The Congress of Vienna
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The Congress of Vienna was an international conference that was convened with the purpose of remaking Europe after the demise of Napoleon I. The main purpose was to preserve peace by creating a balance of power, sometimes known as realpolitik. Diplomats were sent from Prussia, Russia, France, and Great Britain, along with many other countries. Because it was held in Austria, a prominent Austrian diplomat was present to preside over the congress. He had a great influence on the gathering, because his was the host country. Some of the accomplishments of the congress included: Switzerland being declared neutral, the Dutch Republic becoming united with the Austrian Netherlands to form the Netherlands under the House of Orange, and the French becoming deprived of all territories conquered by Napoleon I. In the end, the congress was very successful in achieving its goal, for the peace in Europe went uninterrupted for almost 40 years. The key people during the congress of Vienna were Prince Klemens von Metternich, Alexander I, Prince Karl August von Hardenberg, and Lord Casltereagh. It was initially decided that France, Spain and other small powers would not have a say in making significant decisions. However, through the efforts of the sneaky French diplomat, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, France was allowed to have an equal voice in negotiations.
To fully understand the Congress of Vienna, you must understand the participants and their motives at the gathering. One powerful representative was Charles de Talleyrand, the French diplomat who fought his way into having a say at the Congress of Vienna. However, he did not have nearly as much power as The Big Four. The Big Four were the most powerful diplomats at the Congress. They were: Prince Klemens von Metternich of Austria, Alexander I, the Russian emperor, Lord Casltereagh, the British diplomat, and Prince Karl August von Hardenberg, the main representative of Prussia. The biggest motivation of the Big Four was the achievement of worldwide peace, but on the terms set by themselves and no one else. Each member of the Big Four had their own reasons for the actions they took during this time.
Metternich, an extremely conservative man, resented liberalism, nationalism, and revolution. At the Congress of Vienna, Metternich therefore supported a conservative government. He also wanted a balance of power. This, in part, was the driving force that allowed him to stop Russian plans for the annexation of all of Poland and the Prussian attempt to gain Saxony. He wanted to stop Russia from gaining more power because it could throw off his plans for equal control of the territory in Europe.
Alexander I attempted to annex all of Russia, but he was stopped by Metternich. His motivation was his desire to gain more land for his country. In doing so, he, as a ruler, would have become the most powerful ruler of Europe. By setting up the Holy Alliance with Prussia and Austria, Alexander was trying to attain the understanding of High Christian ideals in all nations of Europe.
Prince Karl August von Hardenberg was in the Holy Alliance and tried to gain Saxony for the country he represented, Prussia. In diplomacy, he could not compete with Metternich, whose power soon overshadowed Hardenbergs in the Councils of Europe, Germany, and – in the end – Prussia itself. At the Congress, despite the powerful support of Alexander I of Russia, he failed to secure the annexation for all of Saxony to Prussia.
Lord Casltereagh was the diplomat from Great Britain to the Congress of Vienna. He favored an independent Poland, but was obligated to agree to its repartitioning. This may have been the reason that he joined an alliance with Metternich and Talleyrand – to stop the annexation of Poland. His goal throughout the entire Congress was to save Europe from military domination. When he discovered that Russia and Prussia were trying to gain power for themselves and not power to protect the general interest, he did not hesitate to take a new line of action. He catalyzed a secret treaty between Great Britain, Austria and France that was directed against the plans of Russia regarding Poland and of Prussia regarding Saxony.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, the French diplomat, succeeded in saving France from many of the repercussions of the Napoleonic wars. He was not, however, part of the Big Four. His motive was to preserve France as well as he could. Talleyrand fought extraordinarily hard to gain a right to have a meaningful say in the negotiations at Vienna. He allied himself with smaller countries, stating that all powers should have a say in their future. This gained Talleyrand equal rights in the redrawing of the map of Europe. His principle of “legitimacy” won the European power and restored Europe to its pre-Revolutionary status. Talleyrand deserves his nickname “the fox” because of his ability to cause problems with no detriment to himself or his cause. He broke up the European Alliance by agreeing to a secret pact with England and Austria, in opposition to Russia and Prussia. His motive was to weaken the unity of the Big Four and gain more influence over the Congress of Vienna. He succeeded in returning France to its pre-war boundaries and finding a way to focus attention away from his countrys wrongdoings, therefore avoiding penalty for damage done by the Napoleonic Wars.
Many negotiations of the Congress of Vienna did not include the majority of the delegates of the European countries. Most would have had nothing to do at the Congress, but its host, Emperor Francis of Austria, provided lavish forms of entertainment to keep them busy. These included dances, balls, and other gatherings. This is where the phrase “Le CongrÐ”©s ne marche pas; Il danse.” (The Congress does not walk, it dances)2 came from. There were, however, many issues addressed during the Congress of Vienna. In the time before the Congress, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars erased the former structure of Europe. The job of the Congress was to restore peace. The principle of legitimacy was often involved, but it really didnt have any power behind it. Its purpose was to achieve a balance of power that directed the Congress decisions. This led to many alliances, such as the one between Talleyrand, Metternich,