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HIS103 17. From the Congress System to the Concert of Europe part III.doc

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Denis Smyth

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From the Congress System to the Concert of Europe • In 1820, however, revolutions broke out. In the two bourbon monarchies of southern Europe. Spain and Naples. These for most raised the whole issue of once more potential revolutionary challenge to the existing order in Europe. • This is something Metternich felt personal. The Spaniard lost their lands in the Rhineland to the invading French troops in 1790’s. And defined publically his mission in politics to fight revolution. This is how he described his essential purpose in the public life-to fight revolutions in the field of international politics. That wasn’t just the agenda. He genuinely believed that there was a connection between internal order and external order, between internal disorder and international upheaval, conflict and war. Serious revolution, he thought, brought about serious tensions and conflicts amongst the great powers. - He suddenly realized in the context of the international crises, that the whole political structure, national and international, a challenged that might be contained in the supreme relevance-the Holy Alliance. - He saw that he might be able to form a counter revolutionary coalition and with the authority of intervene inside states experiencing challenges from other authority. - So he summoned a conference to proper, demanding in advance that the powers be prepared to face such an interventionist and revolutionary coalition. • Most were prepared to accept the possibility, at least the possible relevance of such a possible event to the current crisis. One absolutely refused in advance. Not wanting anything to do with such a counter-revolutionary coalition. And that was Britain. • Castlereagh had earned the reputation inside Britain as a rather repressive right wing Politian, but he was adamant that it was not his business of international powers to intervene with the internal affairs of other states. Reactionary and counter-revolutionary as he was, he was more than willing to conceive that many governments shouldn’t be defended. And he said in a reply to Metternich’s invitation a principle in British foreign policy that will hold well in much of the next few centuries. “We shall be found in our place when actual danger menaces the system of Europe, but this country cannot, and will not act upon abstract and speculative principles of precaution.” • Britain would not enter into an alliance with the idea of intervening on the agenda on behalf of some revolutionary problem. • This might have been a weak response. It might have just been a reason to do nothing, however future wars and conflicts (World war II) will show how this policy is very smart. • This was a parting of the ways. On November 1820, Austria, Prussia, Russia and some lesser states pledged themselves to automatically intervene in the internal affairs of any state enduring instability or serious challenge to the existing authority. They pledged themselves to a collective counter- revolutionary interventionist policy. • Britain and France stood aloof. Interestingly, although Metternich was happy to get back endorsement in principle, the last thing he wanted was to have the Russian army marching across Austria into the Italy, through France and Spain. So he insisted that it should be the Austrian power alone that defeated the Napalic Revolution. And the powers couldn’t agree at all about what to do about Spain. • In the end it was the French who intervene and restored King Ferdinand the 7 on the throne: a small French military force to see off the Spanish rebels in 1823. • The Holy Alliance, however, had split the congress system and had paralyzed it. This became inevitable at the congress of Verona at the end of November 1822. By then the soothing and healing presence of Castlereagh was gone. He had committee suicide. The new British foreign secretary Canning presided over a very Castlereagh like British diplomatic stance at the Congress of Verona. Again, he refused to join in any intervention inside France or indeed in the absurd proposal of the holy alliance. • Canning did not want anything to do with it, and when the congress broke up in disarray he was proud of his handiwork. As he said “the issue of intervention has split the one allegedly indivisible alliance. Things are getting back to a wholesome state of affairs again, every nation for itself and God for its own.” • Again this was a rather profound statement. It was an indication that two things had failed at Verona. - Congress system was dead and gone. No longer served for which international cooperation along with concusses could be renewed and revitalized. The powers had broken up - It also showed the limits of the holy Alliance. It might have defeated the naplic revolution but it didn’t even help Spain. That had been done by the French. in 1830 there were a series of revolutions, including one inside France itself causing Metternich in tears. • Thanks to the congress system, thanks in part the holy Alliance, the powers now had the confidence to restore a greater independence to their foreign policy. It was now a concert of Europe. A concert of Europe, Canning thought it would be sufficient to carry through any crisis to come. He was dead right. • The Holy Alliance had configured in one critical fashion, however to paving the way for and insuring the ultimate success of the concert of Europe. And that was in diffusing the so-called Eastern Question. At least for the delicate time for which the system was growing in acquiring strength. • The eastern question was posed by the decline of the Turkish power- the Ottoman Empire. It was still a European power. It dominated the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. But it was clearly no longer what it was. It was facing strains from the rapid
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