nicolson, The Congress of Vienna, chap. 9.
  4. ^ King, David (2008). Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna. Crown Publishing Group. p. 334. ISBN 978-0-307-33716-0. 
  5. ^ Nicolson, Harold (1946). The Congress of Vienna; a Study in Allied Unity, 1812–1822. Constable & co. ltd. p. 158. 
  6. ^ Malettke, Klaus (2009). Die Bourbonen 3. Von Ludwig XVIII. bis zu den Grafen von Paris (1814–1848) (in German) 3. Kohlhammer. p. 66. ISBN 3-17-020584-6. 
  7. ^ Treaty between Great Britain and Portugal, January 22, 1815. 5 George IV. London: His Majesty's Statute and Law Printers. 1824. p. 650. 
  8. ^ Freksa, Frederick. A peace congress of intrigue. trans. Harry Hansen (1919). New York: The Century Co. p. 116. 
  9. ^ Zamoyski, Adam (2007). Rites of Peace; the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna. HarperCollins Publishers. p. 297. ISBN 978-0-06-077518-6. : "[...] the Danish plenipotentiary Count Rosenkrantz."
  10. ^ Couvée, D.H.; G. Pikkemaat (1963). 1813–15, ons koninkrijk geboren. Alphen aan den Rijn: N. Samsom nv. pp. 123–124. 
  11. ^ "[Castlereagh, during his stay in The Hague, in January 1813] induced the Dutch to leave their interests entirely in British hands." On page 65 of Nicolson (1946).
  12. ^ Nicolson, Harold (1946). The Congress of Vienna; a Study in Allied Unity, 1812–1822. Constable & co. ltd. p. 197. : "Baron von Gagern – one of the two plenipotentiaries for the Netherlands."
  13. ^ Page 195 of Nicolson (1946).
  14. ^ Zamoyski, Adam (2007). Rites of Peace; the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna. HarperCollins Publishers. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-06-077518-6. : "The Pope's envoy to Vienna, Cardinal Consalvi [...]"
  15. ^ Fritz Apian-Bennewitz: Leopold von Plessen und die Verfassungspolitik der deutschen Kleinstaaten auf dem Wiener Kongress 1814/15. Eutin: Ivens 1933; Hochschulschrift: Rostock, Univ., Diss., 1933
  16. ^ Page 2 of King (2008)
  17. ^ Zamoyski, Adam (2007). Rites of Peace; the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna. HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 258, 295. ISBN 978-0-06-077518-6. 
  18. ^ William, Sir Ward Adolphus (2009). The Period of Congresses, BiblioLife, p. 13. ISBN 1-113-44924-1
  19. ^ a b Nicolson, Sir Harold (2001). The Congress of Vienna: A Study in Allied Unity: 1812–1822 Grove Press; Rep. Ed. pp. 140–164. ISBN 0-8021-3744-X
  20. ^ Susan Mary Alsop (1984). The Congress Dances. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. p. 120. 
  21. ^ Wenceslao Ramírez de Villa-Urrutia, Marqués de Villa-Urrutia, España en el Congreso de Viena según la correspondencia de D. Pedro Gómez Labrador, Marqués de Labrador. Segunda Edición Corregida y Aumentada (Madrid: Francisco Beltrán, 1928), 13.
  22. ^ Antonio Rodríguez-Moñino (ed.), Cartas Políticas (Badajoz: Imprenta Provincial, 1959), 14 (Letter IV, 10 July 1814). Labrador's letters are full of such pungent remarks, and include his opinions on bad diplomats, the state of the postal system, the weather, and his non-existent salary and coach and accompanying livery for the Congress.
  23. ^ Villa-Urrutia, España en el Congreso de Viena, 61–2. Joseph had left Madrid with a huge baggage train containing pieces of art, tapestries, and mirrors. The most rapacious of the French was Marshal Nicolas Soult, who left Spain with entire collections, which disappeared to unknown, separate locations around the world. According to Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño, at least "[the paintings] have come to spread the prestige of Spanish art around the whole word."
  24. ^ W.H. Zawadzki, "Russia and the Re-Opening of the Polish Question, 1801-1814," International History Review (1985) 7#1 pp 19-44.
  25. ^ Couvée, D.H.; G. Pikkemaat (1963). 1813–15, ons koninkrijk geboren. Alphen aan den Rijn: N. Samsom nv. pp. 127–130. 
  26. ^ a b Stearns, Peter N. – Langer, William Leonard (2001). The Encyclopedia of world history: ancient, medieval, and modern, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 6th ed. p. 440. ISBN 0-395-65237-5
  27. ^ Hammond, Richard James (1966). Portugal and Africa, 1815–1910: a study in uneconomic imperialism (Study in Tropical Development), Stanford Univ Press. p. 2. ISBN 0-8047-0296-9
  28. ^ a b Olson, James Stuart – Shadle, Robert (1991). Historical dictionary of European imperialism, Greenwood Press, p. 149. ISBN 0-313-26257-8
  29. ^ Ragsdale, Hugh – Ponomarev, V. N. (1993). Imperial Russian foreign policy, Cambridge University Press; 1st ed. ISBN 0-521-44229-X
  30. ^ Benedict, Bertram (2008). A History of the Great War, BiblioLife. Vol. I, p. 7, ISBN 0-554-41246-2
  31. ^ Willner, Mark – Hero, George – Weiner, Jerry Global (2006). History Volume I: The Ancient World to the Age of Revolution, Barron's Educational Series, p. 520. ISBN 0-7641-5811-2

