The Congress System

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The Congress System – An Admirable And Enlightened Example Of International Co-operation ? Essay, Research Paper After the Congress of Vienna it became apparent that there was a new hierarchy of power in Europe. The hegemony of France was destroyed and she had been replaced by Great Britain and Russia as the dominant force behind European affairs. Both these nations were peripheral powers with interests and possessions beyond Europe, but aside from this, the two had alarmingly little in common. They had been united in their common antipathy to Napoleon, but now with France at last defeated, they were beginning to drift apart mainly as a result of their rival pretensions to the leadership of the new Europe. The first signs of a rift between these new dominant forces in

Europe was at the Vienna Conference, when decisions were being made as to how best to keep peace in Europe. It was widely accepted by the great powers that the best way of fulfilling this objective was to maintain the four-power alliance already in existence and in so doing keep France in check. In 1815 each of the four allies recognised France as the principal source of danger to both peace and order, as not only was she the home of the revolution but also the power least satisfied with the new territorial arrangements. So, the continuation of the alliance against France seemed the obvious answer to preventing further bloodshed in Europe. However, the maintenance of the alliance raised two important questions: first the form it was to take; and second, in the aftermath of the

disagreements between the allies at Vienna, which power, Great Britain or Russia, would dominate it. The separation of these two questions never occurred and the Anglo-Russian power struggle virtually dominated all other issues in the next decade. In November 1815, the British and Russians each made their own proposals for the continuation of the alliance. A practical basis for co-operation was the aim of Catlereagh’s Quadruple Alliance, with its provision under Article VI for periodic meetings of the powers. His intention was that within this arrangement England and Austria would have a special and dominant relationship, enabling them to control Russia as well as to contain the French. As far as revolutions were concerned, Castlereagh thought it best that the powers should

consider each problem as it arose. Alexander’s alternative alliance certainly believed in keeping Monarchs in their rightful places and was therefore on the whole against any form of revolution. Apart from this monarchical solidarity against revolution, the alliance was extremely vague and this was in part due to the fact that Alexander, unlike Castlereagh, had evolved no clear strategy with which to pursue Russian aims in the post-war world. When it became clear to him that the Holy Alliance was an ineffective counterpoise to the Quadruple Alliance he all but abandoned it and concentrated his efforts at undermining British influence through the alliance which Castlereagh had created. The only possible basis for continued co-operation between Great Britain and Russia: a

determination to keep France in check. However, it was Britain herself who found herself becoming increasingly alienated after Vienna and this was something which she did not mind all that much. Great Britain owed her strength to her fast developing economy, her extensive overseas trade and her unrivalled naval power. The fact that in 1815 Castlereagh had jealously guarded Britain’s undisputed mastery of the seas and oceans, while simultaneously seeking to contain the power of France and limit the expansion of Russia had given the French and Russians a community of interest. Both these nations resented what they regarded as Britain’s double standards, maintaining her own naval hegemony while attempting to restrain the military power of her rivals. Indeed, Great Britain and