History of Modern Europe - Volume II - Carlton Hayes - ebook

CERTAIN basic principles in society and in politics were proclaimed by the French Revolution. The Napoleonic Era served to communicate them to Europe. The ensuing period was marked by a bitter struggle within nearly every European state for their general acceptance or for their wholesale rejection. To all Frenchmen liberty, equality, and fraternity already meant definite facts or rights: those who espoused them were inherently revolutionaries—radicals or liberals— while those who repudiated them were reactionaries or conservatives, intent upon maintaining or restoring the political and social institutions of the old regime. The Bourbon settlement of 1814 in France was in the nature of a compromise, a nice balancing of the forces of revolution and reaction. Outside of France the sovereigns of Europe were almost without exception reactionaries, determined to bolster up the theories and practices of the eighteenth century, but many of their subjects who, in the years between 1789 and 1814, had learned from the French in one way or another the significance of popular sovereignty, individual rights, and national patriotism, gave unmistakable signs of a contrary determination. The question resolved itself into this: should revolutionary or reactionary doctrine henceforth shape the society and politics of the European nations? It was a question fraught with the most momentous consequences to succeeding generations. Another fifteen years would pass before the outcome could be indicated—the fifteen years (1815–1830) of conflict between liberals and conservatives which we shall now proceed to treat as the Era of Metternich...

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Carlton Hayes


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CERTAIN basic principles in society and in politics were proclaimed by the French Revolution. The Napoleonic Era served to communicate them to Europe. The ensuing period was marked by a bitter struggle within nearly every European state for their general acceptance or for their wholesale rejection.

To all Frenchmen liberty, equality, and fraternity already meant definite facts or rights: those who espoused them were inherently revolutionaries—radicals or liberals— while those who repudiated them were reactionaries or conservatives, intent upon maintaining or restoring the political and social institutions of the old regime. The Bourbon settlement of 1814 in France was in the nature of a compromise, a nice balancing of the forces of revolution and reaction. Outside of France the sovereigns of Europe were almost without exception reactionaries, determined to bolster up the theories and practices of the eighteenth century, but many of their subjects who, in the years between 1789 and 1814, had learned from the French in one way or another the significance of popular sovereignty, individual rights, and national patriotism, gave unmistakable signs of a contrary determination. The question resolved itself into this: should revolutionary or reactionary doctrine henceforth shape the society and politics of the European nations? It was a question fraught with the most momentous consequences to succeeding generations. Another fifteen years would pass before the outcome could be indicated—the fifteen years (1815–1830) of conflict between liberals and conservatives which we shall now proceed to treat as the Era of Metternich.

Throughout the period the distinction between liberals and conservatives was everywhere based largely on differences among social classes and in geographical location. The princes whose divine authority to rule was questioned; the nobles whose lands and privileges were confiscated or threatened with confiscation; the ecclesiastics whose consciences were violated or activities abridged: these pillars of the old regime were uniformly conservative. On the other hand, the great bulk of the bourgeoisie,—the professional classes, business men, traders, and shopkeepers,—whose traditional repugnance to nobles and clergymen was sharpened by an ambition to secure complete control of national policies and. finance; the generality of the Continental universities—professors and students—together with other “intellectuals” drawn from many walks of life, who were intensely patriotic and who dreamed of the perfectibility of mankind; the workingman of the town and many a day-laborer in the fields, who felt that any change might add to the contents of his dinner-pail: these groups, restless under the old regime, were solidly liberal. The peasantry who still constituted the majority of European population were swayed between the contending parties: still respectful of authority in state and church, sincerely religious, and innately skeptical of the fine phrases which were on liberal lips, they could at times and in places be reckoned conservative; but there was one important respect in which many of them doggedly resisted alliance with the reactionaries, and that was their fanatical attachment to the social achievements of the Revolution—they were done forever with feudalism and serfdom, they would own their own lands. As a general rule it may be observed that the further west one went and the nearer to revolutionary France one came, the larger proportion of liberals one found, and that, conversely, the further east one went and the more remote from France, the larger proportion of conservatives one encountered.

For several years after the downfall of Napoleon the conservatives enjoyed throughout Europe an influence perhaps out of proportion to their actual numbers. There was a renewed loyalty on the part of patriots to the monarchs who had headed the great national uprisings against Napoleonic despotism. There was a marked revival of devotion to the Catholic Church, whose supreme pontiff, the venerable Pius VII, in the face of insults and injuries from Napoleon, had set a noble example of Christian charity and fortitude. Above all, there was universal horror at the bloodshed and wretchedness which the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars had entailed. Thousands upon thousands of human beings, drawn from every nation and from every social class, had been butchered. Famine, pestilence, crime, and indescribable disease,—the attendant miseries of war,—had walked abroad in every land. Small wonder that prince, priest, and people united in extolling the blessings of peace! Even the liberal bourgeoisie perceived that the revival of Continental industry and trade was a concomitant of peace. With some justice Metternich was able to avow that “what the European peoples want is not liberty but peace.” To prevent the recurrence of such insurrections as the Revolution had witnessed and of such wars as the career of Napoleon had involved,—in a word, to preserve domestic and foreign peace,—became the watchword and countersign of reactionary Europe.

Among the host of figures who crowd the stage from 1815 to 1830, Prince Metternich stands out most prominently, not indeed in any such unique way as did Napoleon Bonaparte from 1799 to 1815, but still conspicuously enough to justify the common use of his name in designating the era. A contrast more striking than that between Metternich and Napoleon can hardly be imagined.

