The Restoration and the Failed Revolutions
of the 1820s and 1830s
The defeat of Napoleon and the collapse of his Empire brought peace to a Europe that had been in turmoil for more than two decades. To consolidate the peace, the victorious powers summoned representatives from all of Europe to lay the basis for a permanent peace. The Congress of Vienna met from September 1814 until June 1815. All important decisions were made by representatives of the Great Powers. A leader among them was Prince Klemens von Metternich, Foreign Minister of the Hapsburg Empire.
Their major goal was to create the basis for stability
on into the future. In the first place this required the territorial organization
of Europe so that no single state ever again could threaten
to dominate the rest in the way that Napoleon had. The Balance of Power
hoped to create meant that buffer states should be created or strengthened
to prevent any future expansion of France. It also meant that none of the
Great Powers should
The reconstruction of Europe had a clear impact on Italy. As we examine the situation created there by the Congress of Vienna, we will have a chance to examine the major characteristics of the separate Italian states. We will also observe that Austria had replaced France as the dominant power in the peninsula.
The Conservatism that reigned in Europe after 1815 found support in those institutions that had been most offended by the revolution--Monarchy, Aristocracy, and the Church. These assumed powerful positions in restoration Europe, and were determined to hold on to them. The major threats to the new-found stability, although muted in 1815, were the concepts deriving from the revolutionary years.
The most powerful of these were Liberalism and Nationalism.
The classic statement of Liberalism was the Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, which proclaimed that all men had should have equal rights and opportunities, that these rights should be protected a constitution, and that all men should participate in the governmental process through their elected representatives.
Nationalism suggested that all those who shared a common language and culture should form their own states.
It was clear that these two principles threatened the restored rulers of Italy. They seemed to threaten the rest of Europe as well. After all, the well-meaning and moderate reforms of the Estates-General in France had destabilized the state and led to chaos and war, from which the rest of Europe suffered. Anxious to prevent any recurrence of this process, the partners to the Holy Alliance declared their readiness to intervene anywhere in Europe to quash any threat to monarchical prerogative. Their official statement of principle was the Troppau Protocol.
At the same time, liberalism and nationalism inspired many of those who had profited from the Napoleonic rule, which had opened careers to talented men, regardless of their background.
The forces of conservatism and of change were bound to
clash. As a result, Italy--and other parts of Europe as well--witnessed
a series of revolts during the 1820s and 1830s. Many historians consider
these events as the beginning stages of the Risorgimento,
the rebirth of the national idea in Italy. Their failure points out the
lack of clear idology and organization on the part of the revolutionaries
and the strength of Metternich's determination to maintain conservative
regimes in Italy during this period.
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