THE GREAT REACTION

THEY TRIED TO ASSURE THE WORLD AN ERA OF UNDISTURBED PEACE BY SUPPRESSING ALL NEW IDEAS. THEY MADE THE POLICE-SPY THE HIGHEST FUNCTIONARY IN THE STATE AND SOON THE PRISONS OF ALL COUNTRIES WERE FILLED WITH THOSE WHO CLAIMED THAT PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO GOVERN THEMSELVES AS THEY SEE FIT

To undo the damage done by the great Napoleonic flood was almost impossible. Age-old fences had been washed away. The palaces of two score dynasties had been damaged to such an extent that they had to be condemned as uninhabitable. Other royal residences had been greatly enlarged at the expense of less fortunate neighbours. Strange odds and ends of revolutionary doctrine had been left behind by the receding waters and could not be dislodged without danger to the entire community. But the political engineers of the Congress did the best they could and this is what they accomplished.

France had disturbed the peace of the world for so many years that people had come to fear that country almost instinctively. The Bourbons, through the mouth of Talleyrand, had promised to be good, but the Hundred Days had taught Europe what to expect should Napoleon manage to escape for a second time. The Dutch Republic, therefore, was changed into a Kingdom, and Belgium (which had not joined the Dutch struggle for independence in the sixteenth century and since then had been part of the Habsburg domains, firs t under Spanish rule and thereafter under Austrian rule) was made part of this new kingdom of the Netherlands. Nobody wanted this union either in the Protestant North or in the Catholic South, but no questions were asked. It seemed good for the peace of Europe and that was the main consideration.

Poland had hoped for great things because a Pole, Prince Adam Czartoryski, was one of the most intimate friends of Tsar Alexander and had been his constant advisor during the war and at the Congress of Vienna. But Poland was made a semi-independent part of Russia with Alexander as her king. This solution pleased no one and caused much bitter feeling and three revolutions.

Denmark, which had remained a faithful ally of Napoleon until the end, was severely punished. Seven years before, an English fleet had sailed down the Kattegat and without a declaration of war or any warning had bombarded Copenhagen and had taken away the Danish fleet, lest it be of value to Napoleon. The Congress of Vienna went one step further. It took Norway (which since the union of Calmar of the year 1397 had been united with Denmark) away from Denmark and gave it to Charles XIV of Sweden as a reward for his betrayal of Napoleon, who had set him up in the king business. This Swedish king, curiously enough, was a former French general by the name of Bernadotte, who had come to Sweden as one of Napolean's{sic} adjutants, and had been invited to the throne of that good country when the last of the rulers of the house of Hollstein-Gottorp had died without leaving either son or daughter. From 1815 until 1844 he ruled his adopted country (the language of which he never learned) width great ability. He was a clever man and enjoyed the respect of both his Swedish and his Norwegian subjects, but he did not succeed in joining two countries which nature and history had put asunder. The dual Scandinavian state was never a success and in 1905, Norway, in a most peaceful and orderly manner, set up as an independent kingdom and the Swedes bade her ``good speed'' and very wisely let her go her own way.

The Italians, who since the days of the Renaissance had been at the mercy of a long series of invaders, also had put great hopes in General Bonaparte. The Emperor Napoleon, however, had grievously disappointed them. Instead of the United Italy which the people wanted, they had been divided into a number of little principalities, duchies, republics and the Papal State, which (next to Naples) was the worst governed and most miserable region of the entire peninsula. The Congress of Vienna abolished a few of the Napoleonic republics and in their place resurrected several old principalities which were given to deserving members, both male and female, of the Habsburg family.

The poor Spaniards, who had started the great nationalistic revolt against Napoleon, and who had sacrificed the best blood of the country for their king, were punished severely when the Congress allowed His Majesty to return to his domains. This vicious creature, known as Ferdinand VII, had spent the last four years of his life as a prisoner of Napoleon. He had improved his days by knitting garments for the statues of his favourite patron saints. He celebrated his return by re-introducing the Inquisition and the torture-chamber, both of which had been abolished by the Revolution. He was a disgusting person, despised as much by his subjects as by his four wives, but the Holy Alliance maintained him upon his legitimate throne and all efforts of the decent Spaniards to get rid of this curse and make Spain a constitutional kingdom ended in bloodshed and executions.

Portugal had been without a king since the year 1807 when the royal family had fled to the colonies in Brazil. The country had been used as a base of supply for the armies of Wellington during the Peninsula war, which lasted from 1808 until 1814. After 1815 Portugal continued to be a sort of British province until the house of Braganza returned to the throne, leaving one of its members behind in Rio de Janeiro as Emperor of Brazil, the only American Empire which lasted for more than a few years, and which came to an end in 1889 when the country became a republic.