Count Clemens Metternich was born at Coblenz on 15 May, 1773, of a very distinguished family which ranked high among the oldest nobility of the Rhenish Germanies and which had furnished several electors to the great ecclesiastical sees of Trier and Cologne in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His father had entered the diplomatic service of the Holy Roman Empire, and in the social setting of the old regime and the aristocratic atmosphere of the punctilious Habsburg court young Clemens was reared. He was a sixteen-year-old student at the University of Strassburg when the vigor of the town mob gave him his first knowledge of, and distaste for, the French Revolution, a distaste which the seizure of his princely family estates by Napoleon fourteen years later was not likely to counteract. Following his father’s career, he soon attracted the favorable attention of the veteran Austrian chancellor, Count Kaunitz, whose grand-daughter he married in 1795. This alliance not only brought him large estates in Austria, but made him heir to the prestige of the great diplomat of the eighteenth century and introduced him into the most exclusive circles of Viennese society. Henceforth his rise was rapid. He served as representative of the Habsburg emperor successively at Dresden (1801), Berlin (1803), Petrograd (1805) and Paris (1806). Despite his country’s embarrassment during the years immediately following the catastrophe of Austerlitz, and although he was now pitted against Talleyrand, in many ways as great a master of subtlety as himself, his remarkable good looks, his clever wit, and his charm of manner won him high favor at Napoleon’s court, and gained for him an extraordinary diplomatic experience. Although he urged his sovereign to undertake the premature war of 1809, he was one of the first to counsel peace after the defeat of Wagram.

In 1809 Metternich became the actual head of the Austrian government, under the nominal rule of the well-intentioned but procrastinating Emperor Francis I, a position he was able to retain for nearly forty years. The statesman could not but be impressed with the need of reformation within his country, and he at once made a few proposals for national betterment. But his detestation of revolution from below made him fearful of reforms from above, and he preferred to bring honor and prestige to Austria by means of successful foreign diplomacy rather than through what always seemed to him the more uncertain means of internal changes in society and political organization.

In foreign affairs, Metternich’s hatred of Napoleon was conditioned by his fear of Russian aggrandizement in the event of the French emperor’s downfall. Accordingly, from 1810 to 1813 his policy was to play off Napoleon and Alexander against each other. He pressed forward with alacrity the negotiations for the marriage of an Austrian archduchess to the Corsican adventurer. He watched with glee the herculean combat of 1812 between Napoleon and the tsar, promising to the former the assistance of an army corps of 30,000 position to bestow the greater benefits upon Austria. Such was the success of his well-laid plans that the intervention of Austria was the decisive factor in the Battle of the Nations (October, 1813) and in the campaign of 1814: Napoleon’s power collapsed and Austria became the dominant Power among the victorious allies. Metternich was hailed as the most astute statesman of his age—he hobnobbed with the Russian and Prussian monarchs, he was feted by Talleyrand and Louis XVIII, he was given a fulsome welcome on a visit to England, he was named a magnate of the kingdom of Hungary and a count and hereditary prince of the Austrian Empire.


The most important problem which confronted European diplomacy, after the restoration of the French Bourbons, was that of general territorial readjustments. Napoleon had badly mutilated the ancient map of Europe. How far could, or should, his victors mend it? To what extent were they justified in rewarding themselves territorially for their efforts and sacrifices? What punishment should they mete out to his late allies? It was a recognition of the decisive part played by Austria and of the commanding personality of Metternich that Vienna was chosen as the scene of the great international congress convened (September, 1814) for the purpose of answering these questions and of reestablishing the balance of power in Europe.

Never had Europe beheld such a galaxy of gold lace and titled dignitaries of the old regime as gathered at Vienna. Six monarchs attended: the Tsar Alexander, a curious mixture of shrewdness and mysticism, of ambition and compassion; the polite and cautious Emperor Francis I of Austria; King Frederick William III of Prussia, who was at once timid and obstinate, and quite fascinated by the Christian-like benevolence of the tsar; and the kings of Denmark, Bavaria, and Wurttemberg. German dukes, princes, and electors were present in crowds, while among the special envoys were two Irish noblemen, the sagacious Lord Castlereagh and the “Iron” Duke of Wellington, who in turn represented Great Britain; Hardenberg and Baron von Humboldt from Prussia; Nesselrode from Russia; Stein, now a personal agent of the Tsar Alexander; the insinuating Talleyrand from France, with his new discovery of “legitimacy”; and last but not least Metternich himself, who discharged the obligations that devolved upon him as host of the imposing congress with becoming grace and dignity. With the possible exception of Alexander, whose predilections for French liberalism and for the “free” institutions of England were still sincere if somewhat vague, the Congress of Vienna in its personnel as well as in its actions was one grand pageant in celebration of the defeat of revolution and the triumph of reaction.

In conformity with the best usages of eighteenth-century diplomacy, the divine-right monarchs and their splendid representatives who assembled at Vienna interspersed their negotiations with a round of banquets and balls. This fact, together with the inherent difficulty of many of the problems handled, protracted the deliberations for several months. Almost from the outset differences in claims developed between Russia and Prussia on one hand and Austria, backed by Great Britain and France, on the other, so that for some time neither the stubbornness of the tsar nor the machinations of Metternich proved sufficient to solve the vexatious problems of the disposition of Poland and Saxony. It required the shock of Napoleon’s return from Elba to bring the statesmen together, to smooth out the rough places, and to arrange a compromise. The Final Act of the Congress of Vienna was signed (9 June, 1815) only a few days before the battle of Waterloo.

The general principle underlying the Viennese settlement was the restoration so far as practicable of the boundaries and of the reigning families of the several European countries as they had been prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution and the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was the very principle of “legitimacy” which Talleyrand exploited in order to save France from further territorial spoliation and to enable his vanquished country still to play an influential role in the counsels of Europe, and which Metternich adopted from him as a valuable asset of Austrian policy and of general reaction. In accordance with the theory of “legitimacy,” France was not compelled to pay heavily even for the Hundred Days: the second treaty of Paris, concluded in November, 1815, guaranteed her approximately the boundaries of 1789 and obliged her only to restore the art-treasures which Napoleon had pilfered from other countries, to pay an indemnity of 700,000,000 francs, and to submit for a term of five years to foreign occupation of her chief fortresses. Likewise consonant with the doctrine of “legitimacy,” the treaties of Vienna recognized the restoration of the Bourbons in Spain and in the Two Sicilies, of the house of Orange in Holland, of the house of Savoy in Sardinia and Piedmont, of the pope to his temporal possessions in central Italy, and of the various German princes whose territories had been included in the Confederation of the Rhine. Still in the name of “legitimacy,” Austria recovered the Tyrol and the Illyrian provinces; the Swiss Confederation was restored under a guarantee of neutrality; and Poland was again dismembered, much the same as in 1795, by Russia, Austria, and Prussia, although the tsar promised to treat his lion’s share as a separate kingdom with its own constitution.

