The Congress of Vienna came together to re-establish peace in Europe. By creating the concert of Europe they could prevent any further Revolutions on the continent. Conservatives were blaming Liberalistic ideologies for uprisings and reforms were necessary. In the wake of troubles in France the representatives at the Congress redrew the map of Europe and put old rulers back on their thrones. Liberalism implied the absence of Government constraints that could interfere with individuality. It was a philosophy applicable to the middle classes and rapid population growth was producing more middle class citizens. Individual freedom was finding expression in politics and in the arts. Liberal movements were tied to nationalism, which was defined, by language and cultural tradition. Nationalism threatened Europe and its Monarchies and was therefore unacceptable to the Congress of Vienna. The rise of Liberalism was clearly co-existent with the rise of nationalism and calls for independence were loud all over Europe.
The Congress wanted to ensure that France could never again dominate Europe. Even prior to napoleons first defeat Prussia, Austria, Russia and Britain had formed the ‘Quadruple alliance’ to stop France and other states from threatening the Monarchies of Europe. The Treaty of Paris (1814) was signed one year prior to the Congress of Vienna. The victorious powers agreed to restore the Bourbons in France. The allies forced the French to sign a draconian treaty but they were not dealing with the then defeated Napoleon but with the Bourbons themselves whose only desire was to regain the throne and solidify themselves against Liberal challenge.
The goals of the Congress were threefold; to redistribute territory, to achieve balance of power and to make future Revolutions impossible. Russia insisted on European rulers based on ‘holy Religion’ and all but Britain agreed and thus the ‘holy alliance was formed between Russia, Prussia and Austria. The ‘Congress of Vienna’ drew a map of Europe that lasted for many generations. They restored the principal of dynastic legitimacy and the balance of international power in Europe. Most territorial settlements were made without neither consultation nor public opinion considered. The allies emphasised the principle of legitimacy but they never hesitated to dispense with smaller legitimate princes whose claims were not of benefit to the ‘Congress of Vienna’. Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia and France formed the concert of Europe, which was an extended ‘Congress of Vienna’ of Vienna. Their primary objective was to ‘put down’ any movement that threatened the status quo. The Monarchs, diplomats and nobles at the ‘Congress Of Vienna’ of Vienna were guided by Conservative principles of Monarchical legitimacy, with the rights to the thrones of Europe to be determined by hereditary succession, and by close ties to the prerogatives of the established churches.
Monarchs, nobles and clergy returned to power, prestige and influence. The French Revolution had by no means eliminated noble influence in the states of Europe. Indeed, noble style and distinction retained great influence. In much of Europe public buildings and statues affirmed aristocratic values and moral claims that had characterised the old regimes. European nobles retained close ties to the established churches, which still deferred to aristocratic status. During the Revolutionary era churches, especially catholic, had suffered but now Europe witnessed a marked religious revival. In France, the old religious confraternities were revived, families contributed money to rebuild churches and in Britain ‘Anglicans’ rejected divine right Monarchy and opposed all dissenters, especially Catholics.
This ideology drew on several sources. Conservatives believed that states emerged organically and Monarchs were legitimate through birth right. A combination of Religion and Monarchy could maintain order. This alliance of throne and altar dictated the King’s power as divine and therefor untouchable by Man. Most Conservatives saw no difference between reform and Revolution and believed that reform led to Revolution and Revolution led to social change. Conservatives were opposed to political freedom and nationalism. The Industrial Revolution meant change was happening at a rapid rate and this meant a narrowing support.
Liberals shared a confidence that human progress was inevitable, but only gradual. Faith in science was the uncontrollable motor of progress. Liberalism reflected middle class confidence and economic aspirations. In short, Liberalism was about progress, which led to freedom. Liberalism was a middle class condition entrepreneurs and capitalists used to describe their status of exclusion from politics in Europe. They believed that all individuals were equal before the law because all are born good, free and capable of improvement. They believed in ‘Laissez Faire’ (Let it be) economics and Government by Constitution and elected parliaments. They also wanted freedom of the press and education for all. These took ‘enlightenment’ of ‘rights of Man’ to ‘rights of citizens’. Monarchical control over the affairs of the nation was unwelcome and they further wanted extended voting systems for all people to vote. However, by ‘all’ they actually meant the landed gentry and only men should have voting rights.
Laissez Faire was defined as “The Government is best when it governs least.” Liberals sought to restrict Government control especially in the economy. The ‘invisible hand’ of supply and demand would bring about change without Government interference. Adam Smith (1723-1790) author of ‘Wealth of Nations’ argued that the unrestricted functioning of the free economy would ensure the pursuit of private interests. This would create more wealth and a new social hierarchy would emerge. Utilitarianism was an entrepreneurs ideal and one accepted by Liberals. This dictates that ‘laws’ should be judged by their utility and if or not such laws provided ‘the greatest good for the greatest number of people’. In short, does it work?
