I. The Characteristics of the formations of the Westphalian System.
The Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War, confirmed the existence of the European sovereign state system— which was generally regarded as the beginning of the European modern political community. The Vienna System was established after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, however, showed few characteristics of the European modern international political community. The concept of a modern international society means an “organic unity” separated from the state of nature. Of course, the economic integration ought to be put in the first place, along with the corresponding unified political ties and cultural artifact, which also played its role in maintaining the unity. The political ties and cultural artifacts mentioned here not only include the cultural origins from the ancient Greek, Roman, and Christianity, but also extracted the modern European spirit formed by the transformation and the unification materialized from it.
What worth here is the connotation of the modernized European unity expressed by the two systems, which refers to the new characteristics of the political and cultural unity of Europe in the ancient middle ages. Specifically, it refers to the evolution of the united Christian Europe led by the Holy Roman Empire to the modern political system composed of sovereign states. The Christian universality of ideology was replaced by the common values of the new international community and the international norms (international laws). The attempt by any single state to gain the hegemony of other states was crushed by the generally recognized method of “balance of power”. Moreover, the multi-state dynastic system was transformed to the Great Power System of the nation-state. Europe, a unity of contradictions with its own characteristics, was developed in the midst of constant conflicts and co-operations. With the deepening of economic integration, scientific and technological progress, Europe is becoming more and more politically mature.
The uniqueness of the European unity even during the continuous conflicts and divisions should still be studied, as it would assist historians to have clearer understandings of the European unity nowadays.
The Thirty Years' War and the Peace of Westphalia practices the negation towards the Holy Roman Empire and the unity of the Catholic Church, reintegrated the scattered European states, and changed the political structure and cultural ties of Europe. Eventually marked the beginning of the transition of European unity into the early modern era.
The Holy Roman Empire, with Roman Christianity as its sustaining force and ancient military power as the means, was the expression of European unity in the Middle Ages. Europe before the beginning of modern times was called the “Christian community”. It was an international system in its natural state of immaturity, not yet an organic whole. Moreover, the empire was nothing but a skeleton laid in a tangled web of thousands of different agents with different religious and patriarchal views, neither holy, nor imperial. Christianity as a cultural bond and sustaining force did play an important role in the unity of Europe. However, when the Pope and the church appearing as the social rulers, and participating in political and economic life, controlling everything, limiting the development of human nature and creativities, it became the contrary to the mainstream of a developed civilization. Instead of unifying Europe, the Holy Roman Empire consolidated the old decentralizing characteristics of Europe, which inhibited the development of a unified Europe.
The unity of the Christian community indicates the backwardness and darkness of medieval Europe, the loose and chaos of politics led to countless religious conflicts and frequent wars. Ancient natural law, the Biblical doctrines, and the church laws’ effect on the chaos of the Europe were quite limited. Therefore, the unity of the ancient medieval Europe was not the bonds of spiritual culture, but manifested in ancient military power and temporary regional controls.
The connotation of European unity evolves with the continuous modernizations of social economic and political structure. This was recapitulated by Fernand Braudel— “constitutes a economy integration”, and according to Brinell— “politically divided”, thus, shall be understood as a new integration. The sovereign state becomes the subject of the international community's behavior in terms of politics, instead of the old chaos behavior body. This transition of politics of the Middle Ages to modern politics, signaling the start of political science, leading to the changes in the unity of the political structure.
In the 14th century, there was a trend in Europe to suppress the separatism and strengthen the monarchy. The fundamental cause of this trend was the development of commodity economy and the growth of the citizen class in West Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. With the strong support of the citizens, the monarchs of West European countries strengthened their authority step by step, and gradually realized the political unity of the state.
The Italian Renaissance and the subsequent religious reformation completed the creation of modern civilization by blending the classical civilization with the Christian civilization. Meanwhile, Christian humanists actively advocated the values of secular power, monarch power and sovereignty, which played a great role in promoting the rising of royal powers and the secularization of political power. This trend also further integrated the so-called unified actors of Christianity and the Holy Roman Empire, deepened people's understanding of the nature of sovereign states, which promoted the formation and perfection of sovereign states.
Changes in trade routes and advancements in science and technology have increased the commercial power of some states along the Atlantic coast. The development of commodity economy and the strengthening of national politics enhanced the struggle for wealth and control of resources, as a result, wealth became the main content of national politics. After seventieth century, the benefits of colonial and overseas trade were increasingly significant. In the world of constant struggle, mercantilist state policies, combined with colonial rule, trade monopolism, and the increasingly naval power that came with the shipping with the colonies, formed the basic elements of national power. The nature of conflicts between states has changed from wars caused by territorial and religious differences among feudal lords to modern wars for the overall interests of sovereign states, that were dominated by economic interests. Therefore, the ideas of the Renaissance movement have grown influences on the guiding principles, when dealing with the relations between sovereign states. Although the complete abandon the Christian faith and many ancient moral principles is unlikely going to occur, the development of the international community has gradually downplaying the impact of the old international norms. The religious ethics and legality of ancient tradition within the original European cultural context have been gradually transformed into common values that were suitable for the international community. European wholeness evolves from the cultural diversity to the intrinsic unity by degrees.
The Thirty Years' War and the Peace of Westphalia are the symbols of these changes. The Westphalian system marked the formation of the international community in modern Europe, and also showed the characteristics of modern European unity.
Firstly, almost the entire Europe was united in an international system, which took the sovereign states as the main actors, a truly modern political system. This established the precedent of successfully settling the international issues through negotiations at international conferences, changed the old Christian ecumenical councils or other so-called universal authorities. Instead, the Peace of Westphalia made the multilateral talks as the basic principle for resolving the international issues; However, this system still belongs to the inter-dynastic system. If one does not pay attention to the international relationship between the inter-dynastic systems, then it would arbitrary to understand the reasons why many states waged many throne succession wars.