The principle of “legitimacy” was somewhat compromised by the necessity of providing more or less arbitrary “compensations.” In the course of the Napoleonic wars, Great Britain, as we have already seen, appropriated, along with Malta, Mauritius, Tobago, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and part of Honduras, the important Dutch colonies of Ceylon, South Africa, and Guiana. These colonies were now confirmed to the British, but as compensation to the Dutch, and also in order to erect a strong state on the northern frontier of France, the Austrian Netherlands—what is present-day Belgium—were joined with Holland, to form the United Kingdom of the Netherlands under the rule of the Dutch king, despite the fact that nearly two and a half centuries of political separation had augmented the racial and religious antipathies between the two regions. To compensate Austria for the surrender of her claims on the Belgian Netherlands, she was given a commanding position in Italy: the territories of the ancient republic of Venice and of the duchy of Milan were transferred to her outright, and members of the Habsburg family were seated upon the thrones of the small central states of Tuscany, Parma, and Modena. Sweden, as compensation for the cession of Finland to Russia and of Pomerania to Prussia, secured Norway from Denmark, whose protracted alliance with Napoleon seemed to merit a severe punishment. Prussia was similarly allowed to annex two-fifths of Saxony and, as a further safeguard against France, to enlarge her former provinces in the lower Rhine valley. On the southeastern frontier of France, the king of Sardinia was permitted to possess himself of the former republic of Genoa.

In the territorial and constitutional settlement of the Germanies neither Austria nor Prussia found it advantageous to insist too rigorously upon “legitimacy.” There was no thought of reviving the two-hundred-odd ecclesiastical states and petty principalities which had been suppressed in 1803. There was no serious intention of restoring to life the Holy Roman Empire which had expired in 1806. There was certainly no favor shown by the German kings and diplomats to the popular agitation for a strongly knit national state. Baron von Stein, it is true, proposed the unification of all Germany under the supremacy of a single Power, but King Frederick William III displayed no ambition to assume the leadership, and Metternich had already promised the princes of south Germany that Austria would respect their sovereign rights. Instead of adopting a frankly national policy, the governments of Prussia and Austria, as well as the smaller German states, were bent on safeguarding their respective interests against possible encroachments by others. The outcome of this particularist, or states-rights, feeling was the creation of the Germanic Confederation, a loose organization of the remaining thirty-eight states, with a Diet consisting of delegates of the reigning princes, presided over by Austria. The members might not enter into alliance with a foreign Power either against the Confederation as a whole or against a fellow-member. The constitution was placed under the guarantee of Europe, and, by means of the traditional and interested support which the lesser princes gave to Austria, the Confederation soon came to be directed from Vienna.

Thus did the foremost reactionaries of Europe refashion their map. Thus in the name of legitimacy was France saved and at the same time so hemmed in that she would not be able again to dictate to the Continent. Thus, too, were the allies rewarded who had certainly overthrown Napoleon and had possibly stayed the Revolution. Thus, finally, under Metternich, had the leadership of Europe passed from France to Austria. Great indeed was the power and prestige of Austria at the close of the Congress of Vienna. Metternich now found himself in charge of the affairs of an enormous state. With the exception of the distant Belgian Netherlands, which had always been a source of weakness, the Habsburg dominions of 1763 were again intact, and to them had been added the richest and most prosperous districts of neighboring Italy. In fact, throughout the entire Italian peninsula, French influence was replaced by Austrian. Then, too, within the Diet of the new Germanic Confederation the Austrian emperor, backed by the weight of the Habsburg power beyond the borders of Germany, exercised a greater influence than had ever the Holy Roman Emperor.

In all these territorial readjustments there was little that was permanent and much that was temporary. The union of Sweden and Norway lasted ninety years; that of Holland and Belgium, fifteen; and the Italian and German settlements survived but fifty years. The fatal mistake of the Congress was the willful disregard of the principle of nationality. Howsoever the reactionary monarchs and diplomats might combat liberty and equality, they could ill afford to be oblivious of the patriotic, nationalistic movements that had recently stirred the French, the Poles, the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Italians, and the Germans. Yet they calmly set aside all national considerations, and, true to the international usages of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they proceeded once more to treat the European peoples as so many pawns in the game of dynastic aggrandizement. That was why the princes were left all-powerful in the Germanies, why the Italian states passed under the domination of Austria, why the Belgians as well as the Dutch were handed over to the house of Orange, why Swedes and Norwegians were given a joint sovereign. The longing for nationality was already a very real fact throughout Europe; failure to satisfy it was the chief defect in the work of the Congress of Vienna.

The harking back of the plenipotentiaries at Vienna to the days of territorial rivalry among the Great Powers also prevented them from fulfilling the expectations which the Tsar Alexander and enlightened public opinion had entertained of a wider and more fundamental scope for the labors of the Congress. To these altruistic souls, the termination of a terrible period of revolution and warfare, of bloodshed and misery, and the rapid development of a sense of solidarity among all European princes and peoples seemed a particularly auspicious opportunity for effecting a permanent settlement of the balance of power, for the discovery of safeguards against its future disturbance, for general disarmament and assurance of international peace, for the suppression of the slave trade and of piracy, and for the solution of social problems. Such subjects were actually broached at Vienna by the tsar, but their reception, though polite, was essentially chilly and most of them were suffered to drop quite out of sight: even Alexander was soon absorbed in the ambition of securing Finland and Poland for the Romanov dynasty. Largely through British representations, a declaration was appended to the final treaty to the effect that the slave trade should be abolished, although each Power was left free to fix such a date as best suited its own convenience. Provisions respecting the free navigation of international rivers and regulating the rights of precedence among diplomatists,—minor modifications in the recognized content of international law,— were also adopted. But the more serious questions of the future were not perceived or were left unheeded.

Metternich was certainly desirous of rendering the Viennese settlement permanent. He was henceforth a stanch advocate of the maintenance of international peace. But he believed that the peace of Europe could best be maintained not by a central tribunal resting upon the consent of the European peoples, which would recognize the Quadruple Alliance hateful principle of democracy and which might seriously interfere with the hegemony of Austria, but rather by the vigilant benevolence of allied sovereigns. The treaty of Paris (20 November, 1815), which formally renewed the treaty of Chaumont, bound the Quadruple Alliance— Austria, Russia, Prussia, and Great Britain—to the future convocation of diplomatic congresses for the preservation of peace and of the status quo, and this was sufficient for Metternich.