Romantics defined freedom as the unleashing of the senses and passion of the soul. Romantic writers and artists were literary and academic outsiders. Romantic painters sought to convey feelings through the depiction of the helplessness of the individual confronted by the powers of nature. Romantic artists and musicians believed that music was poetry capable of releasing torrents of emotion. Romanticism emphasised individuality and freedom of expression.
During the first half of the 19th Century almost every country in Europe experienced a confrontation between the old political order, represented by the ‘Congress of Vienna’ of Vienna, and nascent Liberalism. The middle classes clamoured for constitutions and elimination of ‘old corruptions’. Liberalism was closely associated with emerging groups of Nationalists. Intellectuals, professionals, artisans and students called for independence. Demands for new nationalistic states as opposed to Monarchical states would threaten the major European Empires.
The first test for the ‘Congress of Vienna’ came from Spain. King Ferdinand VII returned to power at the behest of the ‘Congress of Vienna’ and refused to recognise the Liberal Constitution. It guaranteed the right of property, freedom of the press and freedom from arbitrary arrest. In 1820 a military revolt broke out in Spain and the army were soon joined by merchants and lawyers. The King soon agreed to abide by the Liberal Constitution of 1812 but the ‘Congress of Vienna’ failed to secure the backing of Britain as an allied force to help quell the Revolution.
Meanwhile, the fires of Revolution also burned in Portugal in the absence of King John VI who had fled to Brazil during the Napoleonic wars. The Portuguese drafted a Liberal Constitution that guaranteed religious toleration, civic rights and sanctity of property. In 1820 an insurrection had also broken out in Italy as army officers and merchants in Naples and Sicily revolted against the rule of King Ferdinand I who had been restored by the ‘Congress of Vienna’. A secret society known as the ‘Carbonari’ directed their contempt for the King placed on the throne, by Austrians, without Italian consent. However, the Austrian army put down the revolt. The ‘Congress of Vienna’ invoked their right under the ‘Holy Alliance’ to intervene but, yet again, Britain distanced itself from the intervention and their withdrawal cleared the way for military action, not only in Italy but also in Spain. In the US President James Monroe issued a proclamation (Monroe Doctrine) warning against European intervention on United States soil.
Liberalists and Nationalists were often one and the same in Italian and German states. Mostly students and academics in these states were considered the most radical citizens and for this reason the Concert of Vienna imposed the Karlsbad Decrees. These muzzled the press and dissolved student fraternities. Metternich convinced Fredrick William to renounce any form of universal representation in his Kingdom. By this act alone, Metternich’s victory over Constitutionalism was clinched.
The congress system was shattered by the Greek revolt against ottoman Turks in 1821. Christian Europeans considered the Turks as savages and infidels. The congress powers condemned the insurrection but the revolt caught the imagination of European scholars and intellectuals who saw it as a ‘modern crusade’ for Christianity. They saw Turkish influence in Greece, the birthplace of Western civilisation, as a form of oppression and thus supported any cause to further Greek independence. Thousands of Turks were massacred but it was the brutal Turkish repression that caught the attention of Western Conservatives and liberals. In 1832 the Greeks gained independence and a young Bavarian prince was made King of Greece (Otto I) and he ruled from 1833 to 1862.
The Decembrist revolt (or uprising) took place in Russia in 1825. The Russian army officers led soldiers in a protest against Nicholas I assumption of throne after his elder brother Constantine removed himself from the line of succession. The uprising was quickly suppressed by Nicholas 1st loyal troops and the ‘traitors’ were executed.
The concert of Europe restored by arms the Monarchy to the heirs of the house of Bourbon who, once gain, possessors of the Kingdom of France. There is little evidence, judging from their behaviour, that the Bourbon regime had learned any lessons during their exile and quickly became increasingly annoying to the Parisian populace and around France in general. The pre-Revolution problems soon returned with the Bourbon Court’s behaviour driving home new hatreds and resurrecting old ones between upper and lower classes. However, this time around it was a constitutional Monarchy so had some limits on its abilities to repress the population at large. Many merchants, Manufacturers and entrepreneurs believed that the restoration Monarchy paid insufficient attention to commerce and industry, listening only to rural nobles. The opposition received major boosts from a new generation of ‘romantic writers’ declaring the righteousness of Liberalism. Victor Hugo wrote, “Romanticism is nothing less than Liberalism in literature.” The vociferous opposition was to go out of control when Charles X decided on a move that was hoped would end the crisis but instead caused Revolution. He dissolved the newly elected ‘Chamber of Deputies’ changed voting entitlements and muzzled the press. This led to fierce public unrest and his soldiers were soon demoralised by public abuse. Public calls for a new King ‘Louis Philippe’ were loud. He was a known Liberal and he became ‘King of the French’ (as opposed to ‘King of France’ which title carried a divine rather than human responsibility) as Charles X abdicated. The new Liberal Monarchy quickly won acceptance from other European powers and continued to rule in relative peace and popularity.