Second, the Westphalian system was built based on the principle of safeguarding the national interests of the sovereign states. This treaty recognized the sovereignty of the German vassals, along with the independence of the Kingdom of the Netherland and Switzerland. The integration of the sovereign states under this principle has resulted not only in increasing stability, but also in decreasing numbers. (which means more and more small states joined together to form a powerful state.) At the end of the Thirty Years’ War, Germany had more than 900 states; Though, according to the treaty, 355 states of Germany actually gained their independence. Besides, after several eliminations in 1803 by Napoleonic Wars, the number was even reduced to 200. By 1815 it only had 36. The Peace of Westphalia also recognizes the Protestants and Catholics shared the equal rights, (Calvinism was added later) which means that the conflict between sovereign states distracted the European states’ attentions from the religious conflicts to the state conflicts.
Third, the Westphalian System initially established a pattern of “balance of power”, in which many competitive states could coexist. Although the idea of balance of power has existed since ancient times, it hasn’t been widely used as a principle in resolving international issues until the sixteenth century. In Europe, it was mainly used for the purpose of maintaining the preliminary formed sovereign state system, that is, to protect the independence of those new-born sovereign states. The Thirty Years’ War was, in fact, a large-scale combined campaign of European sovereign states against the Habsburg dynasty in order to preserve the balance of power. No matter what approaches were utilized to analyze and evaluate the nature and consequences of the “balance of power” principle, the history proves that it does not always prevented the occurrence of international conflicts and hegemony; However, this method was largely applied in the modern European politics, as a symbol of order and peace, the “balance of power” got general approvals from the international community. In a sense, it is also a political and cultural bond to adapt the unity of the new system. Whether Charles V and Philip II, Louis XIV and Napoleon I, or even later Hitler, their dreams of establishing a European hegemony was shattered. One of the limiting factors was the “balance of power” principle based on the concept of sovereignty. More importantly, the “balance of power” pattern in the Peace of Westphalia was the most preliminary application of the “balance of power” principle in early modern era, along with many social changes. This laid the foundation for the later emergence of international competition and the system of check in power for the European states.
Fourthly, the Westphalian System was based on the recognition and application of the new common values among many European states since the Italian Renaissance. This means that the attempts for maintaining the unity of European society possesses modern implications. It was also embodied in the emergence of international laws based on the concept of modern natural law of Grotius. Although the united Christian world of the Middle Ages had collapsed, and Europe had been divided into many separated sovereign states, the European sense of spiritual and cultural wholeness remained deeply rooted. Europe was transformed into an international society governed by many common laws. This ought to be another manifestation of the modernization of European unity. Although international laws cannot fundamentally restrain the hegemony from disappearing, the integrations and developments of the international community were largely influences.
Compared with the unification of Christianity or the Holy Roman Empire, the Westphalian System seems to have enhanced the political decentralization of Europe, whatsoever from the perspective of the historical development, this diverse political schism can be regarded as a high level synthesis and consistency. This is the inevitable progress occurred in the first few stages of the modernization of the European unities. Therefore, the extension of European unity has not been stopped.
The map of Europe after the Thirty Years’ War.
II. The relationship between European states after the Peace of Westphalia
1. First, it promoted the formation of the modern nation-states:
Westphalian System is the rudimental state of the modern international political system. It is the first system which affirms nationalism in the form of treaties. Old international relations were broken up, European states’ territories were re-divided, and the Holy Roman Empire basically lost its influence on German affairs. The Westphalian System marked the formation of the modern international community in Europe, and also showed the modern characteristics of the connotation of European unity. The establishment of the modern nation-state system by the Westphalian System is vital to the modern international development.
It must be noted that the values of the Westphalian System are based on the recognition and application of the common values among countries since the Renaissance, and on which the ideas of international society were started. This symbolizes the re-division of the European Politics
2. It initiated a new political pattern in early modern Europe.
The Peace of Westphalia incites a new political system. The world political community is a relatively concentrated and generalized form, as the expression of the international relationships in a particular period by various factors on the international stage (mainly the structure formed in a specific period by the interactions between sovereign states and other states). This mainly includes two aspects: political geography and power. The Westphalian System established the political geography of modern Europe. According to this treaty, the lands occupied by France in 1552, such as Mace and Verdun, were recognized; additionally, France acquired Alsace and Lorraine as well as some areas of southwest Germany. Sweden gets all of the west Pomerania, including Rugen island; Some areas and cities in east Pomerania were also acquired, including the estuary city of Stettin and the Oder estuary area. The king of Sweden also acquired the Wessel estuary and other areas in the name of imperial fiefdoms (fiefdoms obtained from the emperor), including the parts of west Pomerania and east Pomerania— seek for controlling the estuaries of the Oder, Elbe, Weser and other rivers, (once the Baltic sea became its "inner lake"). Sweden also received a large amount of reparations and was able to interfere the internal affairs of Germany according to the treaty. Imperial princes such as Brandenburg also received a lot of land compensation. The Swiss Republic, which gained independence from Austria, and the Netherlands, which gained independence from Habsburg Spain, were legally recognized by treaty. Portugal gained its independence. The treaty affirmed the territorial changes during the Thirty Years’ War.
