RESTORATION OR RECONSTRUCTION?

A3 the deluge receded, the surviving representatives of Old Europe assembled to construct a New Europe which should resemble the old as much as possible. Most of them proposed to go back to 1789. The Congress which met at Vienna was mainly concerned with the establishment of new-political frontiers, v/ith the usual regard for dynastic interests and the balance of power, not for the wishes of the inhabitants. Austria, England, Russia, and Prussia very nearly went to war with each other, and their dissensions were skilfully exacerbated by the French representatives.

The Allies professed to have been fighting Napoleon, the Corsican usurper, in order to restore the legitimate dynasty in France, and wisely did: nst make the event unpopular in that country by associating it with reprisals. The very able French representative, Talleyrand, insinuated himself among the " Big Four " on a footing of equality, and played on their divisions.

While young, Talleyrand had been pushed in pre-Revolution days into a bishopric, and had joined the Revolutionary party in 1789; he had been exiled before the worst of the Terror, and had later taken service with the Directory and Napoleon: he had broken with the latter after 1807, and he assisted in bringing back the Bourbons. Like many other ex-Jacobins and servants of the Emperor the supple renegade now served under the restored government.

England was represented by Wellington and the Foreign Secretary, Castlereagh, a well-meaning person whose vision stopped short at temporary measures for preserving the peace of Europe. Russia had its Tsar Alexander, who had been influenced in youth by French philanthropy and philosophy, and who had already carried out a number of reforms in his half-barbarous empire. He was destined to be soured by the ingratitude of human beings, but in 1814-15 he was still full of high principles, backed, however, with a very clear determination to take all that Russia could claim and a readiness to use the large and untired Russian army to get it. Hardenberg, the representative of Prussia, the state which had suffered most from France, had a very good record as an administrator in Prussia, whose government had carried out many useful reforms in its struggle with Napoleon. Prussia, however, did not carry much weight. Austria was in a strong position and consistently opposed her.

The Austrian Emperor's representative was Metternich, Chancellor since 1809, a man destined to play the leading part in European politics for four decades. To two generations of reformers he was the incarnation of tyranny. Conservatives see in him a cautious upholder of working realities against fantastic demands for change. Even his enemies would admit that he desired international peace. Yet his admirers must agree that he propped up an effete despotism by a system of spies and harsh penalties.