The Congress of Vienna was one of the most important international summits of European history; it determined the future boundaries of Europe, boundaries that still impact Europe today. The major powers of the day dominated negotiations, sending their most eminent statesman. Austria sent Metternich, Britain sent Castlereagh, Russia sent Alexander I himself, Prussia sent Hardenberg, and France sent Talleyrand. Each had nation had its own goals. Prussia wanted to enlarge its territory. Russia wanted Poland, but it also wanted "collective security". And Austria and Britain simply wanted a balance of power that would maintain stability and the status quo in Europe. Although the French Revolution and Napoleonic Rule spread the forces of modernization and change, the Congress of Vienna, which determined the future of Europe beyond Napoleon, was dominated by members of the old regime and aristocracy. Their hope was to design a political landscape wherein no one power could dominate.

The secret Austrian-British-French alliance to stop Russia and Prussia from combining to gain all of Poland and Saxony just shows how complicated the negotiations were. Europe had just spent two decades dealing with the French menace, and already, the anti-French coalition was split up, with Britain actually allying with France! Still, despite the efforts to minimize Russian and Prussian encroachment in Central Europe, both countries did manage to extend their influence west through the Congress of Vienna.

The Congress of Vienna also to outlaw the Atlantic slave trade. All of the major powers agreed to this, but only Britain actually did anything to stop the trade, setting up an anti-slaving naval squadron.

For all the trouble France had caused, the Congress was remarkably mild towards France, which basically got to keep its traditional, pre-Revolution boundaries. The Congress also stopped potentially explosive issues from getting out of hand: the Poland issue could have led to war or further hostility, but it was handled with extreme care by a group of very capable diplomats. The Congress brilliantly established long-term stability in Europe. True, there were some criticisms. Nationalists were not always happy with the established borders that served to maintain the balance of power rather than unifying a given group that shared the same language and culture. Also, the stability the Congress created helped keep reactionary regimes in power and may have slowed social progress, and much of the years between 1815 and 1848 were animated by the interaction of liberal and conservative ideals. But in all, the Congress of Vienna was a success. It created enough powers of similar strength and influence that none of them could go too far without being overwhelmed by a coalition of the others. It mediated numerous tensions and conflicting interest through peaceful negotiations. Furthermore, the Congress created so little hard feeling and dispute that the whole of Europe did not all go to war at once for a century. Not until World War I broke out in 1914 did a massive, Europe-wide conflict occur. In that sense, the Congress of Vienna was a triumph of diplomacy.

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