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Holy Alliance

HOLY ALLIANCE

The Holy Alliance is the name given to the treaty signed on September 26, 1815, in Paris by the monarchs of Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Its maker and prime mover was Tsar Alexander I. In 1815 after the downfall of Napoleon, Alexander was at the height of his powers. A romantic, an idealist, indeed something of an evangelical who had experienced a religious conversion in 1812, Alexander had fallen under the influence of a spiritualist, Baroness Julie von Krüdener, the wife of one of his diplomats, and the alliance was the product of nightly prayer meetings between the two. The alliance called upon the three powers to deal with one other and with their peoples on the basis of the Christian Gospel so there could emerge a fraternal union of rulers and peoples that would forever rid the earth of the scourge of war. At the insistence of the Austrian chancellor, Klemens von Metternich, Alexander's ally in the war against Napoleon, "fraternal" was struck out and changed to "a paternal alliance of monarchs over their peoples," lest the former clause be interpreted by Russia in a manner that would conflict with the language of other treaties under negotiation at this time.

Two common criticisms of the Holy Alliance are that its members (which in time included most the sovereigns of Europe) forged it into an instrument of oppression against their subjects, and, more important, that Alexander used it as a base to attain hegemony in Europe. Neither criticism is persuasive. The first can be challenged on factual grounds. The aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Europeans in the aftermath of the devastation of the Napoleonic Wars ran to one thing and one thing only: peace. National rights, national liberties, and the like were at this time simply not matters of priority. Moreover, the Holy Alliance powers exercised considerable restraint after 1815, as demonstrated by the extent to which they allowed multiple revolutionary fuses to be lit before they stepped inin a real sense they allowed revolutions to explode (the Spanish and Italian revolutions of 18201821; the revolutions in France, Belgium, the Papal States, and Poland in 18301831; those in France, Germany, Austria, and Italy in 1848). Similarly, the argument that Alexander was bent on expansion in Europe overlooks the many things he did that pulled the opposite way. With a combination of threats and persuasion, he forced Prussia from the path of aggrandizement in Poland and onto that of cooperation with Austria. He resisted repeated appeals from the smaller German states for an anti-Austrian alliancea move that he believed would be inimical to the interests of the general peace. Finally, he continually urged Russians to respect Turkish interests in the Balkans and especially in Greece. The fact is that Alexander was a committed moderate statesman who happened to believe what he said, and what he said illustrates a point often forgotten by historians and political scientiststhat there is a place in the international system for principles and moral values.

See also: napoleon i; vienna, congress of

bibliography

Knapton, Ernest John. (1939). The Lady of the Holy Alliance: The Life of Julie de Krüdener. New York: Columbia University Press.

Nicolson, Harold. (1946). The Congress of Vienna: A Study in Allied Unity, 18121822. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

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

David Wetzel

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"Holy Alliance." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Holy Alliance

Holy Alliance, 1815, agreement among the emperors of Russia and Austria and the king of Prussia, signed on Sept. 26. It was quite distinct from the Quadruple Alliance (Quintuple, after the admission of France) of Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, arrived at first in 1814 and revived in 1815. Nevertheless, both were a part of the resettlement of European political boundaries after the fall of the Napoleonic empire. The alliance was essentially an attempt by the conservative rulers to preserve the social order. It was particularly the product of the religious zeal of Czar Alexander I. Specifically, it accomplished nothing, since it was merely a vague agreement that the sovereigns would conduct themselves in consonance with Christian principles. Ultimately all the princes of Europe signed the alliance except three—George IV of England, who could not, for constitutional reasons; the pope, who could not, for religious reasons; and the sultan, who was not a Christian prince. The agreement was not important, but the name was applied to the cooperation of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, particularly in the period of the European conferences of Aachen, Troppau, Laibach, and Verona. The Holy Alliance became a symbol of the reaction dominated by Metternich. Austria repressed revolution in Italy, and France interfered in Spain in the name of the Holy Alliance. It was against that reactionary solidarity that the British foreign policy under George Canning was directed. The Monroe Doctrine was, in part, an outgrowth of that same fear of the European reactionary powers.

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"Holy Alliance." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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‘Holy Alliance’

‘Holy Alliance’ was the derisive name given to the declaration at Paris in September 1815 by Alexander I of Russia, Frederick William III of Prussia, and Francis I of Austria that they would govern and collaborate in accordance with Christian principles. The driving spirit was the tsar in the midst of a devout phase. Orthodox, protestants, and catholics should bury their differences and the other European monarchs (except the sultan) were invited to adhere. Britain, pleading her constitutional position, did not sign, though the prince regent expressed personal approval. Castlereagh, then foreign secretary, dismissed it privately as ‘a piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense’, but defended it publicly in the Commons in February 1816 against Brougham, who denounced it as a mask for autocracy and pointed out that the same three powers had preceded their partition of Poland in 1793 with a similar declaration of high principle. Castlereagh replied that ‘it was certainly couched in language unusual in diplomatic documents but should be regarded solely as a pledge of peace’. No mechanism was included in the declaration and disagreements between the signatories soon appeared.

J. A. Cannon

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"‘Holy Alliance’." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Holy Alliance

Holy Alliance (1815) Agreement signed at the Congress of Vienna by the crowned heads of Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Its purpose was to re-establish the principle of hereditary rule and to suppress democratic and nationalist movements, which sprung up in the wake of the French Revolution. The agreement, signed later by every European dynasty except the King of England and the Ottoman Sultan, came to be seen as an instrument of reaction and oppression.

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"Holy Alliance." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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