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Why have historians disagreed abort the success of Vienna Settlement?

The Vienna Settlement was consisted of three parts – two Treaties of Paris and the Congress of Vienna, created between five countries, dubbed ‘Great Powers’. Its principal purpose was to establish a balance of power in Europe, set the fate of France and provide for future security.
After Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba, in May 1814, the First Treaty of Paris was drawn up to prevent French expansion, what was supposed to be confirmed and ratified next year in Vienna, at the Congress. As it is said, they gathered in Austria and apart from confirming the settlements, they set some new aims, like rewarding the victors and punishing vanquished, created new borders, so that Europe could be safe.
The same year, was the ensuing interruption of Napoleon. Because France supported his campaign ‘100 days’, the ‘Great Powers’ had to rethink the First Treaty. They gathered again in Paris in November 1815. The monarchs ratified the issues concerning France, and set out new settlements.
During this time, a very significant event took place in September 1815, when Tsar Alexander I, affected by the Christian mysticism wanted to unite his fellows in a Holy Alliance, which united everyone, except for Great Britain, who was advocated by the Turkish Sultan and the Pope.
Each of the decisions made in 1814- 1815 had its good and bad points, thanks to what, it caused a great argument between the opinions of historians. Underneath, I will try to analyze the decisions made ‘for’ and ‘against’ the common good.

Despite the general thought, some of the historians regard the first half of 19th century as a period of ‘relative stability’, and they use this argument as the result of the Vienna Settlement. For instance Harold Nicholson in ‘The Congress of Vienna’, as well as Charles Mowat in ‘Britain between the wars’ claims, that the peacemaking was a great idea, by comparing Vienna to Versailles in 1918. Indeed, the two main aims of the settlement, that is the establishment of a balance of power and the reinstatement of stillness, were achieved, though temporarily. Americans E. Gulick and Henry Kissinger also emphasise the truth of the stability, brought by the 1814-15. The first one says “The Settlement was remarkably consistent with the ideal of re-establishing in Europe a balanced state system”.
In fact, a really important decision was placing a ‘Cordon Sanitaire’, the border of the buffer states around France. Thanks to that the country could not widen, neither was punished too much .
The next ‘for’ argument is, that the Settlement rewarded the victors, firstly ensuring that there is no single nation under the control of some power or was aggrieved. Furthermore the Settlement held back the Prussian gluttony for the North, as well as Russian planned arrangements in the east. British and Americans highly praised the diplomats for the fundamentals, that could be kept during these times. Sir Charles Webster says that “the statesmen of Vienna undoubtedly secured the peace in a far greater degree than the publicists of the time dared to hope”.
The believers of the Settlement also call attention to the principle of legitimacy, that was to restore the rightful rulers to their thrones, and, besides, was far from commonly concerned. In addition, some Liberal plans appeared in the settlement – the restored French monarchy had a charter, that made this country more liberal than any other of Continental Europe, that was as major as France.
The other example was the fact, that Russia gave Poland a constitution, and also Netherlands had one, when the German Confederation intended the states to fund their own constitutions to their subjects. Even Norway, which had not been independent since over 400 years, retained its individual parliament, army, government and navy.
The nationalism, weak force and almost under acceptance, was partially recognized, when reduction of German states and reconstruction of Poland. We also ought to remember that the representatives at Vienna ended the French domination in Europe. The justification for the diplomats was the fact, that liberalism or nationalism were hardly widespread in 1815. Republicanism had led to the longest period of war of all, so some of the historians think, it was obvious and natural for the statesmen to try to rebuild the political situation of the mid-18th century, which could assure the relative calm.
What is worth to mention is that the ‘Great Powers’ remembered about those lesser ones. They gave to the Belgians the commercial equality and the guarantees of religious toleration, besides, the promises of the national rights were addressed to Poles and Norwegians. What’s more they told the larger states to protect in any danger the smaller ones.
It is argued, that if the nationalist ideas had been regarded, it would have made an aggressive expansion, which happened later. E.V. Gulick sum up the advantages: “It performed a series of skilled operations, and made solid contributions in ending the Napoleonic tyranny, granting Europe a breathing spell and giving France sound frontiers. They also made a noteworthy advance in the creation of a system of diplomacy by conference.”
Whatever we could tell about all opinions, the last sentence is surely truth.

Nevertheless most of the historic experts definitely emphasize the failure of the Vienna Settlement. It is alleged that no notice was taken on liberal and national aspects, and the diplomats was deaf on the calling of Near East. They were too backward – looking and out of touch with the changes of French Revolution. Historians used to say “Public opinion was disregarded. National feeling was despised and the expression of it harshly repulsed. Whole countries were transferred from one prince to another, without any consideration of their wishes or habits.”
The great majority consider the Vienna Settlement as a direct reason for provoking revolutions in France in 1830 and 1848 and blame it for unduly punished Louis XVIII, member of a Bourbon family, who was supposed to be responsible for the Napoleon’s crimes. Antonin Debidour from France wrote, that ‘the allies consulted their own convenience and interest and took no account of the aspiration of the people.’
Norman Davies in ‘Europe – A History’ had many objections concerning the Settlement. “ The spirit of the settlement was more than conservative: it actually put the clock back. It was designed to prevent change in a world, where the forces of change had only been contained by a whisker. The victors were terrified of the least concession.” Even Duke of Wellington in Waterloo agreed with that, when he said, it is something beautiful, and he never saw in his life something hanging on such a thin string. In the matter of fact, Sweden absorbed Norway, Holland took Belgium, Russia Poland, Nice and Savoy came to Piedmont, the Rhineland to Prussia, Lombardy Venetia to Austria and some colonies were absorbed by Britain, without asking them any questions. Davies adds, that the border between the change and the lack of it was so thin, that the victors were terribly afraid of the smallest concessions. They were not ready to take any risk. They made a decision to returned the monarchy laws – defined by him as this sacred institution, that had its enemy in revolution. In mentioned situation, the attention was not paid to the questions concerning democracy and the nationalities. In result, they gave the unsatisfied indemnity of the defeated cost. Davies thinks, that the danger for the stability were ‘Great Powers’ themselves. The first problem was the growing competition between France and Germany, second the ‘east question’.
The Vienna Settlement is also considered to be a wasted opportunity. The only trials to reform Europe were the principal agreements on the abolition of slavery and the navigation of rivers. Duke of Wellington said in 1830, they were too frightened of the revolution.
Moreover, the powers did not take care about the affair of each other, not those internal, but main, and concerning all of them. For instance Austria was left with the commitments that could not be fulfilled because of its financial and military resources. Britain, instead, was more and more independent, and not too willing to co – operate with the rest, unless its interest was at stake.

All in all, personally, I am not convinced in the justice of the Vienna Settlement. The arguments ‘for’ are boring, weak and sometimes ridiculous, and they are repeated by the historians all the time in new words. Single fact of making the settlement and even a few good and useful future plans do not show, in my opinion, that it is successful, because the thing, which mostly matters is a result. Some of historians appreciate a simple existence of the settlement, which influenced significantly the future, and some of them pay attention on their interests – and that is why they disagreed about the success of Vienna Settlement. An irrefutable proof of caring about their own business is ‘Holy Alliance’, which was signed in spite of the fact, the they were of different religions. Of course, the reason of that is very easy – to maintain the absolute rules of monarchy.
The answer on the question in the title hides, therefore, in the truth of the dirty intensions of the ‘Great Powers’.

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