The Congress of Vienna

The upset in Belgium at the Battle of Waterloo dealt a significant blow to Napoleon Bonaparte. After his defeat, leaders and diplomats from all over Europe had to decide what their next moves would be. They therefore converged and met in Austria, where they formed the Congress of Vienna from 1814 to 1815. As with any successful Congress, there was a list of goals they hoped to accomplish in the wake of Napoleon’s abdication, or his stepping down from the throne.

The major countries represented in the Congress were Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, the same nations that had prepared themselves against a war with Napoleon’s forces while he was conquering areas of Europe. One goal they had was to contain France after the Napoleonic Wars so as to restore order and balance. France’s borders were thus restored to their size from 1792, before Napoleon gained power. Any territories that were taken by Napoleon between 1795 and 1810 were swiftly returned.

The representatives also wanted not only a balance of land control, but a balance of power among the European nations, as well. Germany was strengthened by combining more than 200 states into a 39-state confederation. The German Confederation, however, was not a strong body and would eventually dissolve within years.

It was also widely believed that the more legitimate rulers of Europe should be the ones in power. Traditional monarchs in France, Austria, England, and Russia were allowed to maintain their power within their countries. This move was known as the Conservative Order, and was done to contain any potential outbreaks of revolt and revolution. The members who attended the Congress of Vienna weren’t too keen on revolts, and it was their opinion that if the older monarchies were restored, then they had a better chance of discouraging uprisings.

After the bloodshed of the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars, those who were present at the Congress made it clear that an important goal was the preservation of peace and stability throughout Europe. Larger, more powerful nations were tasked with overseeing this goal, and throughout the Congress, territories and positions were among the countries in attendance. Russia, for instance, gained control over Poland and was allowed to keep Finland, while various individuals were restored to their high-ranking positions. For nearly 40 years, the peace and diplomacy achieved at this Congress would last in Europe.