Criticism of the Vienna Settlement:
The territorial adjustments made at the Congress of Vienna ignored the principles of liberalism and nationalism. It was in defiance of the principle of nationalism, Austria was given a commanding position in Italy, that Norway was handed from Denmark to Sweden and Belgium was united with Holland. Germany and Italy were left in fragments. In Germany, Metternich’s policy was to ‘divide and rule’. A loose German Confederation comprising the 39 states to which Germany was now reduced, was set up under the presidency of Austria. The German Confederation was a mockery of national unity. In Italy Metternich’s aim was to keep her weak and divided and he succeeded in his object. The Congress of Vienna supported Metternich’s contention that Italy was ‘a geographical expression’. Gentz, the Secretary of the Congress wrote after reviewing the work of the Vienna Congress:
Men had promised themselves an all-embracing reform of the political system of Europe; guarantees for peace; in one word, the return of the Golden Age. The Congress has resulted in nothing but restoration; agreements between the Great Powers, of little value for the future balance and preservation for the peace of Europe; quite arbitrary alterations in the possessions of less important states….The Protocol of the Congress bears the stamp rather of a temporary agreement than of work destined to last for centuries.
In ignoring the philosophy of the revolution, the makers of the Vienna Settlement weakened the whole structure they were so laboriously erecting. In 1830 the Belgians rose in revolt and destroyed the arrangement of 1815. The arrangements concerning Italy and Germany lasted for a half-century and underwent profound change thereafter. Among the disaffected were also the French who regarded their natural boundary taken from them. The break-up of Poland was in gross violation of the principle of nationality. Thus the Congress of Vienna which sacrificed the principles of nationality could not endure long. In the next half-century, Europe was destined to witness many wars and revolutions. The Vienna settlement was framed by monarchs and as such, it ignored the aspirations of the people. “The real charge that may be brought against the monarchs of Vienna is that they ignored the challenge of the French Revolution; that they failed to see that the new forces of democracy and nationality were becoming determining political factors”.
But the Congress of Vienna made some significant contributions. Congress established the important doctrine of international rivers. The abolition of the Slave-trade which had been affected by Britain in 1807 was agreed to by France, Spain, Portugal and Holland.