The Westphalian System also asserts the “balance of power.”: (1) the German Holy Roman Empire was the main battlefield, and the biggest victim of the Thirty Years' War. During the war, the imperial economy declined, many mines and iron casting workshops were destroyed, industry commerce decreased; And many cities lost its original commercial significance, then became the political center of the area, instead. The growth of population was decimated by the war. The mortalities of the Principality of Saxony was 934,000 in the early years of the Swedish Phrase War (1630-1632). Augsburg, an industrial and commercial center with 80,000 inhabitants before the war, became a desolate town with only 12,000 people afterwards. Politically, the imperial power declined and the local separatist forces were soared. The modern days’ division of the German land was formally established, and the Habsburg German Empire became a “puppet”. (2) the Habsburg Court of Spain was the second victim. After years of war, Spain suffered a heavy blow. The Spanish Habsburg royal family fell into economic decline, financial disorder and hegemony disappearance. The Thirty Years' War extravagated this declination. Spain lost approximately 300 warships in its navy, the control towards the Atlantic Ocean started to transfer to the new-born maritime states (Britain and Netherland). France and Sweden are the biggest beneficiaries of this treaty. First of all, the new territories acquired in the war were confirmed, and the status of the two countries as guarantors of the treaty was given, and the two countries were granted the right to interfere in the internal affairs of German states.
The establishment of the Westphalian System led to the emergence of a common principle in modern European international relations: the principle of balance of power or balance of power. The Thirty Years' War asserts the balance of power between the Habsburg monarchs and the nations of Europe. Thus, the Westphalian System itself was a product of compromise. The Peace of Westphalia was one of the most prominent practice of the content of the laws to deny the authority of the Pope and the emperor, recognition of a series of sovereign independence and its legitimacy, along with the other political entities, particularly for the German empire Leud sovereignty recognition (Münster treaty article 63 and 64). This was due to the fact that the main objective of the political parties at that time was to bring the war to a speedy end and restore European social order. Therefore, the formation of the Westphalian System led to the balance of power in Europe, which later became a general principle in international relations, as reflected in the Napoleonic wars and the World War I.
2. The “international court of justice”
The formation of Westphalian System is also a significant mark of the emergence of modern international laws. The establishment of the state sovereignty principle is crucial to the creations of international laws, since various international relations and the existence of the entire international community formed by the coexistence, exchanges and coordination of numerous sovereign states, which is also the specific foundation for the creations and developments of international laws. The emergence of the sovereign states in the modern sense announced the catastrophic collapse of religious groups formed in the Middle Ages. The existence of international laws is based on an international community composed of independent states on equality and not subject to papal hegemony. Therefore, the Peace of Westphalia does not only marked the existence of a practical international community, but also symbolized the existence of an international law that has a direct binding force on international acts.
The formation of this system has created a model of peace settlement of international disputes through conferences. The Peace of Westphalia covered a wide range of important issues, including territorial division, reparations and religious disagreements. The principles were meant to be followed in dealing with problems that were not easily solved for a small amount of time. The principle for the settlement of the Lorraine disputes, for example, is the parties concerned shall submit to a mutually nominated arbitrator, or to a treaty between France and Spain, or to other amicable means of settlement; The emperor, the electors of the empire, the princes of the states, and the states are free to assist and promote this agreement by friendly intervention and other means of promoting peace talks, without the use of force. On other issues, a similar clause would require peaceful settlement of disputes and provide for penalties for violators. Since the Westphalian peace conferences, consultation and coordinated settlement have become the main mode of settling international disputes. Westphalia System, therefore, is the first successful international disputes’ settlement in modern sense of the system, its foundation is that the European states shall not bound by any sovereign and refused to yield before any hegemonic authority, it is a world combined mechanism, this is extremely important to the developments of international laws. The treaty could therefore be called the first European or world charter. The second attempt was made at the loose system of consultation between the great powers established at the Vienna and Aachen conferences, known as "European coordination", in which major mutual interests were involved, and the great powers should consult regularly to ensure the balance of power in Europe. It leaves great powers with the legal obligation to act freely and to assume uncertainty. This flexibility was the major feature of European coordination, which kept the peace in Europe for more than a century.
In addition, the system's focus on human rights issues reflects the advancements of human civilization. The Thirty Years’ War, which had its origins in religious disagreement, was meant to be to end with religion. The Peace of Westphalia explicitly recognized the principle of religious freedom, then Protestants and Calvinists thus gained the same rights and social status as Catholics. Although international human rights law was gradually formed and developed after World War II, it still originated from the international protection of religious freedom in the Treaty of Bavaria. In addition, the problems of the prisoner of war, as well as the resolutions. This reflects the concerns of the Westphalian System for human rights. Thus it can be seen that the Westphalia System played an irreplaceable role in promoting the construction of modern international laws.
3. Announced the collapse of medieval Catholic hopes of a united Europe
Once again, the formation of the Westphalian System announced the collapse of Catholic Europe in the Middle Ages. The Peace of Westphalia established the principle of free religious belief in the form of articles. Calvinism and Lutheranism gained equal status and rights with Catholicism, resulting in the legal basis for religious reformations, which was vital to the rapid developments of the capitalism in the later ages.
The main contents of the Peace of Westphalia concerns of religion are as follows: 1. The principles of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 were reaffirmed, and Calvinism enjoyed equal status , political and religious rights with the Catholicism and Protestantism; 2.1624 is the leading year for determining the ownership of religious property, that is, the ownership of religious property shall be based on the religious status of ownership in 1624, which means the religious property occupied by Protestantism or Catholicism shall be returned. It must be noted that this guaranteed ownership of the estates, which had been taken over by protestants since the Peace of Augsburg at 1555. The Pope opposed the clause but could do nothing about it, and the confirmation of 1624 as the initiating year was a compromise, between the traditional and the new religions on the basis of maximizing their respective interests. Protestantism insisted on restoring its pre-war status, for Protestantism continued to grow within the empire until 1618. Catholicism, on the other hand, wanted to date it to 1627 or 1629, when it reached the height of its power expansion under the influence of "re-Catholicism". The Catholic church finally accepted 1624 as the starting year, because at this time the Austrian hereditary territory— Bohemia, Silesia and other places are still under its full authority. The setting of 1624 as the standard year was significant, because it established the principle of attribution of church property after the war and guaranteed converts before that date. The change of the religious belief of the sovereign people would not affect the religious belief of his subjects, thus gradually mitigating the conflicts between the different religious beliefs within the empire and effectively preventing future religious conflicts.
