The Congress of Vienna

The Congress of Vienna

After defeating France and overthrow napoleonEurope came together to dictate the general lines of what would be the international politics of the 19th century. It also sought to ensure the different monarchical postulates that had ruled Europe during the last century, against the revolutionary ideas from the French Revolution. It would be the first congress of the Restoration.

Under this premise of elaboration of the new "game rules”, the highest political representatives of all the European courts met in September 1814 in Vienna. The Austrian Emperor Francis I invited Alexander I of Russia, Frederick William III of Prussia, Frederick I of Württemberg, Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, Frederick VI of Denmark, William of Hesse, Grand Duke George of Hesse-Darmstadt and the Duke of Weimar, Carlos Augusto. All this European aristocracy was accompanied by the political leadership of each country: Klemens von Metternich for Austria, Castlereagh for Great Britain, Nesselrode for Russia, Talleyrand for France and Hardenberg for Prussia.

The operation of the Congress it was preset in advance. Power was held by the governing powers (Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia) and ten commissions were created that would be in charge of analyzing different aspects. This division responded, in reality, to an attempt by the organizers not to have to deal with the rest of the countries. In fact, the assembly did not meet until the signing of the final Act.

There were four themes that dominated the meetings: Poland, Saxony, Naples and the role of Talleyrand and France in the framework of Congress of Vienna. From the beginning, Russia wanted to annex Poland and "cede" Saxony to Prussia. Not only because it was much more fertile land than it already had, but because it would bring it closer to the European core. Austria, Great Britain, and Prussia were a priori opposed to this suggestion.

The Vienna Congress themes they were influenced by the news of the return to power of Napoleon in France, who had managed to escape from the island of Elba and was assembling an army to face the rest of the countries. Those attending the Congress defined the French military as a "danger against European peace" and formed a new coalition that defeated him on June 18, 1815.

Regarding Naples, Austria ordered the restoration of the Bourbons to the Italian throne, having Joaquín Murat shot, who was the one who held the title of king. The reason is that, although initially Murat allied himself with the Austrians to defeat the French troops in Italy, he allied himself with Napoleon when he regained the throne.

Apart from these matters, the agreement on the new German Confederation of 38 countries (which would lead to second reich in 1871), the fixing of the border of the Netherlands and international action against the slave trade. As agreements were reached, they were signed separately.

On June 9, 1815, the Final Act of the Vienna Congress that reconstructed and simplified the European map. The powers reduced the number of states. They wanted to try viable, strong states capable of preventing a second empire similar to that of Napoleon. But, in any case, they put into practice the saying "who distributes, gets the best part" and they benefited from the division that they were going to carry out.

Great Britain managed to strengthen its maritime power, obtaining bases for control of the North Sea (Hannover Kingdom), from the Mediterranean (Malta and the Ionian islands), the oceanic road of the Indies (Ceylon and the Cape) and the Antilles. It was the nation that benefited the most in terms of distribution of territory in the Congress of Vienna.

Russia kept Finland and Bessarabia. He added two-thirds of Poland to his kingdom, with the Duchy of Warsaw. It was the reward that Alexander I thought to obtain, along with the participation and support of his project to create the Holy Alliance.

Prussia it lost much of its Polish territories but, in compensation, it obtained Swedish Pomerania, part of Saxony, the Rhineland and the left bank of the Rhine. It thus formed a divided kingdom with no connection between its eastern part and its western part. They were two blocks with no material or traditional link.

Austria He resigned Belgium but, like Prussia, received great benefits nearby: the Illyrian provinces, Venice, Milan, Salzburg, and Tyrol. In addition, it was erected as the power to which the German states had to respond, establishing a “Diet of seventeen members”Based in Frankfurt and whose president was the Emperor of Austria.

France He returned to the borders of 1790 and lost, above all, the territories he had obtained in Italy and in central Europe. Louis XVIII returned to power after being overthrown by Napoleon when he escaped from Elba, and absolutism re-established itself as a political system. Talleyrand got France to be accepted again as one of the powers.

These divisions were joined by the creation of states that should stop a possible French expansion: Netherlands, Switzerland, Rhenish Prussia and Piedmont. Monarchies that had been expelled were restored, such as the Bourbons in France and Italy. The absolutist model returned to the old continent to face the popular revolts that tried to imitate the French model of the late 18th century.

Definitely, the Congress of Vienna served to temporarily restore peace in Europe and create a balance between the different powers, placing the five big (Austria, Russia, Prussia, Great Britain and France) above the rest. Klemens von Metternich devised a new system of international relations based on congresses and treaties, which would eventually be replaced by the systems designed by Otto von Bismarck from 1871.

However, the completely artificial division established by the Congress of Vienna brought trouble to Europe throughout the 19th century. On the one hand, nations that wanted to achieve independence, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, and on the other, nations that wanted to unite the pieces that the great powers, such as Poland, Italy and Germany, had shared. In addition, the congress had a very negative reception among the population. Parties (hunts, dances, concerts, banquets) that occurred in its course, gave it an aura of frivolity, despite the importance of the subjects they discussed.

Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was little he loved History and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.


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