But the Tsar Alexander, in his dreamy, mystical way, had already gone further. While loyally adhering to the Quadruple Alliance as an effective means of maintaining the treaties of Vienna by physical force, he had felt that the great Christian principles of peace, forbearance, and mutual good will, solemnly subscribed to by all the European monarchs, would supply the underlying and sacred spiritual motives for preserving modern society as well as boundaries and governments. Accordingly he had induced the pious king of Prussia and the obliging emperor of Austria to join with him in forming (26 September, 1815) the celebrated Holy Alliance, by which the three sovereigns solemnly declared their “fixed resolution, both in the administration of their respective states, and in their political relations with every other government, to take for their sole guide the precepts of that Holy Religion, namely, the precepts of Justice, Christian Charity, and Peace, which, far from being applicable only to private concerns, must have an immediate influence on the councils of Princes, and guide all their steps, as being the only means of consolidating human institutions and remedying their imperfections.” They mutually promised to “remain united by the bonds of a true and indissoluble fraternity, and, considering each other as fellow-countrymen, they will, on all occasions and in all places, lend each other aid and assistance; and, regarding themselves towards their subjects and armies as fathers of families, they will lead them, in the same spirit of fraternity with which they are animated, to protect Religion, Peace, and Justice.” Their Majesties consequently recommended to their people, “with the most tender solicitude, as the sole means of enjoying that Peace which arises from a good conscience, and which alone is durable, to strengthen themselves every day more and more in the principles and exercise oi the duties which the Divine Savior has taught to mankind.”

Alexander was the only sovereign who took the Holy Alliance very seriously. The pope upbraided the Catholic emperor of Austria for making a Christian declaration in union with a schismatic Russian and a heretical Protestant. A brilliant Catholic apologist discovered in the document the “spirit of visionaries who opposed religiosity to religion.” The Catholic emperor of Austria frankly told Alexander that he did not know what it meant: “if it was a question of politics, he must refer it to his chancellor, if of religion, to his confessor.” Metternich scornfully called it “verbiage,” and Lord Castlereagh pronounced it “a piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense.” Nevertheless, with the exception of the sultan, the pope, and the prince-regent of Great Britain, all the European rulers out of deference to the tsar and doubtless influenced in many instances by the religious revival of the time, signed the treaty and were duly admitted to the Holy Alliance. The British prince-regent in his letter announcing his inability to become a signatory hypocritically expressed his “entire concurrence with the principles laid down by the august sovereigns” and stated that it would always be his endeavor to regulate his conduct “by their sacred maxims.”

To the liberals of the nineteenth century the Holy Alliance became the embodiment of a diabolical conspiracy to stamp out democracy, nationalism, and social justice. But such an estimate of its significance is derived from a confusion of terms and is quite mistaken. The eventual failure of the Holy Alliance to ameliorate political and social conditions was not due to a want of sincerity in its author or to any criminal character in its purposes, but rather to the very fact that few of its signatories made any serious attempt to live up to it. It is a fact that the political ideas of the tsar underwent a profound change, but from the outset Alexander’s Holy Alliance, with its lofty idealism, was confused in the popular mind with the actual workings of the more worldly and selfish Quadruple Alliance under the masterful direction of Metternich.

So far we have dealt with the general European situation in 1815. We have seen that immediately after the overthrow of Napoleon the population of every country was roughly divisible on political and social questions into the two camps of liberals and conservatives, that territorial settlements were made at Vienna by conservatives on the basis of “legitimacy” and “compensations,” a more or less actual return to pre-revolutionary times, and, finally, that a powerful Quadruple Alliance existed for the maintenance of treaty engagements and the preservation of peace. Incidentally, we have witnessed the exaltation of Austria paralleled by the rise of Metternich. From 1815 to 1830 this faithful chancellor of the Habsburg emperor was at once the conservative patriot of Austria and the reactionary genius of Europe. He employed the influence and might of Austria to control Europe; he sought to control Europe in order that the old regime might not be disturbed in Austria. And peace and quiet were always his goal in domestic and foreign affairs.

During the period of Metternich’s mastery, it was by no means the rivalries of rulers that endangered the peace of Europe, but rather the unrest of liberals who threatened their reactionary sovereigns with revolution or incited oppressed nationalities to insurrection. The career of peace-loving Metternich became a ceaseless warfare on liberalism. Throughout the first seven years of his predominance he was completely successful. It was in the years from 1815 to 1822 that under the auspices of the Quadruple Alliance he convoked the four great congresses of Aix-la Chapelle (1818), Troppau (1820), Laibach (1821), and Verona (1822), and prevailed upon the plenipotentiaries of Europe thus assembled to authorize what amounted to the policing of the whole Continent for the suppression of liberalism. So far did he realize his ambition that even Alexander was won to the cause of reaction and signed with the other Holy Allies the memorable protocol of Troppau: “States which have undergone a change of government due to revolution, the results of which threaten other states, ipso facto cease to be members of the European Alliance and remain excluded from it until their situation gives guarantees for legal order and stability. … If, owing to such alterations, immediate danger threatens other states, the Powers bind themselves, by peaceful means, or if need be by arms, to bring back the guilty State into the bosom of the Great Alliance.” Under Metternich it thus became the duty of the Powers to stamp out revolution, even to the extent of intervention in the domestic concerns of a friendly state. During the last seven years of his supremacy, Metternich was obliged, through force of circumstances, to recede from the rigorous execution of the protocol of Troppau, but not until the stirring events of the year 1830 was his commanding influence in central Europe shaken, and not until the more momentous events of 1848 did he lose his hold on Austria.

Some idea of the politics of the Era of Metternich may now be gathered from a review of the principal public happenings within the chief European states. In every country conservatives will be found in control of the government; liberals will be in opposition and sometimes in rebellion; and Metternich will be noticed concerting measures of repression with the Quadruple Alliance. All the time, however, the number of liberals will be steadily growing, until, by 1830, they will be in possession of several governments in western Europe; the Quadruple Alliance will be dissolved; Metternich, shorn of his weapons of offense, will be on the defensive; and the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity will finally be in the ascendant.


