The Congress of Vienna The First Treaty of Paris (May 1814)

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The Congress of Vienna
The First Treaty of Paris (May 1814)
Under the terms of the first Treaty of Paris, France lost all of its conquests of the revolutionary and Napoleonic periods but was permitted to retain its frontiers of 1792. France regained almost all of its colonies and was not required to pay an indemnity.

The Congress of Vienna

The Congress of Vienna began its deliberations in September 1814, and its sessions continued until June 1815.

Although a number of small states were represented, the four great powers that had joined to defeat France--Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia--expected to make the major decisions. In their deliberations, the representatives of the great powers were influenced by several considerations.

  1. The allied statesmen did not so much want to punish France as to insure that the French could not again embark on wars of aggression.

2. In addition, the statesmen sought to restore a balance of power, so that no one country could attempt to dominate Europe. France had a proper place in that balance; therefore, France should not be weakened excessively.

3. The principle of compensation was related to the balance of power. If one major state made gains, then the other major states should be compensated.
4. The principle of legitimacy involved the desire of the great powers to restore rulers and frontiers as they had existed prior to the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, insofar as that was possible and desirable.
5. Finally, the victorious allies expected to be rewarded for their efforts in defeating Napoleon and penalized countries that had cooperated with Napoleon.
The Major Statesmen at Vienna
Prince Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859), who served as Austria's foreign minister from 1809 to 1848, represented the interests of Emperor Francis I (r. 1806-1835) and acted as host for the Congress of Vienna. In recognition of his influence on the decisions of the congress and his active role in European affairs after 1815, the 1815 to 1848 period is called the Age of Metternich.
Metternich was firmly committed to the principles of conservatism. He regarded the new ideas of liberalism and nationalism as a threat to the survival of the Austrian Empire. He especially feared the spread of nationalism among the empire's subject nationalities. Metternich hoped the major powers would cooperate to maintain the conservative order, and he advocated intervention in any country where that order was threatened by the forces of change.
Viscount Castlereagh (1769-1822), the British foreign secretary from 1812 to 1822, generally shared Metternich's conservative views and strongly supported efforts to restore the balance of power. He also wanted to make sure that Britain maintained her domination of the seas.
Tsar Alexander I of Russia (r. 1801-1825) was in general agreement with his colleagues, although he also pushed for substantial territorial acquisitions, especially in Poland.
Prince Karl von Hardenberg (1750-1822) represented his king, Frederick William III (r. 1797-1840) of Prussia. He shared his colleagues' belief that the great powers should collaborate to maintain European peace and stability.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (1754-1838), King Louis XVIII's foreign minister, found himself in the difficult position of representing the interests of his defeated country.

The Principle of Legitimacy

As a servant of the Bourbon king of France, Talleyrand was an ardent advocate of the principle of legitimacy. Not only was the legitimate Bourbon ruler restored to the French throne, but Talleyrand's influence led to the decision to restore Bourbons to the thrones of Spain and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, as well. In addition, the Congress of Vienna restored legitimate princely rulers in several other Italian states, including Sardinia-Piedmont, Tuscany, Moderna, and the Papal States.

In Germany, however, the principle of legitimacy was ignored. The statesmen at Vienna had little desire to recreate the old Holy Roman Empire or to restore the more than 300 states it had comprised. Instead, the Congress of Vienna created 39 German states, loosely joined in a new German Confederation.

The Conflict over Poland and Saxony

Tsar Alexander I pressed his demand that Russia receive all of Poland. Prussia agreed to cede its Polish territory to the Russians on condition that it receives the German kingdom of Saxony as compensation. Austria and Great Britain objected. Austria did not want to sur­render its Polish territory and opposed both a further extension of Russian power into Europe and an increase of the power of Prussia, a potential rival of Austria's in German affairs. Like the Austrians, the British opposed an increase of Russian power, believing that an Eastern Europe dominated by Russia was as much a threat to the balance of power as was a Western Europe dominated by France.

The division among the victors gave Talleyrand the opportunity he sought to become an equal in the negotiations. He supported Austria and Great Britain, placing Metternich and Castlereagh in his debt.
Faced with British, Austrian, and French opposition, Russia and Prussia backed down, agreeing to accept less than they had initially demanded. Alexander I got a Russian-controlled kingdom of Poland, although it was smaller than he had wished, while Prussia acquired about two-fifths of Saxony.

The Territorial Settlement

Napoleon's return to power during the Hundred Days temporarily interrupted the deliberations of the Congress of Vienna, but the Treaty of Vienna was signed on June 9, 1815, nine days before Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo.

In addition to acquiring more Polish territory, Russia retained Finland, which it had taken from Sweden in 1809. As compensation, Sweden retained Norway, which it had seized from Denmark, Napoleon's ally.

In addition to acquiring two-fifths of Saxony, which had supported Napoleon, Prussia gained Swedish Pomerania and territory in the Rhineland in western Germany. Possession of the Rhineland brought Prussian power to the border of France to serve as a check on possible future French aggression.
The Netherlands
The Netherlands acquired the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium). The enlarged Kingdom of the Netherlands, bordering on France, would also serve as a check against future French aggression. For the same reason, the northern Italian state of Sardinia-Piedmont was strengthened by the acquisition of the republic of Genoa.


In compensation for its loss of Belgium, Austria acquired the northern Italian provinces of Lombardy and Venetia, which strengthened Austrian control over Italian affairs. Relatives of the Austrian emperor ruled the states of Parma, Moderna, and Tuscany, while an Austrian archduchess was married to the Bourbon king of the Two Sicilies.

In addition to dominating Italy, Austria, the largest of the German states, dominated the German Confederation. Metternich was thus able to impose his repressive policies on the German states, just as he did in Italy.

Great Britain

The British, whose, interests lay primarily outside of Europe, ac­quired a number of valuable colonial possessions. From the Dutch, they gained the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa and the large island of Ceylon off the southeastern coast of India. In the West Indies, the British acquired several former French colonies, including Trinidad and Tobago. They also gained several other strategically located islands, including Helgoland in the North Sea and Malta in the Mediter­ranean.

The Second Treaty of Paris (November 1815)
Following Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, the allies imposed the second Treaty of Paris on France. Its terms were more severe than those of the first Treaty of Paris, but because of Talleyrand's influence, they were less harsh than they might have been. France was reduced to the borders of 1790. The French were required to pay an indemnity of 700 million francs to the allies and to accept allied military occupation of seventeen French forts for five years.

The Holy Alliance and the Quadruple Alliance

In September 1815, the rulers of Russia, Prussia and Austria signed the Holy Alliance, proposed by Tsar Alexander I. The three rulers pledged to observe Christian principles in both domestic and international affairs. While most of Europe's rulers ultimately signed the Holy Alliance, in practice it had little significance.

The Quadruple Alliance, signed by Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia in November 1815, was of greater importance. The four powers agreed to maintain the alliance that had defeated Napoleon and to meet periodically to discuss issues of mutual concern. This laid the basis for the Concert of Europe, the effort of the great powers to resolve international issues by consultation and agreement.
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