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Author Topic: Ben's History Paper Thread (only 1 paper, though)  (Read 472 times)
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benconstine
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« on: June 07, 2012, 09:49:03 am »
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In a similar vein to Cathcon, I've included a history paper I wrote this year as well; let me know what y'all think.

The Congress of Vienna was a watershed moment in European history.  Starting in September 1814, more than 200 European states and interest groups met to decide the course of Europe following more than a decade of warfare (King 2).  This conference, like the Versailles Peace Conference of 1919, included nearly all of the greatest statesmen of the generation, with the notable exceptions of the American statesman (who were ironically at war with Britain at the time), and Napoleon himself (in exile at Elba).  These statesmen included Alexander I, the mysterious Tsar of Russia; Lord Castlereagh, British Foreign Minister; the Duke of Wellington, called away from the Congress to win the Battle of Waterloo; Prince Talleyrand, the French Foreign Minister whose role at the Congress has been blown up to mythical proportions; and Count Hardenberg, the wizened Prussian past his prime.  Chief among all these men, though, was Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, the Austrian Foreign Minister.  Metternich would prove to be the single most influential figure at the Congress of Vienna, set apart from his colleagues, both in ability and in achievements.  By examining his work relating to the contentious issues of Poland and Saxony, as well as the other major conflicts at the Congress, it becomes apparent that Metternich played a critical role at the Congress.

In the months leading up to the Congress, Metternich had been an influential figure.  He had pushed Emperor Francis I to modernize Austria before the Congress by expanding the bureaucracy and police force.  This would allow Austria to remain important at the Congress by giving it a network that could keep up with the activities of other nations (Vierick 226).  During the period following the defeat of Napoleon, Metternich had been a strong advocate of restoring Louis XVIII to the French throne following the deposition of the House of Bourbon in the French Revolution (Malleson 129).  Additionally, it was Metternich’s idea to hold the Congress in Vienna, thus ensuring that he would be well positioned to find information from other camps.  By being the lead on these actions prior to the Congress, Metternich established himself as a figure of importance from the beginning.

 At the Congress, Metternich’s style of diplomacy enhanced his own influence.  He was unafraid to be blunt with rulers, disposing with many of the diplomatic formalities and niceties that characterized the other plenipotentiaries (King 121).  At the same time, Metternich could be incredibly charming.  Jean-Gabriel Eynard, Genevea’s delegate, noted that, “It is impossible to have more agreeable manners than Metternich” (King 99).  Metternich also extended his human based diplomacy beyond diplomats themselves.  Metternich pursued the interests of his friends,  notably attempting to secure from the Russian Tsar possession of the daughter of his lover (King 113).  This personal style of diplomacy set him apart from men like Castlereagh, who was notably aloof; and Tsar Alexander I, who was beset by alternating bouts of mysticism and overwhelming pomposity.  No other statesman could be so personal; it simply was not common practice at the time.  By making himself unique among a plethora of diplomats, Metternich positioned himself to play an important role.  He now stood out in the minds of the figures at the Congress.  While any publicity is good publicity, Metternich’s style was truly good publicity.  It put him into a position where he had the trust of other delegates, and this would allow him to speak with authority, enhancing his influence through strength in numbers.
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« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2012, 09:50:09 am »
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In addition to his personal style of diplomacy, Metternich employed other tactics as well.  Metternich represented, in Austria, one of the oldest powers in Europe, which still retained much prestige by virtue of its name alone.  Thus, in contrast to a ruler like Tsar Alexander I, who attempted to be influential through acquisition of territory, Metternich would base Austrian importance on informal influence rather than possession (Reinerman, Metternich and Alexander I 266).  When it came to Germany, Metternich relied on the longstanding Austrian prestige among the nations of Germany, and on the cooperation of the German Princes, to remake the region to his liking (Carr 3).  At the same time as he was continuing to present Austria as a still powerful nation, Metternich was also appealing to lesser powers such as Spain, Portugal, and Finland.  He became an ally of the papal plenipotentiary (Ambassador) at the Congress of Vienna, Cardinal Consalvi, and convinced him to enact reforms within the Papal States (Reinerman, Metternich and Reform 529).  He also presented Austria as the protector of “secondary powers” (Kissinger, Congress of Vienna 276).  This was particularly important because the small powers were ignored; “The small countries might just as well never have come to Vienna; their representatives were occasionally called in as time went on to serve on various committees when it was convenient for the four [Austria, Prussia, Russia, and England] to have them there, but they were powerless to affect major decisions” (Alsop 121).  By soliciting their advice outside of general meetings, Metternich managed to gain the support of nations who, while not involved in the initial decision making, could have otherwise disrupted the Congress in a way that would have been harmful to Metternich (either by abandoning the Congress entirely or by attempting to form mini coalitions against Metternich). 