It will be illuminating to begin the review with France—the nation of the most striking political contrasts. France in the middle of the eighteenth century afforded the typical illustration of the old régime; at the close of that century she was the stormcenter of revolution; and during the first half of the nineteenth century, conservatives and liberals—heirs respectively of the old regime and of the Revolution—were more evenly balanced in France than in any other European country.

Waterloo put the Conservatives definitely into office. Only twenty days after that battle Louis XVIII reentered his capital and resumed the reins of government. France was not in such unfortunate condition as one who has followed in detail the last great campaigns of Napoleon might imagine. She was defeated but not crushed. The economic advantage of having millions of sturdy, thrifty peasants as small landed proprietors was already displaying itself. The emperor, too, had waged his wars almost to the last at the expense of his conquered foes, and it was certainly a tribute to his foresight and to his genius for finance that the French national debt in 1815 was only one-sixth as large as that of Great Britain. The middle class took immediate advantage of the return of peace to extend their trade and to expand their business-interests. For these reasons, France rapidly rose under the restored Bourbons to a position of strength and prosperity hardly equaled in all Europe, despite bad harvests, political unrest, and foreign military occupation which continued three years after Waterloo.

Louis XVIII was confronted upon his restoration by two bitterly irreconcilable political parties. On one hand were the Liberals, comprising not merely theorists of the rights of man, but close-fisted peasants and businesslike bourgeois who had been beneficiaries of the abolition of serfdom and the confiscation of church lands, together with numerous old soldiers who had fought gloriously under the tricolor and the “Little Corporal,” all of them now stung by defeat and obstinate in their principles. On the other hand were the reactionaries, or Ultra-Royalists, nobles and clergy, and old-fashioned folks in the southern and western provinces who, in loving remembrance of the old regime, had fought stubbornly against the Revolution from its very inception, dispossessed of their goods and expelled from their fatherland, or silenced by oppression, now brought back in victory by the turn of events, eager for vengeance and retaliation. Between these two extreme factions Louis XVIII counted upon the bulk of the French people to aid him in steering a middle course. Although he clung tenaciously to the forms of the ancient monarchy and the white flag of his family, he had common sense enough to retain Napoleon’s legal and administrative reforms and the Napoleonic institutions of the Legion of Honor, the Bank of France, the Concordat, and the University. He recognized the imperial nobility as on an equal footing with that of the old regime. He confirmed the charter which the year before he had granted to France.

The royal charter of 1814 made provision for a constitutional government, modeled in part after that of Great Britain. There was to be a parliament of two chambers: the upper, composed of peers of the King, and the lower, elected by Frenchmen paying a heavy direct tax. The Chambers could not initiate legislation, but could approve or reject measures proposed by the crown, and no measure could be promulgated without their consent. The king was to govern by means of ministers, but the relation of the ministry to parliament was left vague. The charter also recognized liberty of worship and of the press, and the inviolability of sales of land made during the Revolution. Surely this was unlooked-for clemency and concession from the brother of Louis XVI, but France had traveled a long way since 1793, and Louis XVIII never dreamed of suffering martyrdom for his principles.

A fierce complaint went up at once from the Ultra-Royalists. They besought the king, now that his very clemency had proved incapable of preventing the wretched episode of the Hundred Days, to revoke the charter, and when he turned a deaf ear to them they wreaked their vengeance on what Liberals they could. For several months in 1815 there was a good deal of rioting and bloodshed, which, instigated by the enraged Royalists, has passed into history under the designation of the “White Terror.” The reactionaries prevailed upon Louis XVIII, in spite of his promise to punish only those who were declared by the Chambers to be traitors, to proscribe nearly sixty persons who had deserted to Napoleon during the Hundred Days. It was the irony of fate that the list was drawn up by the same crafty Fouché who had voted for the death of Louis XVI and had subsequently been the right-hand man of Napoleon in ferreting out Royalist conspiracies. Thirty-eight of the proscribed were banished and a few were shot, among the latter being the illustrious Marshal Ney. In southern France hundreds of Liberals fell victims to reactionary mobs. At Nimes, where Protestants had espoused the cause of Napoleon, the murders took the form of a crusade for the extirpation of heresy. The dispatch of an army into the affected regions was required to reestablish order and security.

In the midst of the White Terror, elections for the new Chamber were conducted: the terrified Liberals absented themselves from the polls, and the result was the return of a parliament of Ultra Royalists, more conservative than the king himself. The questionable Talleyrand and Fouché were at once turned out of their ministerial posts, and for a year the so-called chambre introuvable directed affairs of state in a bitterly reactionary spirit. Laws were passed shackling the press, excepting several classes from amnesty, creating special arbitrary courts for trying cases of treason, and repealing the divorce provisions of the Code Napoleon. In 1816 Louis XVIII, fearing the effect of his furious friends upon the country at large, dissolved the chambre introuvable, and ordered new elections. This time the bulk of the representatives were Moderate Royalists, loyal to the charter and the settlement of 1815 and in full sympathy with the conciliatory efforts of the king, while Ultra-Royalists and Liberals constituted two small but warring minorities.

The years of the Moderate Royalists’ control, from 1816 to 1820, were marked by consistent progress. Reorganization of the public finances was effected. The preparation of an annual budget of estimated expenditure and income, which had been largely farcical under the empire, now became an important part of the routine work of the Chambers. Large loans were floated in order more rapidly to pay off the indemnity to the allied conquerors of France, with such success that, in accordance with arrangements made at the European Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, the last foreign troops were withdrawn from French soil in 1818, and France was once more recognized as a Great Power with a stable government. A new electoral law assured the preponderance of the bourgeoisie in the Lower Chamber by instituting a comparatively simple system of elections and requiring the payment of a sum of only 500 francs a year instead of 1000 in direct taxes as a qualification for the exercise of the suffrage. Another measure based the recruiting of the French army for the ensuing fifty years upon the principle of national conscription. Finally, a generous press law, modeled after that in vogue in England, was enacted. Such legislation and the concurrent maintenance of peace were gradually winning the business classes to the support of the Bourbon dynasty.

