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Vienna, Congress of

Congress of Vienna, Sept., 1814–June, 1815, one of the most important international conferences in European history, called to remake Europe after the downfall of Napoleon I.

Congress Participants

The Austrian emperor Francis I (formerly Holy Roman Emperor Francis II) was the host. Among the many monarchs to attend the congress the most important were Czar Alexander I of Russia and King Frederick William III of Prussia. Fürst von Metternich was the chief Austrian negotiator and presided over the congress; Viscount Castlereagh and, for a time, the duke of Wellington represented Great Britain; the Russian delegation included Count Nesselrode, Count Capo d'Istria, and Carlo Andreo Pozzo di Borgo; among the Prussian diplomats were Karl August von Hardenberg, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and Karl vom und zum Stein.

A peace settlement with defeated France had been reached before the congress convened (see Paris, Treaty of, 1814), but France was represented by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, who, by skillfully exploiting differences among the allies, soon obtained an equal voice with the four great victorious powers. All other European states, large and petty, that had legally existed before the Napoleonic upheaval were represented by an army of delegates and agents, but the important work was carried out in committees under the tutelage of the major powers.

Issues

The problems confronting the congress were extremely thorny and complex, for the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars had swept away the entire structure of Europe. Although the principle of legitimacy—restoration of the pre-Revolutionary dynastic and territorial states—was often ceremoniously invoked, it was the determination to achieve a balance of power for the preservation of peace that guided congress decisions. The principle of national self-determination, although invoked in certain cases, was neglected in practice. The congress opened with a round of magnificent balls and entertainments, while its serious business was stalled by intrigues and rivalries.

Territorial Adjustments

Major territorial changes were unavoidable, partly because of previous secret agreements reached among individual allies and partly because of the pressure of power politics. Major points of friction were the settlement of the Polish question, the conflicting claims of Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, and the adjustment of the borders of the German states. Russia and Prussia were generally opposed by Austria, France, and Britain, which at one point (Jan., 1815) went so far as to conclude a defensive triple alliance. The shock of this crisis and of the return of Napoleon I from Elba so upset the delegates that the congress began to find solutions for its many difficulties.

In place of the defunct Holy Roman Empire or its several hundred princes, the German Confederation was created. The Confederation's constitution was accepted on June 8, 1815, and was incorporated into the Final Act of the congress, signed on June 9, nine days before Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. The restoration of Louis XVIII in France and of Ferdinand VII in Spain was confirmed.

Italy was dealt with as a geographic rather than a political entity, and its hopes for unity were dashed. Naples and Sicily were reunited under Bourbon rule; the Papal States were restored; the duchies of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla were awarded to French Empress Marie Louise for her lifetime; Tuscany and Modena were restored to the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine; the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom was set up under Austrian rule to compensate Austria for its loss of the Austrian Netherlands; and the formerly Venetian part of Dalmatia also went to Austria. The kingdom of Sardinia was restored and recovered Savoy, Nice, and Piedmont, and it received Liguria with Genoa.

Poland was redivided among Russia, Prussia, and Austria, with Russia benefiting primarily; part of Poland, with Warsaw, was set up as a kingdom in personal union with Russia; Kraków and its surrounding territory were made a republic under the protection of Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Since Austria received Italian territories to compensate for Russian gains, Prussia was awarded much of Saxony as well as important parts of Westphalia and Rhine Province. Great Britain, more interested in acquiring strategic colonial territories, retained the former Dutch colonies of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Cape Colony, received parts of the West Indies at the expense of the Netherlands and Spain, kept Malta and Helgoland, and obtained a protectorate over the Ionian islands.

The former Austrian Netherlands was united with the former United Provinces as the kingdom of the Netherlands, under the house of Orange. Russia retained the formerly Swedish Finland. The congress confirmed the transfer of Norway from the Danish to the Swedish crown; W Pomerania, the claim to which Sweden had ceded to Denmark in the Treaty of Kiel (1814), was given to Prussia, which compensated Denmark with the duchy of Lauenburg. Bavaria received its approximate present-day boundaries, as did Württemberg and Baden. Switzerland was enlarged, and Swiss neutrality was guaranteed. As regards France, a new peace settlement was reached on Nov. 20, 1815 (see Paris, Treaty of, 1815). The Final Act of Vienna was subsequently ratified by the powers concerned, but several separate treaties were required to complete the settlement.

Consequences

Although the territorial changes brought about by the Congress of Vienna did not endure long in entirety, they represented a practical if not always equitable solution and an attempt at dealing with Europe as an organic whole. The Quadruple Alliance and the Holy Alliance, designed to uphold the decisions of Vienna and to settle disputes and problems by means of conferences, were an important step toward European cooperation. The Concert of Europe, which functioned—even though imperfectly—through the 19th cent., may be credited to the Congress of Vienna.

An auxiliary accomplishment of the Congress was the adoption of standard rules of diplomacy. Serious defects, however, included the disregard of the growing national aspirations and the social changes that brought about the revolutions of 1848, and the failure to include the Ottoman Empire in the settlement and to deal satisfactorily with the Eastern Question.

Bibliography

See H. Nicolson, The Congress of Vienna (1946, repr. 1970); H. Kissinger, A World Restored (1957, repr. 1964); H. Spiel, ed., The Congress of Vienna: An Eyewitness Account (1968).

