The Congress of Vienna 1814

Congress of Vienna

On September 18, 1814, the Congress of Vienna began with ambassadors of many European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich with the objective to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. Its result was a redrawing of Europe’s political map and its effects still last until today.

The winning kings and their ministers met in London before the congress started in fall 1814. First, the congress’ political outcome was very little due to the amount of entertainment the statesmen were encountered with. But then, several commissions were established to deal with the various issues, starting with groups for German, for French and for European problems. Meetings were not always as delightful as the many dances and dinners the Austrian hosts invited their guests to. During the congress, several conflicts evolved or deepened before solutions could be found. Still, the European powers had the same idea of establishing a political balance on the continent to prevent further wars.

Realizing these ideas however meant collisions of different political goals of single countries. Klemens Wenzel von Metternich preferred a central European power led by Austria while Russia aimed to receive a great part of Poland’s territorial. Britain in contrast tried to decrease Russia’s power in Europe and the French aimed to prevent a Prussian union to improve its own power. With all these individual goals and only little room for compromises, Europe feared that no solution could be found. One of the major conflicts between Austria, Prussia and Russia was the territories of Poland and were only able to be solved during the beginning of 1815.

The congress resulted in several territorial rearrangements. Austria’s overall growth was only little while Prussia gained the northern part of Saxony but lost parts from Poland. Switzerland received Basel and several areas around Geneva, but had to give up its hopes on Veltlin, Chiavenna and Bormio. France’s biggest success during the meetings was probably its overall acceptance as a major power of Europe. Denmark had to give its Norwegian territory to Sweden due to their previous support of Napoleon’s troops. Zar Alexander received major parts from Poland. The German Confederation was created with Austria as its leading power and it was manifested in a constitution in June, 1815. The overall results of the congress were combined and signed in the ‘Final Act’ on June 9, 1815.

In general, the statesmen were admired by later historians for being able to find solutions for serious problems in order to prevent another major war, which they successfully did for another 100 years. But still, revolutions in later years were not foreseen and many criticize the procedure of the negotiations, leaving many aspects like the people of their nations. Also, only four leading powers were able to make the major decisions, wherefore smaller countries had no further chance to really speak up and demonstrate their ideas.  

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video on the Congress of Vienna, illustrated by History Students.

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