The period of liberal legislation was rudely interrupted early in 1820 by the assassination of the king’s nephew by a fanatical Liberal. The Ultra-Royalists, who were swept into power on the wave of popular indignation at this outrage, promptly returned, as might have been expected, to a policy of reaction and repression. They suspended the charter guarantees of individual liberty: they reestablished a strict censorship of the press; they entrusted the whole educational system to the Catholic clergy; and, in order to retain their majority in the Chamber, they modified the electoral law, by introducing a highly complicated scheme of election, by giving double suffrage to citizens who paid 1000 francs annually in direct taxes, and by lengthening the duration of a parliament to seven years. They elaborated a system of espionage and employed the army to crush opposition and to root out such secret revolutionary societies as that of the “Charcoal-Burners” which was spreading from Italy among the French Liberals. With the approval of Metternich and the Continental Powers they went to the length in 1823 of sending a French military expedition into Spain under command of the king’s nephew to restore the tyrannical government of the Bourbon king of that country. Strange irony of fate that French arms, which had so recently carried the message of liberty, equality, and fraternity to the peoples of Europe, should now be the weapon of divine right monarchs against the liberties of a nation! Yet so unreasoning was the patriotic emotion that accompanied military success that the Spanish expedition actually strengthened the hold of the Ultra-Royalists upon the hearts and minds of the French nation. When Louis XVIII died in 1824 the Bourbon dynasty seemed firmly reestablished upon the throne of France and reaction the permanent rule of French society and politics.

The leader of the Ultra-Royalists ever since the restoration had been the count of Artois, the late king’s brother, who now, as next of kin, succeeded to the throne under the title of Charles X. No family history can be more interesting or instructive than that of the three Bourbon brothers who at different times and under varying circumstances were obliged to deal with revolutionary forces in France—Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X. The first-named was well-intentioned, religious, but fatally weak and influenced by others, so that he lost his life by the guillotine. The second was hard-hearted, unprincipled, but so clever and astute a politician that in the midst of the struggles of irreconcilable factions he rounded out a not inglorious reign of ten years. The last-named had the political misfortune to resemble more closely the first than the second, save only that he possessed great strength of will and a dogged determination quite distinctive of himself. It had been the count of Artois who, with Marie Antoinette, had engineered the court intrigues against the Revolution in its earliest stages. It had been he who had headed the emigration of the nobles and clergy when their privileges were threatened by the Revolution. He it was who never tired of agitation against the revolutionaries and against Napoleon; and he it was who, on the triumphant return of his family and of the émigrés, encouraged the Ultra-Royalists in acts of retaliation. Yet personally he was courteous and kindly, a loyal friend, and sincerely devoted to the cause of religion. Principles he had and cherished: union of the altar and the throne; revival of the institutions of the old regime, political, religious, social, and intellectual; detestation of revolutionary doctrines. “It is only Lafayette and I,” he said, “who have not changed since 1789.”

With ostentatious pomp becoming the dignity of a divine right monarch, Charles X was solemnly crowned. With the assistance of the Ultra-Royalist majority in the Chambers he set to work to achieve his purposes. Further restrictions were imposed upon the freedom of the press. Many privileges were restored to the clergy. The Jesuits were allowed to return to France. The penalties for sacrilege and blasphemy were increased. An indemnity amounting to a billion francs was guaranteed to the émigrés for the Revolutionary confiscation of their lands and privileges. Even a bill tending to undermine equality of inheritance and to reestablish the practice of primogeniture was debated. Certainly, in France, during the Era of Metternich, the Ultra-Royalists appeared to be taking long strides toward the complete realization of the reactionary program which was defined by a faithful minister of Charles X as “the reorganization of society, the restoration to the clergy of their weight in state affairs, and the creation of a powerful aristocracy surrounded with privileges.”


In Spain during the same period neither the reaction nor the opposition to it was so veiled. When Ferdinand VII was restored to his throne in 1814, not through any efforts on his part but rather through the efforts of Wellington and the British and of his own loyal and heroic subjects, he found a robust sense of nationalism and a constitutional government. It will be recalled that in 1812 the provisional junta, which was directing the national revolt against Joseph Bonaparte, adopted a written constitution that resembled the French instrument of 1791 both in its arrangements for limiting the power of the king and in those for abolishing feudal rights and privileges and class distinctions. This constitution, which was largely the work of middle-class business-men, scholars, theorists, and army officers—of the classes particularly influenced by the French Revolution and inclined toward anti-clericalism—had been tolerated by the other classes in the community so long as it was necessary for the whole nation to present a united front against the French. But as soon as peace was restored and the national independence of the country assured, the nobles and clergy protested vehemently against the constitution. Taking advantage of these protests and of the ignorance or indifference of the mass of the peasantry, Ferdinand VII immediately declared the Constitution of 1812 null and void, and abolished the Cortes.

Surrounding himself with advisers drawn exclusively from officials of the old regime, the king at once instituted a thoroughly reactionary policy. With him there would be no compromise with revolutionary principles. The old system of absolute government was restored with all its inequalities and injustices. The privileges of the clergy and nobility, including exemption from taxation, were reaffirmed. Monasteries were reopened. The Jesuits were allowed to return. The Inquisition was reestablished. Individual liberties were taken away, and the press was placed under the strictest censorship. Liberals who had assisted in making the royal restoration possible were now arbitrarily arrested and banished or thrown into prison. That not much blood was shed was due partly to the urgent entreaties of Wellington.

The sordidness of the Spanish reaction in 1814 is traceable largely to the character of the king himself. Ferdinand VII was rancorous, cruel, ungrateful, and unscrupulous. Moreover, he did not possess the compensating qualities of ability or foresight. Instead of steering a middle course between extremist factions and seeking to consolidate the whole nation, he threw all his weight on the side of the reactionaries, while against the Liberals he continued to take such harsh measures that even Metternich in far-away Vienna, apprehensive of consequences, urged moderation. Instead of striving to repair the injuries inflicted by the Peninsular War and to husband his country’s resources, he actually hampered trade and industry and, in addition, squandered enormous sums of money upon himself and his favorites. Instead of adopting a conciliatory attitude toward the Spanish colonies in America, which already were maintaining governments practically of their own making, instead of redressing their grievances, and bringing them once more into the bond of a great national empire, he sorely neglected them at the outset, and, when it was too late, he endeavored to subjugate them by force of arms. The results of Ferdinand’s mistaken policies were apparent within five years of his restoration: a Spain hopelessly divided into the two camps of Conservatives and Liberals, each with its group of irreconcilables, respectively reactionaries and revolutionaries; grave scandals and abuses in administration; an army honeycombed with disaffection; a bankrupt treasury; and the American colonies in open, and apparently successful, revolt.

