Monday, October 27, 2014

Reversing Napoleon's Changes

Congress of Vienna Overview

The essential question for the Congress of Vienna was what should people in power do when their power is threatened? Our first activity, the activator for the lesson, was to read a background essay on the Congress of Vienna. We had to analyze this essay by finding the general mood and nature of the Congress of Vienna, as well as finding the attendees from each country and the questions addressed by the Congress. First off, the general mood of the essay was pretty clear. The people in the Congress are wealthy, they grew up wealthy, and always got what they wanted. There were representatives from Austria, France, Prussia, Great Britain, and Russia. The representative from Austria was Prince Metternich, he was elegant, sophisticated, vain, and "excelled in the arts of seduction". From Prussia was King Frederick William III, and he brought one of the most educated and largest delegations to the meeting. Next, Viscount Castlereagh for Great Britain. He was an aloof and eccentric person, who had previously caused a scandal in London when, as a member of Parliament, he had hoped to end malicious political intrigues by challenging a rival cabinet minister to a duel. Representing Russia was Tsar Alexander. He was tall and blonde, and was a man of sudden impulse and excess. His sexual appetites were also insatiable. (We didn't need to know that). The end of the article wraps up by telling us that by the end of the historic gathering, the delegates accomplished what they had hoped to do – the treaty was signed on June 9, 1815.

A photo representation of the Congress of Vienna meeting.

Timeline of Congress of Vienna Events: 

September 1, 1814: Congress of Vienna covered
March of 1815: Napoleon returns to France and reaches Paris
June 8, 1815: Final act of the Congress of Vienna signed
June 18, 1815: Battle of Waterloo -- Napoleon's final defeat

Map of Napoleon's Empire in Europe while ruling

Balance of Power

With Napoleon defeated, Metternich had to adjust the map of Europe, and had to come up with a solution that all the representatives from the Congress of Vienna could agree on. His final decision involved a Balance of Power. The decision was to bring French territory back to its boundaries as existed PRIOR to expansion. Basically, it reversed the change of Napoleon's conquests and created a Balance of Power between Russia, Austria, Prussia, Britain, and France. The land redistribution ensured a balance of power for the allies in the face of any later attempts at French expansion. Ultimately, Napoleon was viewed as the enemy rather than France as a whole, so they were part of the list of countries in the balance of power. Stolen artwork was to be returned and France did have to pay reparations to the Allies. Overall, the peace settlement was not terribly vindictive, and I believe Metternich & the Congress of Vienna made a good decision by balancing out power among countries, to get things to how they were before Napoleon. 

The map of Europe AFTER the Balance of Power, and reversing Napoleon's changes.

Did They Make the Right Decision?

I do in fact think the Congress of Vienna made the right decision in using a Balance of Power among Russia, Austria, Prussia, Britain and France. I also agree with not viewing France as the enemy rather than Napoleon. Napoleon took over all these countries during his conquests and should be blamed if they are looking for someone to blame. I do think the powerful should be willing to sacrifice some of their power under certain circumstances. The Balance of Power was a good idea because it wasn't just one ruler ruling over all the countries. It was a way of using power with Allies. The powerful should always be looking out for their people, and should be up for some sacrifices every now and then. 

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