The Congress System — страница 2

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the continental powers had different priorities in the decades following Vienna and there was a general distrust amongst the nations of Europe of British commercial policy, which was regarded as aggressive and the British government was suspected of a willingness to sacrifice political principles for commercial gain. Certainly Britain was not as keen as the other European states to maintain the existing political and social structures, but only that peace and order were maintained as a necessary condition for economic and commercial expansion. Britain’s unwillingness to support the invasion of Spain and Naples in order to restore the previous rulers confirms the above point. During the years after Aix la Chapelle, Great Britain gradually receded from the affairs of the

‘Concert of Europe’, until only observers were sent to conferences and by the time Canning took over as Foreign Minister, he had no hesitation in winding up Britain’s role in European affairs. He felt it was necessary to do this as not only were there vital issues, like the intervention in Spain, that Britain was not willing to agree to, but also there was a desire to be without alliances and commitments which would certainly involve the country in war again if another European conflict developed. Therefore Britain returned to her s tandard post-war policy, in those days, of isolation. Of the other European great powers, Russia was the most powerful as already mentioned, and although Austria and Prussia both recovered their positions as the leading Central European powers,

they were never going to hold as much sway as Russia or Britain, so for this reason, they spent most of the time after Vienna attempting to ally themselves to the countries who would offer them protection from invasion. Austria feared an attack from Russia and therefore initially allied herself with Britain, the only country capable of fighting Russia on equal terms, and then on the withdrawal of Britain from Europe, she sought to remain on friendly terms with Russia. Prussia on the other hand feared an attack from the west, coming from France, and as a strong sense of dynastic links inclined the Prussians towards Russia and an equally strong feeling of German solidarity drew them towards Austria, the Prussians were always energetic advocates of an Austro-Russian understanding

directed against France. France’s basic aim in foreign policy was to find a revisionist ally, as only by doing this could she hope to undo the 1815 settlement and to rid themselves of the coalition against them and the consequent isolation. While the coalition against her existed, France was forced to play the same role as Austria and Prussia; she had to attach herself to either Russia or Great Britain. However, unlike the two German states, France sought an alignment not for security but to break out of isolation and to begin to destroy the Vienna settlement. The ultimate aim of French foreign policy was to regain the leadership of Europe which she had lost to Britain and Russia in 1815. With Britain and Russia locked in a bitter struggle for power, France plotting to regain

her position as leader of Europe and Austria and Prussia frantically allying themselves to whichever country best suited their needs, the atmosphere in Europe after Vienna could hardly be described as amiable. The Congress System could never be described as ‘admirable’ or ‘enlightened’ when there were so many problems facing post-war Europe: the Anglo-Russian struggle for the leadership of the alliance was the dominant issue from the beginning, and linked with this problem was the question over the nature and purpose of the alliance. Should it be permanently restricted to the four victorious allies, or should it be extended to include France? Was the alliance intended to be no more than the framework within which the allies consulted each other on common problems, or

should the allies use the alliance as the means to establish principles for common action and as the ultimate sanction for action itself? The fact that the revolutionary spirit was still alive and well in Europe made the issue over the alliance all the more important, and can itself be classified as another problem. By the 1820’s, a fourth major problem had arisen: revolution within the Ottoman Empire, which raised the wider issues of what action the great powers should take and brought Anglo-Russian disagreements to the fore. Also, there was the attempt by France to recover from the disasters of defeat and occupation and to exploit all the tensions between the four allies to promote in order to do so. It was the interaction of these five problems which resulted in the collaspe