At the emperor's insistence, however, Austria's hereditary domain was not included by the “1624” treaty. With the end of the Thirty Years’ War, the formation of Westphalian System finally broke the "theocracy" tradition of the Roman Holy See. Religious factors were separated from the political life of the states as much as possible, and each state got its national sovereignty to varying degrees, while the imperial power was severely weakened, actually the empire only existed in name. 3. Affirms the principle of "religion follows the state" in the Peace of Augsburg, that the sovereign states have its rights to determine the religious beliefs of the state, but not to force the removal of different “heretic” religions, which also has the rights to engage in private or public religious activities; 4. In all subsequent matters relating to religious matters, the imperial assembly shall not vote by majority of clergies, but shall be divided according to its religious beliefs into two deliberative bodies, the Protestants and the Catholics, and the two shall reach an agreement by peaceful means.
Due to the reconfirmation of the Peace of Augsburg in the Peace of Westphalia and the confirmation of Calvinism, Christianity was divided into three parts, thus the unification of Western Europe by Catholicism was broken up. The states could decide their own religious beliefs and were not allowed to discriminate or persecute people of different faiths. In the face of the fact that the religious belief with exclusivity is divided and must coexist with each other, it gradually gives up the idea of autocracy and exclusion and becomes tolerant and inclusive. It was in this spirit of tolerance that western modern scientific and democratic ideas were gradually nurtured and developed.
The Westphalian System has contributed greatly to the development of international relationships between European states. The international system created by, it is the rudiment of modern international relations’ system. First, the system promoted the formation of modern nation-states. In particular, the principle of state sovereignty established in the system has effectively safeguarded the survival and development of nation-states and promoted international peace and political stability. Today, it has become the strong desires of most countries to establish a new international political and economic order and build a diversified world of equality and mutual respect. Secondly, the formation of Westphalian System is an important symbol of the emergence of modern international laws. It is the world’s first international law. It played an irreplaceable role in promoting the construction of modern international law. Thirdly, the formation of the system deepened the reformation in Europe. The end of medieval Catholic Europe.
Cardinal Richelieu, the major figure in promoting the “balance of power” diplomacy, his diplomatic strategies successfully prevented a united Germany, thus the security of France is sustained.
From the second half of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century, the European international community as one body continued to move forward within the voices of doubts. Plus, the establishment of the Vienna System in 1815 started the classic period of the political community in modern Europe.
The leads to the formation of a Vienna system, that is, in the second evolution of the European unity, mainly has the following aspects: 1) due to the development of the capitalist economy and its increasingly roles in social life, the pursuit of national interests of modern sense and behavior has been widely prevailing, both domestic and international contradictions were given in significances of modernity; 2) scientific and technological advancements, geographical conditions, ethnic traditions and other factors have led to the rise of Britain, France, Austria, Russia and other states, disrupting the “balance of power” in the Westphalian System. However, the wars in the 18th century further enhanced the strength of the above-mentioned states and many of them gradually dominated the European international arena. 3) the Enlightenment in the 18th century carried on the ideas from the Renaissance era, and the ideas of human rights and democratic republics were violently attacking the old autocratic system; 4) the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars produced profound shocks to Europe in all fields. With principles of “liberty, equality and fraternity”, the French Revolution challenged not only the autocratic regime, but also the existing international order (status quo). Napoleon I utilized the revolutionary fervors and new principles to practice his imperial desires, while “exhibiting the Holy Roman Empire in the history museum”, this aroused widespread opposition from sovereign states. The result is, in a sense, a combination of revolutions and empires that created the conservatism and international order. The Vienna System reflects this political consequence and at the same time, shows the new characteristics of the unification of the European international community after those great social changes. Its new features are mainly the followings:
First, all sovereign states in Europe (with the exception of Ottoman Empire) are included in an international system, in which the great naval powers of Britain and powerful armies of the Russia Empire became the important members of it. A Europe with a more complex meaning of geography and culture, also with more complete and modernized unity than the Westphalian system is presented to the world. In order to maintain this system, the appearance of a system with regular meetings and the internal European political stability; Even Alexander’ I’s action of organizing the Holy Alliance, which fully reflected the influence and role of the hidden principle and spirit of European unity. In this international “family”, although inequality and conflicts existed, there were all considered to be one of the members. (sovereign states) Europe, which seeks sovereign equality so desperately, has taken another step forward.
Second, the Vienna System established an exemplary model of the modernized “balance of power” diplomacy, which showed the periodic characteristics of European international politics in the 19th century. Firstly, based on the “balance of power” pattern in Westphalian System, a “great-power balanced” system dominated by five powerful states came into being. In the 19th century, the relationship between the great powers could determine the history of Europe. Secondly, the principle of a modernized “balance of power” pattern has been widely accepted; Many modern politicians and diplomats, such as Castlereagh, Metternich and Bismarck, who actively advocated the “balance of power”, put it into practice. Thirdly, it is a more stable equilibrium system than the Westphalian system. Whatever one may say about the conservatism of the Vienna system and its other shortcomings, historical practice has proved that it has brought about a century of relative stability, economic, technological and political developments to Europe, in which Europe has stride to the forefront of the world.