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Vienna, Congress of

VIENNA, CONGRESS OF

The Vienna Congress provided the conclusion to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Negotiations took place in France from February to April of 1814, in London during June of that year, in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815, and then again in Paris from July to November of 1815. The chief representatives included Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereigh of Britain; his ally, Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar von Metternich of Austria; Fürst Karl August von Hardenberg of Prussia; and Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Bénévent of France. Tsar Alexander I directed the Russians, aided and influenced by his diverse multi-national coterie of assistants: Count Andreas Razumovsky, who was ambassador to Austria; the Westphalian Graf Karl Robert von Nesselrode, who served as a quasi-foreign minister; the Corfu Greek Count Ioánnis Antónios Kapodstrias; the Corsican Count Carlo Andrea Pozzo di Borgo; the Prussian Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein; the Alsatian Anstedt; and the Pole Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski.

At the peak of his influence in early 1814, Alexander directed the non-punitive occupation of Paris and the exile of Napoleon I to Elba. The Treaty of Chaumont established the Quadruple Alliance to contain France, while the first Treaty of Paris restored the French monarchy. Alexander also helped block a Prussian scheme to frustrate France and Austrian designs on Switzerland and Piedmont-Sardinia, but supported the attachment of Belgium to the Netherlands and part of the Rhineland to Prussia as checks on French power. In London, however, he frightened the British with plans to reunite the ethnic Polish lands as his own separate kingdom.

At Vienna, the British, Austrians, and French thwarted this scheme, which was supported by a Prussia bent on annexing all of Saxony. By January 1815 Alexander was ready to compromise, an attitude strengthened by Napoleon's temporary return to power in March. The Final Act of June 4, 1815, drawn up by Metternich's mentor, Friedrich Gentz, reflected this spirit of compromise. Austria retained Galicia, and Prussia regained Poznan and Torun, and also acquired part of Saxony and more of the Rhineland. Most of the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw became the tsarist Kingdom of Poland. Denmark obtained a small duchy as partial compensation for Norway, which the Swedish crown acquired as Russian-sponsored compensation for the loss of Finland. A German Confederation dominated by Austria and, to a lesser extent, Prussia, but with Russian support for such middle-sized states as Württemberg, replaced the defunct Holy Roman Empire. The Ottomans remained outside the Final Act, refusing to allow Anglo-French-Austrian mediation of differences with Russia as a precondition of a general guarantee.

Back in Paris, Alexander promoted the Holy Alliance, which Metternich insisted be an ideal brotherhood of Christian sovereigns, not peoples, as the Russian emperor envisioned. Of the Europeans, only the British, the Papacy, and the Ottomans refused to sign it. The (Congress of) Vienna system weathered revolutions and diplomatic crises. Except for Belgian independence in 1830, Europe's borders remained essentially stable until 1859.

See also: alexander i; french war of 1812; napoleon i

bibliography

Grimsted, Patricia Kennedy. (1969). The Foreign Ministers of Alexander I. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Schroeder, Paul. (1994). The Transformation of European Politics, 17631848. Oxford: Oxford University/Clarendon.

David M. Goldfrank

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Vienna, Congress of

Vienna, Congress of, 1814–15. Napoleon's abdication in April 1814 was followed by a preliminary settlement, the first treaty of Paris, which restored the Bourbon monarchy, returned most of France's colonies, allowed her the boundaries of 1792, and approved the union of Belgium and Holland. But twenty years of warfare, in the course of which boundaries had been constantly changed and new states created, demanded a general European settlement. The Congress opened in September with Castlereagh representing Britain. Strong disagreement between Prussia, Russia, and Austria over the fate of Saxony threatened allied unity and allowed Talleyrand, the French representative, to play a balancing role. In March 1815 everything was thrown into the melting pot by Napoleon's escape from Elba, and not until he had been defeated in June at Waterloo were the arrangements safe. The terms of the settlement with France were then made more severe, giving her the 1790s boundaries, and insisting on an indemnity and an army of occupation. Belgium and Holland were united in the hope that they would be a more effective barrier to French aggression than either the Spanish or Austrian Netherlands had been; Piedmont was strengthened as a barrier in Italy, where Austria, with Milan, Lombardy, and Venetia, became the dominant power; a kingdom of Poland was established under the rule of Tsar Alexander; Prussia was compensated in the west for territorial losses in the east; the neutrality of Switzerland was guaranteed; Denmark lost Norway to Sweden, which had changed sides at the last minute; Hanover's gains included East Frisia; Britain retained the Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon, Tobago, St Lucia, Malta, Mauritius, the Ionian Islands, and Heligoland. By the Quadruple Alliance, which accompanied the second treaty of Paris in November 1815, the system of Congresses was established to adjudicate future problems. The Congress of Vienna was a prime example of balance of power diplomacy. The first piece of the settlement to collapse was the union of Belgium and Holland, which disintegrated in 1830.

J. A. Cannon

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Vienna, Congress of

Vienna, Congress of (1814–15) European conference that settled international affairs after the Napoleonic Wars. It attempted, as far as possible, to restore the Europe of pre-1789, and thus disappointed the nationalists and liberals. Among steps to prevent future European wars, it established the Congress system and the German Confederation, a loose association for purposes of defence. Austria was represented by Metternich; Britain by Castlereagh; Prussia by Frederick William II; Russia by Alexander I; and France by Talleyrand.

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Vienna, Congress of

Vienna, Congress of an international conference held 1814–15 to agree the settlement of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Attended by all the major European powers, it was dominated by Prussia, Russia, Britain, Austria, and France. The guiding principle of the settlement was the restoration and strengthening of hereditary and sometimes despotic rulers; the result was a political stability that lasted for three or four decades.

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