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HIS103 15. The Congress of Vienna and the Congress System

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Denis Smyth

The Congress of Vienna and the Congress System Jan 7, 2012 Key Words Notes  1814 – 1815 first time states  In a way we are present at a unique moment in international consciously sit down to write, history around the year 1814 - 1815 upon the European design and develop a functioning continent. Because we are privileged witnesses at the first balance of power. moment in recorded history when statespersons sat down to develop a functioning international order. This was the first time  Balance of power already in human history that states consciously sat down to plan, design existed though. However, states and develop a functioning international order. still thrived to be the best state and  However, it can be argued that there was an order that already to have total hegemony over all of existed. That is true, but to quote Clausewitz, “that international Europe. order, the first existing international order, the 18 century balance of power in Europe was really a happy accident. It was the result of the fact that militarily and institutionally states had reached a fairly common plan to develop. War didn’t really offer great advantage gain. Because of this happy accident, that military stalemates underpinning the balance of power, which warlords and statesman assumed prominent. There was for a prolonged period no serious effort to dominate the whole order. To substitute it with an imperial order. To create a hegemony in the name of one state over the whole continent. It was military stalemate. And the psychological imitations that such military paralysis imposed upon the agenda and ambitions of rulers that largely explain this miraculous development- the first functioning balance of power in the world.  Yet, what the French brewed, with the revolutionary government  With the Revolutionary wars and under the Napoleonic regime, was that any one state really and the Napoleonic regime made it mobilized its resources, got its act together militarily and possible for any state to gain strategically-could make a serious bid for continental continental domination. If the state domination. It had proven by coming very close to doing just that. mobilized all of its resources it That there was now a terrible power loose in the continent. could gain that massive amount of  The power of modern states to mobilize their resources, material power. resources-especially humans. That ability to mobilize entire - Napoleon had shattered the population for power made it possible realistically to reach for condiments of the Balance of continental domination. As Von Clausewitz put it, “once barriers- Power which in a sense consist only in man’s ignorance of what is possible-are torn down, they are not so easily set up again”  What Napoleon had done was shatter the confines that had bounded and limited political ambition. Now continental domination was on the agenda. Any of the great powers that seriously bent itself and its people to pursing such dangerous projects for its neighbors was possible and pursuing continental domination.  Continental domination was made possible.  Scholars have compared this period, in the immediate aftermath of Napoleonic wars with the immediate aftermath of WWII and the birth of weapons of global mass destruction.  It was a terrible power unleashed and it was unclear if statesmen would be able to harness that power, of limiting it, of preventing from blowing the international order apart. That was the zero- sum game intentional relations had become by 1814-1815 in the aftermath of the Napoleonic revolution and warfare.  It is true that the men who gathered in Vienna in September 1814 were remarkable clear headed about what they needed to do and how they should set about achieving it.  Castlereagh:  The man who perhaps dominated the post-Napoleonic period - British foreign secretary and perhaps was the real architect of the Vienna settlement: the - Dominated the post British foreign secretary was Castlereagh. He articulated most Napoleonic periods clearly the purpose of the Vienna Treaty to the peacemakers, - Perhaps the real architect of peace settlers and other important figures in the post Napoleonic the Vienna settlement period. He best summarized their purpose - Said the purpose of the - He did so in an answer. The British parliament posed a critical settlement was to establish question. One member of the Parliament had complained provisions for general security. about one tiny aspect of the Vienna settlement. And that was the distinction of the independence of the city-state of…? - Castlereagh replied as followed as follows. He said the purpose of the Vienna settlement was not to discuss moral principals, but rather “to establish effectual provisions for the general security” that is, to build a functioning international  Treaty of Paris order.  The best mechanism for realizing the purpose and practice of - May 30, 1814 international security was defined in one of the secret articles - Had a secret article, which which was attached to the Treaty of Paris 30, may 1814, in pointed out that the whole which, it declared the whole nature of the treaty was to “establish purpose of it was to practice a real and permanent balance of power in Europe. Again a very international security. conscious goal in mind. You want to establish international - “to establish a balance of order; the best way to do that is to engineer into existence a real power” and permanent balance of power.  Even before the member had gathered in Vienna, between September 1814 and June 1815,there had been some important inter alliance exchanges between and amongst the allied coalition that defeated Napoleonic France.  Even before the Vienna congress - Most important one was between Austrian Foreign minister, there were a series of allied Metternich and British counterpart Castlereagh. coalitions that defeated Napoleonic - Metternich wrote one extremely important letter to France. Castlereagh in January 1814. In this letter Metternich argued  Austria and Britain - Metternich and Castlereagh that the primary and joint aim of Austrian and British foreign policy should be to establish balance of power in Europe. - Metternich argued that the Because the balance of power wasn’t just good for all, but it primary and joint aim of their would most likely secure the independence existence and foreign policy should be that survival of particular states, and particularly suited promote they should establish a balance the national interest of Austria and Britain. The balance of of power. power in the making, Metternich argued, was essentially was a. Austria: it was land locked vital to the pursuits of British and Austrian prime interests of and in the middle of so state. many warring states that - Interests for wanting a functioning balance of power in naturally it became the Europe. battlefield when two states a. Austria: In the case of Austria, he said the balance of started fighting power was vital, but because otherwise because of b. Britain: it wanted to secure its position, situated between east and west, its homeland so that it geographically, Austria would become a battlefield. could pursue commercial, Battlefield where rival armies would march and do colonial and maritime their fighting business. It was the natural killing interests aboard. ground for war in that area. Geographically, - Both had viable reasons for Metternich was trying to make the point to wanting balance of power in Castlereagh that it was in Austria’s vital interest to Europe. have a balance of power, working to ensure peace and therefore, Austria’s frontiers would remain fine and not susceptible to direct invasion. b. Britain: He also made an argument that Britain too had an invested interest in restoring a functioning balance of power in Europe. Britain’s interest was precisely in a balanced Europe, which allowed it to feel secure enough at home to pursue commercial, maritime, and colonial interests all over the rest of the world. Metternich was smart enough to appeal to Britain’s vested interest in having Europe at peace and secure therefore allowing them to go abroad for their commercial, colonial and maritime interest. - Both had their own reasons for wanting an establishment of a working balance of power. One because it was a land locked power and the other because it was essentially a global maritime power.  Other great powers in Europe  However, the same could not be said about the rest of the also had their own interests. powers. One of the dilemma facing Metternich and Castlereagh - Russia wanted to make Poland and others who for their own self-interest were working towards a constitutional monarchy a collective order. They had to create a post-war settlement, under its rule. establish a foundation for the balance of power that would yet - Prussia was willing to give it constrain different potential challenges. A vanquished France, its portion of Poland in and other powers that had different notions of priorities and exchange for Saxony. However, were beginning to redraw the map and establishing the basis if Prussia gave its piece of new territorial lines, were not happy. Poland to Russia, Austria  Russia and Prussia, for example, had more outreaching agendas. would be pressured into giving Prussia were vindictive towards a defeated France, they were the its piece as well. ones who had suffered most at hands during the French - Saxony, who had sided with revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. They wanted to put a boot France during the Napoleonic on France. They also, traditionally tended to take foreign policy wars had ended up losing from Russia. So they were quite happy to go along with a project along with France. So it’s that Czar Alexander I, the man who had personally lead the future
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