Thirdly, during the period of the Vienna system, the values shared by many European states also changed. Universal moral principles, which had been particularly prominent in Grotius and Kant (the principle of universalizability and categorical imperative), had lost their domination in the common international values and norms. The natural laws were no longer to be considered as parts of the international common norms, but to be represented by the political practice and international treaties by the European states. The philosophy of Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes dominated the political guideline for the purpose of practice. Chaotic state of nature, (which resembles Gustave Mahler’s symphonies) national interests and political immorality incentivized the decisions of the national politics, and the international laws with the regulations of positivism flourished. The ideology of monarchical coalitions against Napoleon, along with the moral and religious weapons used by Alexander I to organize the Holy Alliance were out of date. The political ideology of Metternich—to support the Quadruple Alliance, which explains that “only God was looking out for all his subjects” represented the values of the statesmen of that period. Compared to the prevalence of universal virtue ethics and natural laws during the Middle Ages, this seems to further split European state apart; However, from the perspective of the European community as a whole, the Congress of Vienna contrarily transformed the European politique-etrangere from the old ethic doctrine to sovereign laws. Thus, this conservative movement did not change the existing unity of Europe, the common values and ethics on politics were changed, instead.
One thing should be pointed out is that, generally, when the universality of the ancient natural laws and Christian doctrines were abandoned; Somehow, the narrowness and exclusiveness of Christianity due to the inherited geographic cultural origin of Europe, plus, the well-developed ideology of capitalism, which eventually leads to the “double-standard” diplomacy and ignorance of exotic cultures. This had inestimable influences on the future global international politics, which was the negativity of the newly-formed European unity.
Fourthly, after the establishment of the Vienna System, the spread of the independent states dominated by particular national groups have began. The nation-states here, of course, were not the democratic states. Basically, as long as a state got rid of the feudal autocratic monarchy, then it became an independent sovereign state, which had been called as—the nation-state. The independence of the Netherlands, and the emergence of the Irish states in Western Europe proved the point. Moreover, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution changed European ideologies by idealizing the philosophy of democracy and practicing them. Notwithstanding the Vienna System is a conservative system, the majority of the European states have started the transforming from the monarchial states to the nation-states. Finally, those changes would build the fundamental structures of the modern European political system.
The formation of the international community in modern Europe was a gradual process. Objectively, this new form of unity was constructed by the re-integration of the old monarchial states— the transformation from medieval religious predomination to the secular society in the modern international political system. The ancient European unity with the addition of creation of new political ideas, which helped promoting this new system. Fortunately, the great wars broke up in the 20th century did not break the chain of this unity.
Generally speaking, the Vienna System lasted for about a century. The First World War showed that this system was about to undergo a series of dramatic reforms, which marked the arrival global politic community. United States, the Japanese Empire and other states became the main actors in this agenda, which have influenced the trend of international political developments in Europe. More complex global economies, politics and ideologies have emerged, Europe is no longer the center of the world, the politics of the European unity will then became more and more globally concerned.
To sum up, the traditional European unity in geography and culture is profound and deep-rooted. In the ancient Middle Ages and even modern times, although conflicts between the European states still existed, the unified ethical principles and legal basis would remain in constant. Europe was the first continent that formed the modern international community in the world, which, among other reasons, benefited from the spirits of unity in its traditions. Although the conflicts among nations, religions and states are prevalent in various regions, the European unity was not interrupted. With the progression of several successful social reforms, the European unity has been constantly modernized. In the meantime, the inheritance from ancient traditions, spontaneous economic and political evolutions, as well as the reservation of the European Exceptionalism. The Westphalian system and the Viennese System, as two of the earliest modernized international political systems, shared various characteristics of European unity nowadays. Therefore, the unification of today’s Europe was not only caused by inheriting the ancient traditions from the Middle Ages, but also the political reformations of the unity in modern eras.
The establishment of the Vienna system, the most important international relations system in Europe in the 19th century, has not only kept the peace in Europe for nearly a century, but also created a series of doctrines of international relations, which have exerted a great influence on the development of contemporary international relations. The Vienna System restored the feudal ruling order in Europe broken by Napoleon, but it was also impacted by the revolutionary wave of nationalism, national unity and independence at that time. In order to achieve the expansion of their own forces, various states fought against each other and made alliances one after another.
When Napoleon's expedition to Russia failed in 1812, the anti-French Allies led by Britain, France, Russia, Prussia and Austria held a peace conference to distribute their war interests and draw the political structure of post-war Europe. In September 1814, representatives of almost all European countries, led by Austrian foreign minister Metternich, British foreign minister Castlereagh, Prussian king Frederick III, Russian emperor Alexander I, and French representative Talleylan, gathered in Vienna for a peace conference. It was a “spoiled” conference to distribute the victory of war, carve up the territory of weak states and restore the order of feudal rule.
a. An analysis of the relations between Vienna and the major countries in the conference
The conference began with a discussion on the issue of Polish-Saxony. Both Russia and Prussia hoped to maximize the acquisition of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, namely the territory of Polish-Saxony. This was reflected in Russia's desire to monopolize Poland, to make its western expansion a reality, to strengthen its own power, and to prepare itself for European domination. And Prussia was badly hurt by the French expansion under Napoleon and was eager to occupy Warsaw. Austria, of course, did not want Prussia to be weakened in German States by the acquisition of Warsaw and Saxony. After the war, Austria was no longer worried about being morally judged by France in the west, but more worried about Prussia's threat to the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the master of the German alliance. Austria was also concerned about the rise of the Russia Empire, which had always called itself the “liberator” of the Slavic nation, this would exacerbate ethnic problems in Austria. After the defeat of Napoleon, France was no longer the force of hegemony on the European continent for that time period. Austria and Prussia were weakened in the war, and only Russia maintained a strong power in the European continent. Britain has always adhered to the principle of balance of power on the European continent, and tried to avoid the excessive power of any country on the continent. So the British doesn't want Russia to get too much out of the distribution. So contradictions between the victors— between Russia and Russia, between Austria, between Britain and Russia, mutual containments with mutual disputes.
