Don Mills Collegiate Institute

Don Mills Collegiate Institute
Model United Nations Conference 2014
Lead Chair: Mandar Chen
Chairs: Fei Wang, Thomas Feng
Congress of Vienna Background Guide
1. France After Napoleon’s Exile
2. The Polish-Saxon Crisis
3. The Dutch Question
Topic 1: France After Napoleon’s Exile
Following the Treaty of Fontainebleau and the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte on April 11,
1814, the Sixth Coalition, which was comprised of Austria, Prussia, Russia, Great Britain, Portugal,
Sweden, Spain, and a number of German States, ended Napoleon’s rule as emperor of France and exiled
him to the Mediterranean island of Elba. In France, the Bourbon monarchy, that had been swept aside by
the French revolution two decades before, was restored to power.
The Treaty of Paris, signed on May 30, 1814, formally ended the war between France and the
Sixth Coalition, restored France to her 1792 borders, and granted independence to her neighbouring
states. While leaving the territory of the country intact, France was forced to give up all of her colonial
possessions and to accept Louis XVIII, brother of the beheaded Louis XVI, as their new king - something
that the victors hoped would stabilize France and prevent any further aggression. The members the Sixth
Coalition did not sign a common document, but instead concluded separate treaties with France.
In order to build a longer lasting peace, the major powers, including France, convened the
Congress of Vienna where they laid down the policies that would shape Europe for the next 50 years.
Chief among these was the maintenance of a balance of power in Europe, whereby no state would be
allowed to become significantly stronger than any other. In order to maintain this balance, the congress
decided that France, although reduced in power, should still be somewhat equal in strength to the other
great powers – England, Austria, Prussia, and Russia.
Due to territorial disputes and the possibility of further aggression, the restoration of France to her
1792 borders was a policy that was not wholeheartedly supported by all the members of the congress. On
the other hand, forcing France to give up her current position of influence could create resentment and
provide motivation for another revolution; giving power to a new leader who could continue Napoleon’s
campaign. Therefore, some members believed that a united France would serve to be a counterweight to
Russia and a buffer to Great Britain from pursuing further annexations in Western Europe.
1. Are the terms in the Treaty of Paris fair to France and to the factions of the Sixth Coalition?
2. Does France hold too much power or too little power?
3. Should France be divided up accordingly by the Sixth Coalition instead?
Topic 2: The Polish Crisis
Poland, which had been carved up by its three large neighbours (Austria, Prussia and Russia) in
the late 1700s, saw a brief revival when Napoleon Bonaparte granted it independence in the form of the
relatively small Duchy of Warsaw. However, with the defeat of Napoleon, the Duchy lost its
independence with most of the territory being taken by Russia and Prussia.
In the Congress of Vienna, Prussia agreed to cede territory to the Duchy, which remained under
Russian control (with Tsar Alexander of Russia proclaimed as the King of Poland), if Russia supported
Prussia’s bid for the Germanic state of Saxony. On the other hand, Austria and Great Britain feared that
Russia would become too powerful with Poland under her control and would destabilize the balance of
power in Europe. With the nations on the verge of going into another war over territory, how should the
congress resolve this issue?
Questions to consider:
1. How can other nations in the Congress of Vienna stop Russia and Prussia from consolidating power
(specifically, Austria, Great Britain, and France)?
2. What course of action should be taken with Poland?
3. What courses of action should be taken to maintain a balance of power in Europe?
Topic 3: The Dutch Question
Before the French Revolution, the Low Countries (a coastal region in North-Western Europe)
were split in two: the first was the Northern Netherlands, a largely protestant and dutch republic; the
second was the Southern Netherlands, controlled by Austria.
During the French Revolutionary Wars, the Southern Netherlands was annexed by Napoleon and
integrated into the French Republic. The North had its own democratic revolution in 1795 when the
stadtholder (the de factor hereditary head of state) was overthrown and replaced by the Batavian
Republic, which allied itself with France. In 1806, Napoleon had his brother proclaimed as Louis I,
monarch of the Kingdom of Holland. Four years later it was formally annexed by France.
With the defeat of Napoleon and the liberation of the Netherlands in 1813 by Prussia and Russia,
a new regime was required to rule the Netherlands. The victors agreed that the northern kingdom was to
be given to William Frederik of Orange-Nassau, the son of the last stadtholder. But the question remained
of what to do with the Southern Netherlands, with France, Austria, and the northern Netherlands all
having claim to this area. As a result, three scenarios were made.
1. The Northern Netherlands would be restored within its old borders and the Southern Netherlands
would become a barrier state under the rule of a great power, like Austria.
2. The Southern Netherlands would be split into two parts: one part would be given to France, to create
a balance of power in Europe, and the other part would be given to the Northern Netherlands.
3. France would stay within its old borders; the Northern Netherlands would be unified with the
Southern Netherlands.
Questions to consider:
1. In order to maintain a balance of power in Europe, which scenario should be taken?
2. Would uniting the Netherlands result in stability? Or conflict?
3. Should Austria be allowed to govern the Netherlands?
Documents upon the Transition to the Restoration Monarchy. Documents upon the Transition to the
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Napoleonic. SparkNotes. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from
Talleyrand and the Congress of Vienna. Talleyrand and the Congress of Vienna. Retrieved March 20,
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The Congress of Vienna. Congress of Vienna: 1814-1815. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from
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