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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 70/202 -

escaped by hiding among the bodies of the dead, [208] resumed his place at the head of the officers of the Palace.

[Encroachments of the clergy.]

[Growing hostility to the Bourbons.]

These were but petty triumphs for the emigrants and nobles, but they were sufficient to make the restored monarchy unpopular. Equally injurious was their behaviour in insulting the families of Napoleon's generals, in persecuting men who had taken part in the great movement of 1789, and in intimidating the peasant-owners of land that had been confiscated and sold by the State. Nor were the priesthood backward in discrediting the Government of Louis XVIII. in the service of their own order. It might be vain to think of recovering the Churchlands, or of introducing the Inquisition into France, but the Court might at least be brought to invest itself with the odour of sanctity, and the parish-priest might be made as formidable a person within his own village as the mayor or the agent of the police-minister. Louis XVIII. was himself sceptical and self-indulgent. This, however, did not prevent him from publishing a letter to the Bishops placing his kingdom under the especial protection of the Virgin Mary, and from escorting the image of the patron-saint through the streets of Paris in a procession in which Marshal Soult and other regenerate Jacobins of the Court braved the ridicule of the populace by acting as candle-bearers. Another sign of the King's submission to the clergy was the publication of an edict which forbade buying and selling on Sundays and festivals.

Whatever the benefits of a freely-observed day of rest, this enactment, which was not submitted to the Chambers, passed for an arrogant piece of interference on the part of the clergy with national habits; and while it caused no inconvenience to the rich, it inflicted substantial loss upon a numerous and voluble class of petty traders. The wrongs done to the French nation by the priests and emigrants who rose to power in 1814 were indeed the merest trifle in comparison with the wrongs which it had uncomplainingly borne at the hands of Napoleon. But the glory of the Empire, the strength and genius of its absolute rule, were gone. In its place there was a family which had been dissociated from France during twenty years, which had returned only to ally itself with an unpopular and dreaded caste, and to prove that even the unexpected warmth with which it had been welcomed home could not prevent it from becoming, at the end of a few months, utterly alien and uninteresting. The indifference of the nation would not have endangered the Bourbon monarchy if the army had been won over by the King. But here the Court had excited the bitterest enmity. The accord which for a moment had seemed possible even to Republicans of the type of Carnot had vanished at a touch. [209] Rumours of military conspiracies grew stronger with every month. Wellington, now British Ambassador at Paris, warned his Government of the changed feeling of the capital, of the gatherings of disbanded officers, of possible attacks upon the Tuileries. "The truth is," he wrote, "that the King of France without the army is no King." Wellington saw the more immediate danger: [210] he failed to see the depth and universality of the movement passing over France, which before the end of the year 1814 had destroyed the hold of the Bourbon monarchy except in those provinces where it had always found support, and prepared the nation at large to welcome back the ruler who so lately seemed to have fallen for ever.

[Congress of Vienna, Sept., 1814.]

Paris and Madrid divided for some months after the conclusion of peace the attention of the political world. At the end of September the centre of European interest passed to Vienna. The great council of the Powers, so long delayed, was at length assembled. The Czar of Russia, the Kings of Prussia, Denmark, Bavaria, and Würtemberg, and nearly all the statesmen of eminence in Europe, gathered round the Emperor Francis and his Minister, Metternich, to whom by common consent the presidency of the Congress was offered. Lord Castlereagh represented England, and Talleyrand France. Rasumoffsky and other Russian diplomatists acted under the immediate directions of their master, who on some occasions even entered into personal correspondence with the Ministers of the other Powers. Hardenberg stood in a somewhat freer relation to King Frederick William; Stein was present, but without official place. The subordinate envoys and attaches of the greater Courts, added to a host of petty princes and the representatives who came from the minor Powers, or from communities which had ceased to possess any political existence at all, crowded Vienna. In order to relieve the antagonisms which had already come too clearly into view, Metternich determined to entertain his visitors in the most magnificent fashion; and although the Austrian State was bankrupt, and in some districts the people were severely suffering, a sum of about £10,000 a day was for some time devoted to this purpose. The splendour and the gaieties of Metternich were emulated by his guests; and the guardians of Europe enjoyed or endured for months together a succession of fêtes, banquets, dances, and excursions, varied, through the zeal of Talleyrand to ingratiate himself with his new master, by a Mass of great solemnity on the anniversary of the execution of Louis XVI. [211] One incident lights the faded and insipid record of vanished pageants and defunct gallantries. Beethoven was in Vienna. The Government placed the great Assembly-rooms at his disposal, and enabled the composer to gratify a harmless humour by sending invitations in his own name to each of the Sovereigns and grandees then in Vienna. Much personal homage, some substantial kindness from these gaudy creatures of the hour, made the period of the Congress a bright page in that wayward and afflicted life whose poverty has enriched mankind with such immortal gifts.

[Talleyrand and the four Powers.]

