The Congress of Vienna (1815)

After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, the Great Powers in Europe (England, Russia, Austria, and Prussia) met in Vienna to negotiate a treaty which would establish a balance of power and prevent future wars. The diplomats also wanted to prevent liberal movements from flourishing in the countries which Napoleon had conquered and then lost.

Prior to the meeting  in Vienna,  none other than Louis XVIII had been restored to power in France. He confirmed the gains of the middle class during the revolutionary era: legal equality, advancement in public office due to merit, and parliamentary government. There would be no return to the times of aristocratic privilege and feudalism. However, the vote remained restricted to a very few large landowners and talk of social equality remained taboo.

The two major winners in the wars against Napoleon, England and Russia, had signed a peace treaty with the new leader of France which ignored cries for vengeance and war reparations. French borders were pushed back to their pre-1792 lines, and Napoleon himself was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba. The British and the Russians also consolidated their gains in areas outside of Europe: Russia extended its empire into the Balkans, and England, with its navy supreme and Napoleon's Continental System of economic warfare finished, became the greatest imperial power in the world, the dominant influence in India, Singapore, South Africa, the Mediterranean, and the West Indies.

The diplomats at The Congress of Vienna sought to accomplish three major goals:

  1. Prevent France from ever dreaming of attempting the conquest of Europe again 
  2. Create a Balance of Power in Europe to prevent another major war.
  3. Restore respect for the institution of monarchy and suppress future revolutions (ie all liberal, republican, or radical movements).

The diplomats ringed France with strong states: the Netherlands and Belgium to the North, the Italian kingdom of Piedmont to the Southeast. Beyond them, the Prussians were given the rich lands on the West Bank of the Rhine and the Austrians took control of Venice, Tuscany and Milan. In Germany, the diplomats retained Napoleon's loose confederation of principalities and ignored German nationalist yearnings for a great unified fatherland. 

Secretly, the French, British and Austrians pledged to go to war if the Russians attempted to control Poland or if the Prussians attempted to annex Saxony. 

The diplomats were hostile to nationalism and democracy which they regarded as leading to revolution and war. Instead, they restored the European state system in which a number of sovereign and independent states existed without fear of conquest or domination. To a large degree they accomplished their task. The peace they created was interrupted in 1848, but no international disturbance comparable to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic empire occurred in Europe until 1914.