Throughout these five years, Liberal agitation against the royal tyrannies grew apace. Deprived of a free press and of the right of public meeting, the agitators gradually gravitated to such secret societies as the Carbonari and the Freemasons. The lodges were convenient centers of revolutionary propaganda, and their close affiliation and nationwide extent enabled the Liberals, by means of signs and grips and mysterious passwords, to communicate the teachings of liberty, equality, and fraternity to all the brethren. Among the irreligious or anti-clerical element of the middle class, the movement spread,—and likewise among the army officers,—until Spain faced civil war.

In 1819 a mutiny in the army which the king had assembled at Cadiz for the subjugation of the American colonies was the signal for a general insurrection which in the first two months of 1820 broke out in such distant places as Seville, Barcelona, Saragossa, and the Asturias. In March, 1820, Ferdinand, quaking with fear, gave his royal oath to support the Constitution of 1812 and appealed to the Liberals in a pompous declaration: “Let us advance frankly, myself leading the way, along the constitutional path.” The insurgents took him at his word and laid down their arms.

The king’s conversion was merely the reaction of cringing fear upon a thoroughly cowardly and hypocritical nature. Ferdinand had no serious intention of keeping his pledges, and, although for two years (1820–1822) he was obliged to rule in accordance with the statutes of the newly convened Cortes and under the direction of Liberal ministers, he was busied, almost from the outset, in countenancing reactionary revolts against the new regime and in confidential letters to the Great Powers, especially to his Bourbon cousin, the king of France, imploring foreign aid against the very government which he had solemnly sworn to uphold. Success soon crowned his intrigues. The Liberals fell to quarreling among themselves; the clergy and nobles resisted the execution of reform legislation; the sincere and ardent Catholics—in Spain a goodly number and well disciplined—treated as sacrilege and blasphemy the anti-clerical tendencies of the new Cortes. In many districts spasmodic riots became chronic and anarchy prevailed, betokening the advent within Spain of a counterrevolution against liberalism.

In the Spanish revolt of 1820, the reactionary Powers of Europe perceived the haunting specter of revolution. Despite the fact that they had been disgusted with Ferdinand’s impolitic behavior, they were now terrified by the thought of what the success of the king’s enemies might mean to the whole Continent. The Tsar Alexander, whom Metternich had just won over to the policy of international suppression of liberalism, volunteered, with that sudden and quixotic zeal which characterized his attachment to every newly found principle, to lead a great Russian army across Europe in order to reinstate Bourbon absolutism in Spain. But the French king at once conceived a most violent distaste for the employment of Russian troops even in his own cousin’s cause, for he rightly feared the effect on the French nation of the reappearance of foreign troops. Metternich, too, was loath to allow Russian soldiers to cross Austrian territories, and he at once sought to moderate the tsar’s enthusiasm. Nevertheless, something must be done. Consequently, in 1822, after protracted international negotiations, the members of the Quadruple Alliance, together with France, held the Congress of Verona. It was the opportunity of the reactionaries then in power in France: they proposed that a French army, acting on a general European mandate, should intervene in Spain. Thus by a single stroke France would be spared the humiliation of seeing foreign troops cross her borders; a Bourbon king would be reinstated in absolutism; the cause of reaction would triumph in Spain; and whatever glory might attend French arms would redound to the credit of reaction in France. Metternich gladly accepted the proposal. Great Britain alone objected.

Early in 1823, acting on the recommendation of the Congress of Verona, the governments of France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia presented separate notes to the Liberal ministry of Spain, expostulating on the anarchical conditions, which they greatly exaggerated, and demanding the abolition of the Constitution of 1812 and the liberation of the king from the restraints that had been imposed upon him. The Spanish Liberals naturally refused and protested against what they deemed an unwarranted interference with the purely domestic affairs of their country; and the French army, under the duke of Angouleme, promptly crossed the Pyrenees.

The French invaders encountered no such difficulties in 1823 as had faced them in 1808. No united nation now opposed them. Indeed, the majority of the Spaniards actually abetted or applauded them, so great was the popular distrust of, or indifference toward, the Liberal regime. In May, Angouleme was in possession of Madrid, and the Liberal ministry and Cortes had fled to Cadiz, taking Ferdinand with them as a hostage. From June to October Cadiz was closely besieged by the French. On 1 October, the Liberals released the king on the understanding that he should grant a general pardon and guarantee the establishment of a “moderate government.” Of course Ferdinand promised—no man was ever more facile with promises than he —and Cadiz immediately capitulated and the Liberals again laid down their arms.

No sooner was the king safe within the French lines than he characteristically annulled his promises and pronounced sentence of death upon all constitutionalists. In vain Angoulême counseled moderation and conciliation: the representatives of Metternich, of the Tsar Alexander, and of timid Frederick William of Prussia urged vigor to the royal arm, and in cruelty Ferdinand could always be vigorous. There followed in 1824 a reaction throughout Spain far more blind and bitter than that of 1814. Not only were the recent Liberal measures abrogated and the old regime again restored in its entirety, but the revolutionaries and the sympathizers with constitutional government were sought out with cunning ingenuity; hundreds were arbitrarily put to death; hundreds more were exiled or confined in noisome dungeons. By the time the French expedition withdrew from the country, Ferdinand VII had mercilessly broken the back of Spanish liberalism.

From that time till his death in 1833, Ferdinand ruled Spain as sovereign autocrat, irresponsible apparently either to man or to God. Abuses which had disfigured the earlier part of his reign now increased ten-fold, until general corruption prevailed at home and disgrace abroad. It was a sorry legacy that the contemptible Ferdinand VII bequeathed to his successor.