The Congress had need of its distractions, for the difficulties which faced it were so great that, even after the arrival of the Sovereigns, it was found necessary to postpone the opening of the regular sittings until November. By the secret articles of the Peace of Paris, the Allies had reserved to themselves the disposal of all vacant territory, although their conclusions required to be formally sanctioned by the Congress at large. The Ministers of Austria, England, Prussia, and Russia accordingly determined at the outset to decide upon all territorial questions among themselves, and only after their decisions were completely formed to submit them to France and the other Powers. [212] Talleyrand, on hearing of this arrangement, protested that France itself was now one of the Allies, and demanded that the whole body of European States should at once meet in open Congress. The four Courts held to their determination, and began their preliminary sittings without Talleyrand. But the French statesman had, under the form of a paradox, really stated the true political situation. The greater Powers were so deeply divided in their aims that their old bond of common interest, the interest of union against France, was now less powerful than the impulse that made them seek the support of France against one another. Two men had come to the Congress with a definite aim: Alexander had resolved to gain the Duchy of Warsaw, and to form it, with or without some part of Russian Poland, into a Polish kingdom, attached to his own crown: Talleyrand had determined, either on the question of Poland, or on the question of Saxony, which arose out of it, to break allied Europe into halves, and to range France by the side of two of the great Powers against the two others. The course of events favoured for a while the design of the Minister: Talleyrand himself prosecuted his plan with an ability which, but for the untimely return of Napoleon from Elba, would have left France, without a war, the arbiter and the leading Power of Europe.

[Polish question.]

Since the Russian victories of 1812, the Emperor Alexander had made no secret of his intention to restore a Polish Kingdom and a Polish nationality. [213] Like many other designs of this prince, the project combined a keen desire for personal glorification with a real generosity of feeling. Alexander was thoroughly sincere in his wish not only to make the Poles again a people, but to give them a Parliament and a free Constitution. The King of Poland, however, was to be no independent prince, but Alexander himself: although the Duchy of Warsaw, the chief if not the sole component of the proposed new kingdom, had belonged to Austria and Prussia after the last partition of Poland, and extended into the heart of the Prussian monarchy. Alexander insisted on his anxiety to atone for the crime of Catherine in dismembering Poland: the atonement, however, was to be made at the sole cost of those whom Catherine had allowed to share the booty. Among the other Governments, the Ministry of Great Britain would gladly have seen a Polish State established in a really independent form; [214] failing this, it desired that the Duchy of Warsaw should be divided, as formerly, between Austria and Prussia. Metternich was anxious that the fortress of Cracow, at any rate, should not fall into the hands of the Czar. Stein and Hardenberg, and even Alexander's own Russian counsellors, earnestly opposed the Czar's project, not only on account of the claims of Prussia on Warsaw, but from dread of the agitation likely to be produced by a Polish Parliament among all Poles outside the new State. King Frederick William, however, was unaccustomed to dispute the wishes of his ally; and the Czar's offer of Saxony in substitution for Warsaw gave to the Prussian Ministers, who were more in earnest than their master, at least the prospect of receiving a valuable equivalent for what they might surrender.

[Saxon question.]

By the Treaty of Kalisch, made when Prussia united its arms with those of Russia against Napoleon (Feb. 27th, 1813), the Czar had undertaken to restore the Prussian monarchy to an extent equal to that which it had possessed in 1805. It was known before the opening of the Congress that the Czar proposed to do this by handing over to King Frederick William the whole of Saxony, whose Sovereign, unlike his colleagues in the Rhenish Confederacy, had supported Napoleon up to his final overthrow at Leipzig. Since that time the King of Saxony had been held a prisoner, and his dominions had been occupied by the Allies. The Saxon question had thus already gained the attention of all the European Governments, and each of the Ministers now at Vienna brought with him some more or less distinct view upon the subject. Castlereagh, who was instructed to foster the union of Prussia and Austria against Alexander's threatening ambition, was willing that Prussia should annex Saxony if in return it would assist him in keeping Russia out of Warsaw: [215] Metternich disliked the annexation, but offered no serious objection, provided that in Western Germany Prussia would keep to the north of the Main: Talleyrand alone made the defence of the King of Saxony the very centre of his policy, and subordinated all other aims to this. His instructions, like those of Castlereagh, gave priority to the Polish question; [216] but Talleyrand saw that Saxony, not Poland, was the lever by which he could throw half of Europe on to the side of France; and before the four Allied Courts had come to any single conclusion, the French statesman had succeeded, on what at first passed for a subordinate point, in breaking up their concert.

[Talleyrand's action on Saxony.]

For a while the Ministers of Austria, Prussia, and England appeared to be acting in harmony; and throughout the month of October all three endeavoured to shake the purpose of Alexander regarding Warsaw. [217] Talleyrand, however, foresaw that the efforts of Prussia in this direction would not last very long, and he wrote to Louis XVIII. asking for his permission to make a definite offer of armed assistance to Austria in case of need. Events took the turn which Talleyrand expected. Early in November the King of Prussia completely yielded to Alexander, and ordered Hardenberg to withdraw his opposition to the Russian project. Metternich thus found himself abandoned on the Polish question by Prussia; and at the same moment the answer of King Louis XVIII. arrived, and enabled Talleyrand to assure the Austrian Minister that, if resistance to Russia and Prussia should become necessary, he might count on the support of a French army. Metternich now completely changed his position on the Saxon question, and wrote to Hardenberg (Dec. 10) stating that, inasmuch as Prussia had chosen to sacrifice Warsaw, the Emperor Francis absolutely forbade the annexation of more than a fifth part of the kingdom of Saxony. Castlereagh, disgusted

History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 70/202

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