Further reading[edit]

  • Chapman, Tim. The Congress of Vienna 1814-1815 (Routledge, 1998)
  • Dakin, Douglas. "The Congress of Vienna, 1814–1815 and its Antecedents" in Alan Sked, ed., Europe's Balance of Power 1815–1848 (London: Macmillan, 1979), pp. 14–33.
  • Ferraro, Guglielmo. The Reconstruction of Europe; Talleyrand and the Congress of Vienna, 1814–1815 (1941)
  • Gulick, E. V. "The final coalition and the Congress of Vienna, 1813-15" in C. W. Crawley, ed., The New Cambridge Modern History, vol 9, 1793-1830 (1965) pp 639-67.
  • Jarrett, Mark (2013). The Congress of Vienna and its Legacy: War and Great Power Diplomacy after Napoleon. London: I. B. Tauris & Company, Ltd. ISBN 978-1780761169. 
  • King, David (2008). Vienna 1814; How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna. Random House Inc. ISBN 978-0-307-33716-0. 
  • Kissinger, Henry A. "The Congress of Vienna: A Reappraisal," World Politics (1956) 8#2 pp. 264–280 in JSTOR
  • Kissinger, Henry (1957). A World Restored; Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812–22. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 
  • Kraehe, Enno E. Metternich's German Policy. Vol. 2: The Congress of Vienna, 1814–1815 (1984) 443 pp
  • Oaks, Augustus; R. B. Mowat (1918). The Great European Treaties of the Nineteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.  ("Chapter II The restoration of Europe")
  • Nicolson, Harold (1946). The Congress of Vienna: A Study in Allied Unity, 1812–1822. Constable & co. ltd. 
  • Spiel, Hilde (1968). The Congress of Vienna; an Eyewitness Account. Philadelphia: Chilton Book Co. 
  • Schroeder, Paul W. "Did the Vienna settlement rest on a balance of power?" American Historical Review (1992) 97#3 pp 683-706. in JSTOR
  • Schroeder, Paul W. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848 (1996), pp 517–82 advanced diplomatic history online
  • Webster, C.K. "The pacification of Europe" in A.W. Ward and G.P. Gooch, eds. The Cambridge history of British foreign policy, 1783-1919, (1922) Volume 1 ch IV online pp 392-521
    • also published as Webster, Charles. The Congress of Vienna, 1814–1815 (1919), a British perspective
  • Webster, C.K. The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1812–1815, Britain and the Reconstruction of Europe (1931) 618pp online
  • Zamoyski, Adam (2007). Rites of Peace; the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0-06-077518-6. 

Primary sources[edit]

  • British diplomacy, 1813–1815: Select Documents Dealing with the Reconstruction of Europe (1921); 409pp

Other languages[edit]

  • Ghervas, Stella (2008). Réinventer la tradition. Alexandre Stourdza et l'Europe de la Sainte-Alliance. Paris: Honoré Champion. ISBN 978-2-7453-1669-1. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°12′30″N 16°22′23″E / 48.20833°N 16.37306°E / 48.20833; 16.37306