One of the later conflicts at the Congress involved shifting populations.  Because the Napoleonic Wars had done so much damage to nations like Prussia, they were rewarded by receiving new territory.  This provoked conflict, however, as there was not a clear definition of how many people lived in a particular area, and no nation wanted to allow another to acquire too many people.  Metternich proposed an “Evaluations Committee” to handle the conflict over population (King 187).  Metternich was able to prevent conflict by deflecting the issue to a Committee, who would be unchallenged in its assessment when such an assessment was reached.  This skill was crucial to his influence.  While men like Castlereagh and Tsar Alexander I were prone to outbursts and personal vendettas, Metternich’s simultaneous detachment and ability to defuse contentious situations made him indispensable.

In no situation were these skills more important to Metternich than in the dual disputes over Saxony and Poland.  The division over the fates of Poland and Saxony proved to be the major conflict of the Congress (Hayes et. al. 727).  Prussia, which had been decimated during the Napoleonic Wars, wanted to expand and take over most of Saxony, whose King had been loyal to Napoleon until the end; Metternich wanted to prevent this expansion because it would damage     Austria’s traditional role as the dominant power in Central Europe (Okey 73-74).  Russia, meanwhile, wished to completely dominate Poland.  Metternich was forced to make clear to Alexander I that Russian domination of Poland was unacceptable to Austria.  Having a Polish state dominated by the mercurial Tsar would create a permanent revolutionary threat; this would make Austria's and Prussia's Polish territories ungovernable since they would never be sure where the loyalties of their subject lay: with the state that governed them, or with their fellow Poles (Schroeder 703).

Solving these dual crises is the primary example of Metternich’s brilliance.  Metternich had previously experienced friction with Alexander I prior to conflict over Poland (Malleson 131).  In the conflict over Poland, the problems between Alexander I and Metternich moved from political to personal; Alexander I even challenged Metternich to a duel (King 121).  Metternich’s diplomatic style, however, enabled him to engineer a solution.  First, he used two notes to Hardenberg (the Prussian Foreign Minister) and Castlereagh (the English Foreign Minister) to separate Poland and Saxony by showing that while the Prussian claim was based entirely on ideas about what a victorious nation can claim from a defeated nation (Saxony had sided with Napoleon), the Russian claim was based entirely on Alexander I’s desire to claim more territory for Russia (Kissinger, A World Restored 158).  These notes had the effect of giving a new perspective to each of the Foreign Ministers, thus reorienting the debate away from a mere discussion of population and towards a discussion of how legitimate each claim was (Kissinger, A World Restored 160).

Metternich also employed his trademark habit of procrastinating; while this angered other diplomats like Castlereagh, it was “Metternich's most effective means to overcome his dilemmas, for delay strengthened Austria's chief bargaining weapon” (Kissinger, The Congress of Vienna 272).  The procrastination allowed Metternich time to gather as much information as possible, and to gain allies.  It was at this time that he brought the French Ambassador, Talleyrand, into the fray for the first time (Lawday 283).  By waiting, Metternich was also able to cool tempers; Prussia and Russia were less likely to be contentious after a cooling down period.  In the end, Metternich succeeded in engineering a magnificent compromise: in Poland, Austria retained Galicia and the district of Tarnopol, while Cracow was constituted a free city. Prussia retained the district of Posen and the city of Thorn which controlled the upper Vistula. The remainder of the Duchy of Warsaw with a population of 3.2 million became the Kingdom of Poland under the Tsar of Russia. In Germany, Prussia obtained two-fifths of Saxony, Swedish Pomerania, much of the left bank of the Rhine, and the Duchy of Westphalia (Kissinger, The Congress of Vienna 278).  While Prussia managed to gain a significant amount of territory, Metternich prevented complete annexation (Okey 73-74).  He also allowed Prussia to gain in order to act as a check on Russia (Fullbrook 103).  Combined, these outcomes satisfied all nations involved, while also allowing Austria to remain a major power in the region.

The resolution of the Poland/Saxony crisis best exemplifies why Metternich proved to be so important.  His procrastination allowed time to separate the issues, making them both easier to solve in the end (Kissinger, A World Restored 156).  The Great Powers had been on the precipice of war; that Metternich was able to prevent another war from breaking out is a testament to his skill.  Metternich prevented the immediate collapse of the Coalition once the unifying threat was removed - which cannot be said for the Allies following either of the World Wars (Elrod 171).