Although France was defeated, Talleylan, who was the foreign minister after Napoleon, he became the minister of foreign affairs and the restoration of Bourbon dynasty, with the use of the contradictions between the victors and found “room” for maneuver through secret diplomacy to maximize the retention of French interests. France has always had the goal of dominating the European continent, and first time after Louis XIV, Napoleon I put this into actions, France once became the most powerful country in Europe militarily and politically. Now, in spite of its defeat, it did not wish to be defeated forever. In Congress of Vienna, France was even becoming the martyr with the great powers of the victors. Thus after the restoration of the Bourbon Dynasty, although France did not play a important role in the interests of foreign powers, its power was not fatally hit. In the First Paris conference, the French territory was restored to its 1792 borders, and the French colonies except Tobago, St. Lucia and Mauritius were returned to France by the British. Those are really the small islands that are occupied by Napoleon that are subject to territorial division and exploitation. France became the defender of the "orthodox order" in the Vienna System. However, there was still a potential conflict between France and Austria, especially Prussia, which was extremely embarrassed by its defeat in the Napoleonic Wars and became a French vassal state. Prussia clearly did not want to see France become strong again and its development shall be avoided.
b. The application of the principle of "balance of power" in the Vienna system and the proposal of " harmonization of Europe"
Arguments for countries of their respective interests, between these powers and disparate to implement the mediation, only agreed, and in 1815 passed the final agreement; The main content of the first treaty is to distribute territory, in fact is to distribute the booty, and ruling defeated France on one hand, the restoration of its territory to the boundary before Napoleonic War; On the other hand, according to the principle of balance distribution of national territory. For example, the Netherlands merged with the Austrian Netherlands, which was called the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sweden merged with Norway, and Denmark acquired the two duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Russia's western territory expanded to the Polish territory, and Poland became a constitutional monarchy under the Tsars, thus Alexander I successfully achieved the goal of Westward Expansion.
In order to maintain the status quo and to gain more benefits for the empire, Austrian foreign minister Metternich proposed the "principle of compensation", that is, to consolidate the orthodoxy of the territorial compensation in order to make up for the losses of during Napoleonic War, so that Austria got Galicia and the territory of northern Italy at the same time. Prussia received most of Saxony, as well as the left bank of the Rhine and the Kingdom of Westphalia as compensation for its territory. In addition, the participants advocated the establishment of a confederation of 34 monarchies and four free cities, by Austria as its Lord. Italy was still divided, but Genoa and Nice were incorporated into the kingdom of Sardinia, which provided certain territorial resources for the later unification of Italy by Sardinia. In the process of territorial distribution, the principle of "balance of power", always advocated by European politicians, was universally followed. Britain is also willing to see such a circumstance, because Britain is not able to completely infiltrate into the “hegemony contest” of the European continent, therefore, English hopes that the power of Russia, Austria, Prussia, France and the Netherlands would be in a relatively balanced state, which is conducive for maintaining its position as a world power. Given its powerful naval power, Britain focused more about its interests abroad than it does about continental Europe. (this was long determined, even after the Hundred Years’ War) Under the final clause, Britain acquired the Dutch colonies of India and Malta, among others. In the Vienna System, Britain was the most powerful state. It ushered in the golden age of domestic capitalist economy after the first industrialization, and surpassed other European countries at the same time in order to become the world level hegemony.
The second aspect of the final protocol dealt with a number of international issues. The principle of "harmonization of Europe" began to be put forward. First of all, the provisions on the free navigation of rivers were adopted, stipulating that all countries (whether coastal or non-coastal) should sail freely on the major European rivers, this reflected the commercial interests of capitalism and promoted the further development of capitalist trade in Europe. The second aspect is the adoption of the regulations on the grades of diplomatic representatives, which stipulates that the highest representative abroad shall be the ambassador of each country, followed by the minister of embassies abroad, and the third level shall be the charge of affairs, which has become the diplomatic practice of the international community. Finally, the resolution of "abolishing the slave trade at an appropriate time" was proposed, and the protection of human rights was advocated. The proposal of these international issues greatly enriched the issues and content of the international community, and had great enlightening significance for the development of the modern international community. At the same time, it also reflects that due to the uneven distribution of interests among countries, although there are numerous contradictions, consultations have not only achieved a temporary equilibrium and the stability of the world structure, but also effectively resolved the possible conflicts. The above provisions on the exchange of diplomatic ambassadors are a manifestation of the “European consultation”.