The decisive reason why the British government did not support the intervention of its Continental allies in Spain was not any lack of sympathy with reaction, for, as we shall presently see, the Tories then in authority in Great Britain were themselves sufficiently reactionary in internal policies to satisfy the fastidious taste of a Metternich: it was rather a consideration of trade. So long as Spain owned and controlled the bulk of South America, Central America, and Mexico, she attempted to monopolize commerce with those territories to the exclusion of the British. As soon, however, as the Spanish colonies set up governments of their own, they opened their ports to British merchantmen. The British government rightly argued that European intervention in Spain in 1823 might serve not only to restore Ferdinand VII but to enable him to recover the Spanish colonies and thereby to close to Great Britain a lucrative trade. In the United States Great Britain found a valuable ally. Of course the purpose of the United States was different from Great Britain’s, for the former was actuated not so much by commercial considerations as by apprehension lest the extension of the system of Metternich should endanger American political and social institutions, but both desired the same object: the freedom of the Spanish colonies. In 1821 the United States had purchased the Spanish claims to Florida. In 1822 she recognized the national independence of Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. And on 2 December, 1823, at the very time when French troops at the behest of the allied Powers were in possession of Spain, President James Monroe, acting with the foreknowledge and friendly assurances of the British government, made to the American Congress a celebrated pronouncement, which has since been known as the Monroe Doctrine. “In the wars of the European powers,” he said, “in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparations for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of necessity more immediately connected, and by causes which must be obvious to all enlightened and impartial observers. The political system of the allied powers is essentially different in this respect from that of America…. We owe it, therefore, to candor, and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers, to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies and dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have on great consideration and on just principles acknowledged, we could. not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them or controlling in any other manner their destiny by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States. … It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either [American] continent without endangering our peace and happiness; nor can anyone believe that our Southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition in any form with indifference.” The year following this remarkable declaration, Great Britain formally acknowledged the independence of Mexico and Colombia; and her recognition of the other Spanish American states was only postponed until they should have given proof of their stability. In the face of these facts, Metternich abandoned any hope he might have cherished of employing the Quadruple Alliance for the suppression of liberalism beyond the seas, and Spain made no further efforts to subdue her colonies, although she long withheld formal recognition of their freedom. The ambition of Napoleon Bonaparte, the fatuity of Ferdinand VII, the commercial interests of Great Britain, and the political principles of the United States, lost to Spain forever her continental empire in America.


A similar combination of circumstances vitally affected Portuguese history during the Era of Metternich. The Napoleonic incursion of 1807 sent the royal family of Portugal fleeing across the Atlantic to their distant colonial dependency of Brazil. Great Britain, whose trade relations with Portugal had long been intimate, avenged the insult, chased out the French, and erected a provisional government at Lisbon.

When finally in 1815 peace settled down upon Europe and the period of Metternich’s predominance began, the British, in view of the protracted residence of Portuguese royalty in Brazil, found it of great advantage to their own economic interests to prolong their military occupation of the mother-country. It was soon obvious that Portugal was being treated as a mere appendage to Great Britain; and patriotic reactionaries, who demanded the return of the king and the expulsion of the foreigners, commenced to make common cause with the Liberal faction, which was recruited from much the same classes as that in Spain and which had learned the revolutionary doctrines of liberty, equality, and fraternity in much the same way. Lord Beresford, the British governor, crushed several incipient rebellions, but in 1820, during his absence from the country, the Portuguese army, following the example of their Spanish neighbors, overthrew the regency, and the Liberals, who thereupon gained the upper hand, promulgated a radical constitution similar in almost every respect to the Spanish Constitution of 1812. The next year King John VI, entrusting the government of Brazil to his elder son, Dom Pedro, returned to Portugal and in 1822 swore obedience to the constitution.

The Brazilians, on their side, incensed by the departure of the king, now rebelled and, finding themselves supported by the regent, proclaimed him Emperor Pedro I of the independent Empire of Brazil (1822). In Portugal, the reactionaries who opposed constitutional government found a leader in Dom Miguel, the king’s younger son, whose cause received additional popular support as a protest against the loss of Brazil. For twelve years after 1822 Portugal was a prey to constant factional strife.

In 1823 King John, relying upon the presence of a reactionary French army in Spain, revoked the constitution, but even this concession did not stay Dom Miguel’s followers from attacking him, so that the united action of the European Powers was required to restore the king. On the death of John VI in 1826, Pedro I of Brazil, who now became Pedro IV of Portugal, granted to the Portuguese people a charter which provided for moderate parliamentary government on the model of the French charter of 1814, and then surrendered his Portuguese crown to his daughter Maria, a little girl seven years of age, on the understanding that she should become the wife of her uncle, Dom Miguel. Accordingly Miguel swore allegiance to Pedro, to Maria, and to the constitutional charter, but on his arrival at Lisbon in 1828 he promptly repudiated his promises and, with the support of the clerical and reactionary majority in the country, he reigned as sole and absolute king until 1834. Miguel was dissipated, illiterate, and cruel, and the admiration for Metternich, which he had conceived during a three years’ residence in Vienna, gave a particularly rigid character to his warfare against liberalism.

In the family struggle between the absolutist Miguel and the more liberal-minded Pedro, Austria, Russia, and Prussia naturally sympathized with the former, while Great Britain, again not through any excess of enthusiasm for the cause of liberalism but rather for the sake of trade, abetted the latter. Sentiment in the United States was undoubtedly unanimous in favoring the separation of Brazil from Portugal, and British warships actually intervened to prevent Portuguese troops from attempting to subjugate the Brazilians by force of arms. Thus the Portuguese colonial empire was disrupted, and though still under monarchical institutions, Brazil became, like the United States and the neighboring Spanish colonies, an independent American nation.


The Power which above all others was to profit by the reactionary regimes in Spain and in Portugal was Great Britain— the Power which to contemporary Continental statesmen seemed the least reactionary in Europe. But if, during the Era of Metternich, the British government appeared repeatedly to check the efforts of Continental reactionaries to suppress liberalism, it was due rather to commercial considerations or fortuitous circumstances than to love of democracy and devotion to the “rights of man.”