 While Prussia and Saxony were the primary issues at the Congress, they were not the only ones.  Germany, which for a thousand years had been a plethora of Princedoms and Duchies tenuously tied to the Holy Roman Empire, had been reorganized under Napoleon.  Metternich managed to convince the other powers to leave that reorganization in place, with Austria at the helm (Fullbrook 101).  These issues were not major; the powers all agreed that Germany needed to be reorganized, yet still kept weak.  When it came to Italy though, Metternich needed more finesse.  Metternich was dismissive of Italian national claims, regarding the country as a mere “geographic expression” (Jane 130).  However, Metternich was confronted with direct conflicts when it came to the geographic expression.  When it came to Naples, Metternich could either keep his promise to Napoleonic turncoat Joachim Murat and support his claim to the throne, or adhere to legitimacy, which he had always stood behind (King 146).  In the end, Metternich managed to wiggle out of the agreement by arguing that Murat’s backing of Napoleon during the Hundred Days was enough to remove him.  In the end, much as Germany was kept divided, weak, and under Austrian and Prussian leadership, Italy was also kept divided, with Austria and the Papacy serving as the major powers, and various other states kept too weak to matter.

Metternich’s influence at the Congress is further made clear by his importance post-Congress.  Metternich would eventually come to dominate the Holy Alliance formed post-Congress through his own personal skill (Malleson 144).  The system he set up secured a general peace in Europe that lasted for nearly a century (Elrod 159).  The fact that this time period has come to be known as the “Age of Metternich” is not a misnomer.  It is instead a reflection of the power that Metternich wielded, both during and after the Congress. 

By the end of the Congress of Vienna, much had changed in Europe.  Russia ended up with Finland and most of Poland; the Bourbons were restored to multiple thrones, including France and Sicily-Naples; and the Duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla were given to Napoleon’s second wife Marie Louise.  Much of this was a direct result of Metternich’s power and influence.  His solving of the dual crises of Poland and Saxony ensured that war was averted, and that a subsequent peace could be made.  History has ascribed to Metternich an important role at the Congress; in this regard, history has not been proven wrong.
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benconstine
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« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2012, 09:52:50 am »
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Works Cited
Alsop, Susan. The Congress Dances. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Print.

Carr, William. A History of Germany 1815-1945. 2nd. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979. Print.

Elrod, Richard. "The Concert of Europe: A Fresh Look at an International System." World Politics. 28.2 (1976): 159-174. Print.

Fullbrook, Mary. A Concise History of Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Print.


Hayes, Carlton, Marshall Baldwin, and Charles Cole. History of Europe. New York: Macmillan, 1949. Print.

Jane, Lionel. From Metternich to Bismarck: A Textbook of European History 1815-1878. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910. Print.

King, David. Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna. New York: Random House, 2008.  Print.

Kissinger, Henry. A World Restored: Europe After Napoleon. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1973. Print.

Kissinger, Henry. "The Congress of Vienna: A Reappraisal." World Politics. 8.2 (1956): 264-280.   Print.

Lawday, David. Napoleon's Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006. Print.

Malleson, George. Life of Prince Metternich. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1888. Print.

Okey, Robin. The Habsburg Monarchy, c. 1765-1918: From Enlightenment to Eclipse. New York: Macmillan, 2001. Print.

Reinerman, Alan. "Metternich, Alexander I, and the Russian Challenge in Italy, 1815-20." Journal of Modern History. 46.2 (1974): 262-276. Print.

Reinerman, Alan. "Metternich and Reform: The Case of the Papal State, 1814-1848." Journal of Modern History. 42.4 (1970): 524-548. Print.

Schroeder, Paul. "Did the Vienna Settlement Rest on a Balance of Power?." American Historical Review. 97.3 (1992): 683-706. Print.

Viereck, Peter. "New Views on Metternich." Review of Politics. 13.2 (1951): 211-218.  Print.
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« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2012, 11:51:42 am »
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I feel obligated to read this thread as it was inspired by me.

Anyway, I've read through it, & while I'm no expert on the subject, seems like a good paper. Notice you cited 2 Kissinger books.
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Warner for Senate '14
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« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2012, 01:21:40 pm »
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Anyway, I've read through it, & while I'm no expert on the subject, seems like a good paper. Notice you cited 2 Kissinger books.

One book and one article; if I'd thought about it I could've cited another book.
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2012, 02:10:53 pm »
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I don't know what the supposed topic of the paper is (mainly Metternich, I suppose?), but the reorganisation of Germany into the Deutsche Bund would warrant more than 2 or 3 lines, I'd say. Especially since you give quite a lot of attention to Murat, relatively speaking.

Just my 50 cents.
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politicus
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2012, 11:21:18 am »
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One of these threads should be enough. Soon we will have a dozen of them.
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« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2012, 06:40:29 pm »
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Metternich (and Talleyrand mentioned) Smiley
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