Congress of Vienna and revolutions

22.11.2013 09:06




1. The Balance of Power 
2. The Status quo 
3. The Dual Revolutions 
4. The Revolution of 1830

The Congress of Vienna was convened in 1815 by the four European powers which had defeated Napoleon. The first goal was to establish a new balance of power in Europe which would prevent imperialism within Europe, such as the Napoleonic Empire, and maintain the peace between the great powers. The second goal was to prevent political revolutions, such as the French Revolution, and maintain the status quo.

    Disagreement between Russia and Prussia on the one hand and Britain and Austria on the other about boundary provisions in Eastern Europe led to a threat of renewed hostilities. The new French government, under the restored Bourbon dynasty in the person of King Louis XVIII, was enlisted as an ally by the British.  France was invited to send a representative to the Congress of Vienna and was, thereafter, involved as the fifth great power of the Grand Alliance. 
Agreement was reached avoiding war.

    Prussian boundaries were expanded westward to confront the French with a greater power on their eastern border.

    The Kingdom of the Netherlands, which included both Holland and Belgium, was created for the same reason. When that arrangement collapsed and an independent Belgium was recognized, the great powers accomplished their objectives by signing a treaty among themselves in 1837, which guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium and Holland. This treaty remained in 
effect until 1914.

    There was not another European-wide war for a century. When Germany marched into Belgium in 1914, thus violating the neutrality of the Lowlands, the First World War began. There were, however, other conflicts in the nineteenth century, such as the Crimean War, the Franco-Austrian War, the Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco-Prussian War. But these were limited by both time and geography, and did not involve all of the great powers. 

    The second goal, to restore "legitimate" or traditional governments to power and to prevent political revolutions, or to maintain the status quo met with partial success in the short term, but was bound to fail in the long term because it opposed the irresistible forces of liberalism and nationalism. 

The historian, Hobsbawm, writes of two revolutions that were occurring 
throughout the 19th century. They were: 
      1. The Industrial Revolution, a fundamental change in economic circumstances which caused profound political and social change. 
      2. Political revolutions which involve one or a combination of both of 
the following: 
        (1) LIBERALISM, meaning the drive to achieve equality of opportunity which motivated the revolutionary leadership in the English, American, and French Revolutions. 
        ( 2) NATIONALISM, meaning the drive to achieve national unity, replacing systems of the old regime, based exclusively upon the aristocracy, with systems of government based on mass support by people from all classes of the society. The ruler/subject relationship was to be replaced by the citizen relationship. 

        In 1821, revolutions in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and in Spain were thrown back through intervention by Austrian and French armies respectively. However, revolution in Greece against Ottoman rule was, after a difficult 8 year struggle, successful in achieving Greek independence.  The Europeans did not support the Turks because they were of a different, non-Christian civilization, while the Greeks were identified with the classical heritage of Europe. Following a Turkish massacre of 100,000 Greeks, the great powers intervened against Turkey.

       Revolution in South and Central America against Spanish rule also succeeded, because of the oceanic separation and the refusal of the British to support European intervention. Without the British navy, it would have been foolhardy to attempt intervention. The British put their national interests (trade with the newly independent nations) before their adherence to the international principle of intervention.

       Political autonomy in Polish areas of the Russian Empire was initially encouraged by the Tsar Alexander I. When, by 1830, the Polish moved farther in the exercise of local autonomy than the Tsar would permit, their independence movement was crushed by the Russian army.

       Belgian people in the Kingdom of the Netherlands resented Dutch discrimination against them and rose up in a struggle for independence in 1829. The French refused to intervene. In 1837, the great powers recognized the independence of Belgium and accomplished a continuing 
restraint of French expansion by agreeing to a treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of the Netherlands and Belgium. 

     The overthrow of King Charles X in France in 1830 was not opposed by the great powers. The king had adopted a reactionary policy which sought to undermine fundamental changes wrought by the French Revolution, to wit: to restore the aristocracy to exclusive rule. This was unrealistic, and provoked unified opposition by the middle and working classes. The king fled into exile, and the Assembly invited a new monarch to the throne: King Louis Phillippe of the Orleans family.

Though the workers had joined in the rebellion they gained nothing from it. The Assembly was dominated by middle class elements. There were high property qualifications for voting or holding elected office.

    The Revolution of 1830 was not truly a revolution. It was merely a coup d'etat, which preserved the political power of the upper middle class, which they had achieved as a result of the French Revolution.