Obviously, the Austrian foreign minister Metternich and the British foreign secretary Castlereagh were very good at using their rich diplomatic experience and superb diplomatic skills. They are familiar with the history of international relations in Europe in the 18th century , which concluded from their experience that “territorial distribution is not the best way to maintain the balance of power in Europe”. They realized that only regular meetings with their foreign ministers and exchange of information could reduce mutual suspicion and defuse potential conflicts (not the secret agency style obviously). European coordination specifically refers to the consultative diplomatic mechanism that deals with major European issues, that through consultations in the form of conferences. This principle was not proposed as a concept in the Congress of Vienna, but was applied in the construction of the Vienna System. After the Vienna conferences, major players in European powers such as Austria, Prussia, Russia, Britain and France jointly maintained a stable European political structure by means of coordination and alliance, suppressed the revolutions, check in balance of power, and prevented the emergence of hegemony, which brought peace to the European international system for nearly a century, until the outbreak of the World War I.
c. The operation and disintegration of the Vienna System under the framework of the Holy Alliance and the Quadruple Alliance
The outbreak of the French Revolution led to the uprising of the national democratic revolution of the bourgeoisies in Europe, which greatly impacted the order of the feudal monarchy in Europe. In order to protect the absolute monarchy to the greatest extent, Czar Alexander I first proposed to establish the alliance of monarchies to cope with the revolution and uprising that might be triggered. On September 26, 1815 Russian Tsar Alexander I, Austrian emperor Franz I and the King of Prussia, Frederick William III, signed the declaration of Holy Alliance in Paris, which was signed based on the relationship of the traditional Christian doctrines, announced that the three countries belong to God under the three branches of the same family, three kingdoms monarch resembles brotherhood which are granted rescue each other. To guide his subjects and soldiers in the defense of religion, peace and justice, and to coerce the people to their dogma in order to do their duties. States recognized the principles of the covenant, which were invited to join the alliance. Soon after the Holy Alliance was established, all European countries joined it, with the exception of Britain, the Pope. The Holy Alliance, dominated by Russia, Prussia and Austria, maintained the orthodox order on the European continent. It was an important part of the Vienna System and played an important role in its initial operation.
The Holy Alliance held four meetings successively, which solved the problems of the Spanish and Italian revolutions. However, the disunity within the Holy Alliance foresaw its disintegration. In March 1821, the Greek people broke out a revolution against the enslaved rule of Ottoman Empire. During this time, the principles of the Holy Alliance states were varied. The King of Austria was afraid that the Greek Revolution would lead to the national liberalism movement in Austria, so he urged to suppress the Greek Revolution. However, Russia advocated supporting the Greek Revolution in order to weaken the Ottoman Empire, thus occupy the city of Constantinople and gets the control of the strait of Bosporus, eventually would expand Russia's influence in the Balkans. In order to expand their influence in the Balkans, Britain and France also advocated to aid the Greek people. In October 1927, the joint fleet of Britain, France and Russia defeated the Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Sea of Navarino. Russia continued to fight and defeated the Turkish fleet, and Greece gained independence. Greece’s independence is a concrete manifestation of the division of the group within the sacred alliance. This illustrates that Russia, Austria, France and other countries have their distinct agendas, in which they tried their best to safeguard their own national interests, eventually leave the alliance behind. Among them, Russia is the most apparent one. Through the Turkish War, Russia’s power in the Balkans was further strengthened, which increasingly aroused the dissatisfaction of Britain, France and other countries. The foundations of the Vienna System began to shake.
On November 20, 1815, Russia, Prussia, Austria and the Britain concluded the alliance treaty of the four nations. The Quadruple Alliance was initiated by Britain, aiming to establish a military alliance treaty, oppose the restoration of Napoleon’s family in France, and oppose any force that might pose a threat to the "balance of power" in Europe. The Quadruple Alliance is an important supplement to the Holy Alliance and another significant component of the Vienna System. The four countries held their first meeting in 1815 in Aachen, Germany to discuss the withdrawal of allied occupation forces from France. Thus France joined the Quadruple Alliance, which in effect became a "five-nations’ alliance." Under the Bourbon Dynasty, France became an important member of the counter-revolutionary actors. Similarly, the Quadruple Alliance is divided, especially over the Balkans. Countries wanted to get the their part of the weakened Turkish empire.
In 1830, the “July Revolution” broke out again in France. Louis Philip, the duke of Orleans, who represented the financial minister of the bourgeoisies, ascended to the throne. France entered the period of the constitutional monarchy, the strengths of European countries were also varying, along with the gradual disintegration of the old world political structure. Britain maintained its position as the world’s leading power and successfully contained Russia’s southeast expansion by the victory of the Crimean War (1853-1856), protecting its access to India. Russia had always wanted extras of the Black Sea, although it has been defeated by the Britain in the Crimean War, thus became diplomatically isolated and passively adapting defensive strategies. Austria gained some strength by cooperating with Britain, France and Russia, but finally lost support and was unable to intervene in the affairs of Germany and Italy. Austria gradually faded away from the front stage European political affairs, while Prussia united with Austria to defeat Denmark, also defeated France in the Franco-Prussian war. Eventually, Prussia unified Germany in 1871 (the declaration was held in the Palace of Versailles, how ironic that is.) and became increasingly powerful. France still attempted to seek hegemony after Napoleon III came to power, however, failed at the war against Prussia; Therefore, French diplomacy has to do everything possible to seek alliance with other countries, restore national strength and break the blockade by the Second German Empire. The world after 1830s, under the wave of European revolution, the Vienna System existed in name only, but under the mutual restraint of powers, it presented a balanced pattern.
Nearly 50 years of peace under the Vienna System may not have been long enough for modern societies, but it was not simply achieved as for the countries of 19th-century Europe. It brought a temporary lull in the twenty-two years of war against Napoleon. We have to admit that the establishment of the Vienna System is indeed a masterpiece. (Bravo) So, one problem arouses: what makes the Vienna System, that against the historical trend of the human civilization successfully managed to survive? To answer this question, one must analyzes it from the following two aspects: internal cause and external cause.
