The delegates at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) were motivated to a surprisingly large degree by the desire to benefit Europe as a whole, and this is reflected in their purpose in calling the Congress together and the settlement they reached. National interest was modified for the sake of the general interest of Europe.
The Congress of Vienna was held in order to draw up a plan to alter Europe politically and territorially so as to prevent the extensive expansion of any one great power, such as that Napoleon had brought about. Creating a balance of power among the powerful nations of Europe, reinstating conservative regimes, containing France, and reaching an agreement to cooperate with each other were the goals of the Congress, which illustrated the altruistic attitude of the national representatives present and supported the overall purpose of preventing future widespread conflict.
Although the separate ambitions of the victors at the Congress to gain territory were mostly fueled by naked self- interest, they were forced to compromise in order to establish a balance of power. Alexander I of Russia felt the nation was owed all of Poland while Prussia had designs on Saxony. In the final settlement, however, Russia had to share claim to Poland with Austria and Prussia, and Prussia received only half of Saxony with additional territories in the Rhineland as compensation. In this way, national interest was modified for the sake of maintaining the balance of power, which was in the general interest of Europe.
Besides the fact that the final settlement at the Congress of Vienna allotted the territory Napoleon had conquered to the victors in such a way as to prevent any one of them from becoming too powerful, the spoils were distributed in order to create a buffer against France. The Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed, Prussia acquired part of the Rhineland, Switzerland regained independence and the right to neutrality, and Austria dominated Northern Italy according to the terms of the settlement, leaving France boxed in and unable to assert itself. Due to the influence of Prince Talleyrand, France received no punishment more severe than containment, and this benefited Europe in that it kept France from becoming too weak and destroying the balance of power.
In addition to creating a balance of power and containing France, the final settlement at Vienna demonstrated altruistic designs for Europe in that the Concert of Europe was organized. This was the first international group to attempt to deal with European affairs, the main purpose of the Concert being to preserve the balance of power and protect conservative governments from being overthrown.
The fact that the Congress of Vienna was conducted with the aim of preventing universal war, which led to proposals of creating a balance of power, establishing "better" conservative governments, containing France and cooperation between the great powers to meet these ends clearly demonstrates that the welfare of all of Europe was a relevant concern. After much deliberation, the delegates succeeded in creating a final settlement which adjusted the selfish goals of the individual nations to acquire large expanses of territory to support the balance of power. The containment of France and the formation of the Concert of Europe were two other aspects of the settlement which maintained the balance of power, thus promoting the good of Europe.
VIENNA SETTLEMENT: JUNE 9, 1815
One month before the defeat of Napoleon in April, 1814, his four major adversaries (Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia) had agreed in the Treaty of Chaumont (March 10, 1814) to remain allied until final victory and then to hold a general European congress to secure the peace. In signing the First Peace of Paris on May 30, 1814, with the restored Bourbon monarchy of France, the four great powers reaffirmed their intention to hold such a congress at Vienna....
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