The 1830 French Revolution encouraged pan-European liberality and nationalism. In Belgium, French speaking Catholics in the South and Flemish speaking Catholics in the North were discontented with protestant suppression especially in Brussels. After some street insurgencies a provisional Government declared Belgium’s independence and the state soon became a constitutional Monarchy. All across Europe nationalism quickly emerged as a force for change. It was tied to Liberalism and intellectuals demanded that national boundaries correspond to linguistic frontiers. The ‘November Uprisings (1830-1831) also known as the Polish Russian War or cadet Revolution in Poland was an armed rebellion in the heartland of partitioned Poland against the Russian Empire. Young Polish officers revolted and they were joined by large segments of Polish society. Despite some local successes, the uprising was eventually crushed by a numerically superior imperial Russian army. Further uprisings were also taking place in Italy and Spain. In Italy they began as protests against inefficient and corrupt rule. Several cities that declared themselves independent from the Papal States proclaimed ‘The United Provinces of Italy’. However the Italian insurrections collapsed due to lack of popular support. However, a popular Revolutionist named Giuseppe Mazzini motivated by bringing peace to Europe by liberating all peoples. He was one of the first to suggest that the states of Europe might evolve into a federation of Democratic states based on the principle of nationality (A Federation of European Democratic Republics). In Spain, the arrival through accession of a female Monarch, Isabella, was not acceptable to the nobles and churchmen on the basis that she was a woman. Civil war broke out between liberals and Conservatives.
In the German states, liberals faced an uphill battle. However, the wave of Liberal and nationalist movements had reached central Europe and was starting to take hold in Germany. Students organised rallies and politicians responded by placing universities under surveillance, repression, prohibition of public meetings and threatened attack on any state threatening Germanic peace. However, Liberalism gained momentum with students, intellectuals and professionals forming new societies such as ‘Young Germans’. Liberal economic theory attracted German merchants and Manufacturers who objected to the complexity of tariffs along roads and rivers that prevented economically viable trading. To Liberal nationalists the notion of less expensive imports and exports was appealing.
Demands for political reform including the expansion of the electoral franchise to include more middle class voters would be the true test of the ability of the British to compromise in the interest of social and political reform. Soldiers now Demobilised after Waterloo depended on poor relief. Furthermore, poor harvests in 1818 and 1819 brought riots but the Combination Acts made strikes illegal. Riots in Manchester (Peterloo Riots) were quelled by use of armed forces. By the 1820s crime was increasing and workers continued to suffer as they tried to form unions. ‘Friendly Societies’ began to appear and these offered help and assistance to the unemployed or paid for funerals to avoid the indignity of a pauper’s grave.
There was no Revolution in 19th Century Britain. Instead the Government enacted reforms that defused political and social tensions by bowing to middle class demands. The fear of Revolution led them to compromise. Religion played a part in that the Government financed construction of Anglican churches in Working class areas and new forms of Religion (such as Methodism) won converts and reduced social tensions. In 1828 Parliament repealed the ‘test and Corporation’ Acts which, up until then, forced anyone taking public office to be Anglican. Catholic emancipation had become a major issue, which led to Catholic emancipation act of 1829, and Catholics could now hold office or serve in Parliament. Political Liberalism was still gaining popularity and the French Revolution of 1830 instilled fear in upper class circles that workers were on the rise.
The reform bill of 1832 was an act of Parliament that introduced wide ranging changes to the electoral system of England and Wales. The act was designed to take measures for correcting abuses in selecting members to serve in Parliament. The act granted seats in the House of Commons to large cities that had sprung up during the Industrial Revolution and took away seats from so called ‘rotten boroughs’; those with very small populations. The act also increased the number of individuals entitled to vote. Separate reform acts were passed in the same year for Scotland and Ireland.
The ‘Chartist’ movement were a political and social reform group and was possibly the first mass working class Labour movement. In the UK, Chartists felt ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ while elsewhere in Europe it was the other way around. The founder members prepared the Great Charter, which called for Democracy, male suffrage, annual elections, equal electoral districts, secret ballots and salaries for Parliament members. The movement had little success and quickly disappeared off the European map. The peal of the Corn (Wheat) Law had a very significant impact. Up until then a tariff had been imposed on domestic wheat if ‘non-imported wheat’ were in short supply. This tariff kept imported wheat and domestic wheat at equal price at normal times but if harvests were poor then bread prices ran high. Thus, in 1839, 1840 and 1841 when harvests were poor the resulting high cost of bread created extreme deprivation and starvation. The Government believed only repeal would prevent insurrection and in 1846 Parliament repealed the law.