In terms of internal causes, there is an excellent balance of power within the Vienna System. However, the establishment of this equilibrium cannot be separated from the following aspects:
First, in terms of the distribution of land, the Congress of Vienna established a topographic pattern conducive for maintaining the balance of power in Europe. Britain and Russia were the two countries that benefited most from the Congress of Vienna. The countries agreed to establish a Polish Kingdom over three quarters of Poland, with the Tsar of Russia doubling as king. Russia gained unprecedented territory, and really went from being a peripheral European country to being part of Europe. Of course, for Britain, although it did not participate a lot in the European continent, it captured a large number of overseas colonies from France and the Netherlands, which was of great significance for it to maintain its maritime hegemony and colonial empire. The another country here is Prussia. The most difficult issue to resolve in Vienna was that of Saxony of Poland. The success of the Vienna conference, however, was meant to managed to solve the problems without any further wars. So that the proposal of “compensation principle”, by treaty, Russia took possession of the land that Prussia possessed after the Partition of Poland, and in return, Prussia acquired the land of Saxony that it had long desired, including the Rhine provinces, (sea control) which were important in terms of economic value and strategic position; Additionally, Pomerania, and its influence in central Europe was greatly strengthened. All countries are immersed in the satisfaction and joy of “dreams finally came true”, and the desire to maintain the status quo will naturally drown out the ideal of achieving greater hegemony by force. But it's important to note that, like Russia, Prussia didn't get all the land it wanted, it only got parts of Saxony, and for the other parts, the designers of the equilibrium had other more important uses. After adjusting the territory of small states such as Saxony, the balance of power designers (Metternich) created an arc of containment along France's eastern border to prevent a second French empire. Indeed, from the perspective of future development, this kind of containment of France did play a significant role.
Secondly, the establishment of the "European coordination mechanism" also plays an important role in maintaining this balance. In order to safeguard the Second Treaty of Paris, Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Austria signed the treaty of the Quadruple Alliance, in article 6 of the treaty "states four party have agreed to hold regular meeting, so that the common interests of just four consultations, and work out some suitable for different periods of measures, in order to more conducive to the stability and prosperity of all countries, as well as to maintain peace in Europe”, this is the first time to establish the four major powers’ principle, starting a so-called “Concert of Europe”. (not the Mozart or Beethoven style as we wished) The political leaders of Vienna formed a four-nation alliance, and with overwhelming force, did not allow any space for France's aggressive ambitions to emerge.
That said, "European harmonisation" has largely kept countries at bay. The hegemonic policy makes it proceed from the whole of Europe so that the balance of power will not be broken. As Kissinger puts it, this "European concert" maintained the balance of power to such an excellent degree that "if a similar alliance had been formed between Versailles and the victors in 1918, World War II might not have happened." The creation of the Holy Alliance was "the most notable innovation of the Vienna peace conference", as was the creation of the "European harmonization" of the four countries. "The word sacredness often overlooks what it means in practice, which is to place moral limits on the interaction of great powers."
Metternich thought that keeping the Tsar orthodox was the best way to prevent his arbitrary religious zeal from destabilizing the balance of power in Europe. But for Russia, the idea of Holy Alliance is self-defeating. Not only did it do little to further its mission in Europe, it also gave Austria a theoretical veto over its overreach. If the tsars only considered Russia's geopolitical opportunities for expansion, they would use the collapse of the Ottoman empire more thoroughly, as their successors did a century later, to the great disadvantage of Austria and other countries. Thus Russia would be refrained from violating the great principle of the status quo.
Although it was so strong that it no longer feared a French attack, however, because the confederacy was still sovereign, a combination of strategic defensive forces, it was too hard to threaten its neighbors. The neighboring country balanced the superior military power of Prussia with the supreme prestige and orthodox status of Austria. Meanwhile, due to its special position in central Europe, it largely restrained the hegemonic behaviors of France and Russia. Of course, when it comes to the innovative treatment of the Vienna System, France came up. Germany was a threat to the world in the 20th century, then France was a threat to Europe in the 17th and 19th centuries. France, with the exception of the Napoleonic Wars, which were due to the germination of new ideas of the bourgeoisie, was constantly undermining the balance of power it had established through its own overreaching ambitions. Since the establishment of the Westphalian System, France has not stopped the pace of the balance of power. From the Franco-Dutch war to the Spanish Succession War to the Napoleonic Wars, France has shown its power time and again. But both great expansions were broken by the Anglo-French Alliance. As a rule of thumb, when dealing with France, which was crushed by the Sixth Coalition, one should not hesitate to “strangle” it. However, under the Vienna System, countries adopted a lenient policy towards France, which allowed France to retain the ancient territory before the revolution, and later allowed such a defeated country as France to join the "European coordination", which was parts of the European governments at that time. Since "the statesmen at the Vienna conference decided that punitive design was not good for the international order, thus he would make the war during the strength of the wantonly consumption of the victors, but also need to be responsible for suppressing the defeated team contract dissatisfaction, determination to the end of the backlash. It would be safer for Europe if we could make France rather happy than angry.”
Thus, intentionally or not, the great powers have established a “unified external” brotherhood. This “friendship” eventually evolved into a kind of justice that is referred to as the "orthodox principle". This is the first time that Europe has given itself a common mission to maintain the existing internal status quo of Europeanization, also define the religious obligations. So that the nations of Europe began the struggle against the capitalist revolution, and, of course, the balance of power was maintained in the absence of the motivations to fight for territorial expansion.
From both internal and external perspectives, the main reasons for the persistence of the Vienna System is that the continental countries are united by common values. Nations are in a state of equilibrium, not only formally but morally. There is a good balance between power and justice. However, the Vienna system was mostly destroyed in the Crimean War. After all, no matter how perfectly constructed everything is, if it fails to conform to the trend of history, it would eventually perish. The Vienna System collapsed, and on European soil capitalism began its heyday. This is how history is pushed forward, how can those countries have permanent peace after war? This problem has been troubling the world. Maybe ones would never have peace that won't be broken. For the march of mankind, is bound to be accompanied by war and peace.