Congress of Vienna: Principal of Legitimacy and Compensation

Napoleon passed away from the world’s stage. The old order again came into the scene and wanted to establish their hegemony once again over the world. The old monarchs and leaders from different European countries came on one stage and organised a “Panchayat”. This Panchayat was Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815.

Objective of Vienna Congress

Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815 was mainly concerned with the monarchs and provided them quite a security. The French Revolution had given them the fear of their lives. After Napoleon, these old leaders wanted to presume the power in their hands. Their motive was to maintain the balance of power in Europe. European powers collectively defeated Napoleon, so now they wanted to distribute the achievement among themselves.

The Tsar of Russia, Castlereagh of Britain, Metternich of Austria and Prussia were the principal powers. These leaders redrew the map of Europe as per their wish. It did not matter what the people wanted, nor did it matter what the natural and linguistic boundaries of a country were. The monarchs at the Congress of Vienna did not like republics. So they took important decisions at Vienna Congress.

Principal of Legitimacy

Monarchy was the representative of old order. Napoleon via his 40 wars in Europe destroyed the most of the states of Europe. Monarchy was thus weakened in the Europe at that time.

under the Principal of Legitimacy, the states returned back to their old masters. Like:

  • Louis XVIII, the Bourbon was thrust back in France.
  • The old Dutch Republic in Holland and Belgium lumped in one kingdom of the Netherlands (Orange Dynasty).
  • Poland disappeared again as a separate country and swallowed up by Prussia, Austria and chiefly Russia.
  • Venice and North Italy went to Austria.
  • A bit of Italy and a bit of France, between Switzerland and the Riviera, became the part of the kingdom of Sardinia.
  • The Pope became the authority of Papal states again.

Principal of Compensation

Under it, defeated powers bore the compensation of war. The real motive was to distribute the achievements among victorious states. The main beneficiaries were:

  • Apart from Poland, Russia got control on Finland.
  • Venice was in the hand of Austria and now addition was Lombardy plains. Austria became the leader of German states.
  • The Italian and German states whose rulers were not known were given to Prussia. This increased their status and played important role in unification of Germany and Italy.
Congress of Vienna: Principal of Compensation
Congress of Vienna: Principal of Compensation

Formation of Alliance

Congress of Vienna decided to form the alliance among European Nations so that they can collectively deal with any kind of revolutionary activity. Important alliances were:

  • Holy Alliance, proposed by Tsar Alexander-I. The intention of Tsar was unity of all Christian rulers to protect their state and religion. Austria and Britain did not take it seriously. So the next development was
  • Quadruple Alliance, which included Prussia, Austria, Britain and Russia.
  • Later on, when France paid off its compensation, it was given the place in the group and then it was called as Concert of Europe.

Suppression of Nationalism in Europe

Nationalist activities became the target of Congress of Vienna. Nationalism was acting as the unifying force for the people. Example:

  • Suppression of Naples in 1820, for the unification of Italy.

The other political changes took place in the Europe in 1830. France fed up by the Bourbon kings and once again overthrown them out. But instead of a republic, another king Louis Philip, who behaved in little better manner came to the throne. He became the constitutional king.

In Belgium also there was a revolt in 1830. This resulted in the separation of Belgium and Netherlands. European powers strongly disapproved of a republic. So they presented a German prince to Belgium and made him king there.

The year 1830 was a year of revolts in many other places in Europe also. In Germany, Italy and especially in Poland. But these revolts were crushed by the kings. There was a great deal of cruel repression in Poland by the Russians. Even the use of Polish language was forbidden.

Long-Term Legacy

The Congress of Vienna left a legacy that would influence world politics for the next 100 years. But with the passage of time interest of Nations started changing. This led to the change in the relation between European countries. Nationalism began to grow in Italy, Germany, Greece, and other areas that the congress had put under foreign control. Eventually, the nationalistic feelings exploded into revolutions. The year 1848 is called the year of revolutions in Europe. This gave momentum to the new order in Europe after the 1850s. In which important developments were the unification of Italy and unification of Germany.

We will discuss year of Revolutions of the 1830s and 1848 in next coming post.

Thank you so much. 🙂 Stay connected. 🙂

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