From 1800 to 1850 Liberals and Nationals challenged Conservatism. Revolutions brought about much change across Europe. Political momentum was with those seeking to break down the bastions of old traditional Europe. The Revolutions created a new fear amongst the old powerful elite that their day of reckoning had come and change was inevitable if they were to maintain power.
Prior to 1815 Europe had already begun to face inevitable change that would see the rise of Liberalism, nationalism and a new Revolutionary continent. The ideas of liberty and equality did not appeal to the old law mongers who believed that the quadruple alliance could stop French aggression and could therefore stop all aggression. In Italy a new concert emerged that was to change European politics forever.
Italy had adopted a system known as ‘balance of power’ and the warring subsided. By creating a system of alliances and agreements that kept the small states in check by the big states and the system seemed to work. The European leaders decided that this was a good idea and further agreed that along with keeping France from misbehaving again it would also ensure that no other European states would step out of line. The on-going Industrial Revolution, by now in full swing, meant peace and wealth and no power wanted to contend with war so all agreed on the new deal.
The alliance of Austria, Prussia and Russia, Great Britain and eventually France decided that the restoration of Monarchs in France (which suited other European Monarchies) was the best way forward. The Quadruple Alliance met again and renamed the alliance as the Congress of Vienna where the future of Europe would be decided. They agreed on meeting every few years as was necessary to monitor progress and these meetings were known as the Concert of Europe.
Europe was shared out between the superpowers and all agreed that, after Napoleon and his notorious wars and reign that it was best to take steps to ensure that other states would not ‘bully’ other countries and that the superpowers would unite against any such action if it were to threaten Europe’s peace and prosperity in any way. The key point here is that the lands of Europe were ‘reallocated’ and protected by the bigger states.
The congress were criticised as attempting to repress the new sense of Liberalism that was creeping across Europe and because Metternich was an arch Conservative it was possible that these allegations were not without foundation. Historians agree that Metternich fathered the concept of the United Nations.
Meanwhile the intellectuals of Europe were intrigued by ideas of Liberalism, nationalism, a sense of belonging or duty to a nation and are fostered by a sense of common culture, language, history, Religion, customs and values. Nationalists were also liberalists expounding ideas of liberty, equality and freedom. Ideas they adapted from the ‘enlightenment’. Liberals wanted little Government intervention in the lives of the people and those who were opposed to Liberalism were Conservatives.
Liberals wanted change while Conservatives wanted a status quo. Conservatives were the real power mongers of the period and Liberalism was the ‘kiss of death’ to Conservative rule. One of the main concerns was that liberals and nationalists were perceived as Revolutionists and Revolutions had already exercised extreme brutality to achieve their ends in other countries, including France, where they even beheaded Monarchs. Metternich openly blamed nationalists and liberalists for Revolutionary ideas and so suppression of such ideals was also a life preserving motive and justification for suppression.
By introducing the Karlsbad Decrees gave Revolutionists no safe place to hide and tried to suppress Revolutionary philosophies and preserved Conservatism 9as it was then) for a little longer. However, a wave of Revolutions in 1848 across Europe meant that the age of Metternich was coming to an end. The Industrial Revolution was spreading from Britain across Europe and it was an inevitable follow on to the agricultural and Demographic Revolutions. More population because of less war meant more need for food and clothing, which was to herald in the age of Industrial Revolution. Necessity was the mother of invention and as the need arose so did the inventor or invention.
Although the Industrial Revolution began in small country homes, in a short period of time it had been placed in the hearts of the big cities that sprawled around big factories expanding to rise to the demands of the growing population. In the midst of all this European wide industrialisation, politics and progress a rapidly expanding community of enlightened thinkers was growing and developing romantic notions as to how the world should be. Romanticism was a Manifestation of enlightenment combined with Liberalism and nationalism. Ideas of radicalism were severely depressed but found their way into opera, literature, art, poetry and music. This nonconformist school of thinking emphasised individuality, emotions, passions and beauty, the expressions of the human spirit being free from suppression, repression and aggression.
This was an age of change. A Revolutionary period that had another kind of Revolution, invisible to the human eye, taking places in the minds, hearts, souls and spirits of the people of the 19th Century. This was the age of suppressed Liberalism and nationalism that was like a menacing volcano that would eventually erupt. Liberalism and all of its Manifestations from the workplace to the theatre, poetry, music and art was about to explode in the faces of the Conservatives and that explosion would not happen until 1848. This was the so called ‘final leap’ to human freedom. However, before we explore this significant year it is necessary to look at what was happening on the streets of Europe in the run up to that explosive year.
A History Of Modern Europe.