Congress of Vienna and Byron

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The Congress of Vienna

The Congress of Vienna was a European conference convened by the Great Powers in Europe where European states met to determine boundaries of the continent after Napoleon I’s defeat. It was held from November 1, 1814 to June 8, 1815. The four Great Powers, who defeated Napoleon I, were Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain. The ‘fifth‘ power was France. The main negotiators were Prince Metternich and his deputy, Baron Johann von Wessenberg from Austria, Karl August Von Hardenberg and his diplomat Wilhelm Von Humbolt, Count Karl Robert Nesselrode and Tsar Alexander I from Russia, and the Duke of Wellington, with his Foreign Secretary Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, from Great Britain. France was represented by Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord. The Congress adopted policies that set European boundaries and negotiated treaties among European states. Some of the policies they made were to adopt a ‘fair policy,’ of no great rewards or great punishments, some that attempted to restore the way life was before the war, and restored monarchies. Countries across Europe, such as Prussia and Great Britain, received territories back, while France gave up all that were conquered by Napoleon. According to several sources, the Congress of Vienna achieved a balanced settlement across Europe which caused no major conflicts for forty years.

Despite good intentions and order that the Congress of Vienna brought, Lord Byron despised it, calling it “that base pageant” (Nicolson 133). Byron and other Englishmen though the conference was full of entertainment and social festivity, rather than real political discussion. It was often criticized for ignoring demands of greater democracy and nationalism, which lead to the majority of conflicts in the nineteenth century (Bloy). One of the people that Byron and other Englishmen disliked was Foreign Secretary Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, who was also an Irish statesman. Despite his several contributions to the Congress and Great Britain, he was often attacked for his peace treaties that were designed in a way which would be rejected by governments across Europe. Castelereagh entered Parliament as a Whig, but in 1795 his support shifted to William Pitt, the Prime Minister, and the Tories. It was Pitt who granted him the title of ‘Lord Castlereagh.’ 1798 was a time of great turmoil in Ireland and Castlereagh played an important role in crushing the Irish uprising (Simkin). Both Castlereagh and Pitt believed that uniting Ireland with the rest of Britain under a single Parliament would solve the religious conflicts ensuing there. He was also denounced because he defended many government policies, which were condemned by the people, and enacted by the House of Commons throughout his time. Byron’s fellow poets Thomas Moore and Percy Shelley both disliked Castlereagh. Byron hatred towards him was political and fueled by Moore. In his poetry, Fudge Family in Paris, Moore wrote: “That ‘twas an Irish head, an Irish heart,

Made thee the fallen and tarnished thing thou art;
That, as the Centaur gave the infected vest
In which he died, to rack his conqueror’s breast,
We sent thee C--------gh.”

In a letter to John Murray, Byron wrote:

“When you write, continue to address to me at Venice. Where do you suppose the books you sent to me are? At Turin! This comes of “the foreign office,” which is foreign enough, God knows, for any good it can be of to me, or anyone else, and be damned to it, to its last Clerk and first Charlatan, Castlereagh” (Prothero 108).

Byron detested Castlereagh because of several condemning government policies, such as the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act (1817) and the Six Acts (1819). In my opinion, because Byron was an advocate of freedom and unconformity and never let anyone control him too much, these two Acts would have ‘sealed the deal’ for his opinion on Castlereagh. The Habeas...
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