The Concert of Europe

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  • 2017-04-09

The Concert of Europe

How effective was the concert of Europe in peace keeping during the period 1815-54

The Concert of Europe was an essential spirit that the powers (mainly Austria, Russia, Britain, France and Prussia) worked together in harmony; therefore, the historians portrayed them as a group of musicians of a concert. The concert of Europe was carried out in order to ensure the Vienna settlement could be lasting after the fall of Napoleon and French Revolution. The effectiveness in peace keeping, which means there are no wars (neither general, nor regional) and revolutions, during the period 1815-54 was very limited, because they failed to fulfil the spirit and maintain the peace.

Legitimacy was one of the principles in the concert. It was a restoration of legitimacy rulers to thrones. It had been thought that peace could be maintained only by the restoration of old order, but the consequences brought by it cannot support this thought. The restoration of the despots only aroused resentment among peoples and sparked revolutions, because the right of the people was exploited. Boubons were restored in France, Spain and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, but Charles X was overthrown by the 1830 July Revolution, Spanish and Naples Revolutions broke out. The German princes were restored to the German states, but their absolute rule sparked revolts in 1830 and were once overthrown. The House of Hapsburgs were restored in the central Italian states and the Pope was restored to the Papal States, but revolts also broke out tried to overthrow them. The restoration of legitimacy rulers brought back the old evils of absolute monarchy; therefore, the revolutions were inevitable so that people could grant a liberal constitution. So, the concert cannot maintain peace since they failed to prevent the revolutions by applying the principle of legitimacy.

In order to maintain peace in Europe, security against France was needed. The statesmen made great efforts to prevent aggression and revolution tide from France spreading to other states. Belgium was joined with the Netherlands to form a buffer against France in the north. Prussia was given 2/5 of Saxony and Rhineland. Switzerland was given 3 cantons. Piedmont was given Nice, Savoy and Genoa so as to safeguard the south. Obviously, the attempt was failed. The tide of 1830 and 1848 Revolutions could still be spread over the European Continent. In the 1830, when the revolutionaries seized control of the government and Louis Philippe was put on the throne, the success of the July Revolution immediately encouraged the rest of Europe to rise up against the Vienna Settlement. Revolts took place in Belgium, Poland, Italian and German states. Similar to the 1848??™s, the revolution in France directly encouraged the revolts in Austria, the Italian and German states. Thus, they failed to adopt an effective measure to prevent revolutions exerting influence from France, so they failed to maintain peace in this way.

In order to preserve the balance of power, the statesmen subordinated their national interests to the principle of balance of power. It is true to say that all the four Great Powers emerged from the congress of Vienna stronger than before without any one of them being able to exert complete dominance. To balance Russia gained in the East and to compensate for the loss of Polish territory to her, Prussia gained the Rhineland and part of Saxony, and Austria gained Lombardy and Venetia. However, Russia gaining the major portion of Poland enabled her to extend her influence westwards and to interfere in the European affairs. This threatened the peace, because it burned the Russian ambition of the Balkans while the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Finally, the Crimean War broke out between Britain, France, Piedmont, Turkey and Russia in 1854, since Austria could no longer restraint the Russia after the fall of Metternich in 1848. The balance of power might prevent any one of the powers from dominating a large area of Europe, but it could not thwart the Russian ambition and prevent that war. In other words, the effectiveness of the balance of power in peace keeping is limited.

The concert stressed that the powers should work together and discus solutions on the table regularly so as to maintain the peace. As we could observe, the statesmen often held different opinions on different issues and the conflicts among their opinions escalated over time. Taking Spanish Revolution in as an example, in 1818,?  Russia suggested intervention to put down the revolt of the Spanish colonies in South America, but Britain and Austria opposed it due to trade??™s interests and afraid of Russia??™s extension of influence. Later since the revolution took place in Spain itself, France sent her troops to suppress it with the support of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, regardless of opposition of Britain. The conflicts between the powers over the non-intervention or suppression policies weakened the solidarity of the concert. After the restoration of King Ferdinand in Spain, the reactionary powers wanted to help Spain to recover her colonies in South America, but this intervention was prevented by Britain and the Monroe Doctrine issued by the US. Such a division of opinions, which can also be found in other issues such as the Greek and Naples Revolutions, restricted the effectiveness of taking common actions to maintain peace in the continent.

There were a lot of nationalist and liberal revolts following by the concert. The suppression of revolutionary idea and the undemocratic nature encouraged undercurrents and finally greater upheavals erupted in 1830 and 1848 Revolutions, although it is unfair to ignore other factors such as the economic development and industrialisation. The Troppau Protocol was a clear declaration of neglecting and suppression of nationalism and liberalism. Under the protocol, the powers were able to intervene in ???states which have undergone a change of government due to revolution???. The intervention was a disturbing rather than a stabilising influence. Since the request of a more liberal constitution could not be respond properly, a more violent way with a larger scale would be practised later. The peace, thus, could not be kept when the revolution would repeat again and again after repeated suppression. As a result, it caused more discontent and ignited more revolutions in 1820s, 1830 and 1848. Therefore, the Troppau Protocol and its attempts were not effective in peace keeping at all

The undemocratic nature, under which the small states became the pawns in the calculations of the treaty makers, stirred up the revolutionary idea. Catholic Belgium was added to Protestant Holland, though they were totally different. The powers just thought of the security against France regardless of the wishes of their inhabitants. This led to the Belgium Revolution of 1830. Poland was placed under the Russia, so this paved the way for the future frictions between the Poles and Russians in 1830 and 1863. Austria, dominant in Italy and Germany, also led to Italian risings and unrest in Germany in the 1820s and 1830. All of these examples showed that, the settlements provoked the revolts and independence movements in these regions. The forty years??™ absence of general war was brought by the willingness of stability among people rather than the concert. Thus, the effectiveness of peace keeping of the concert was limited by its undemocratic nature.

To conclude, the members of the Concert of Europe had different opinions, so a proper solution was not possible to become an action. The range of the members was too narrow and the five powers were too dominant. The principles were all failed to keep peace and prevent revolutions. This concert also sowed the seeds of the future confrontations and revolutions. The division of liberal West and conservative East just became deeper and they would collide in Crimean War. So, the concert of Europe in peace keeping was not effective during 1815-54.

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