AFTER Napoleon's fall, the leading statesman in Europe was Prince Metternich, the Austrian minister. He hated the new liberal ideas of reform. His aim was to enforce peace on Europe by restoring, if possible, the old order of things as it existed before the French Revolution. We may note in passing that there was no great war in Europe for fifty years (excluding the Crimean War, 1853-56).
But Napoleon had destroyed many of the governments, and upset many of the boundaries of the old European states. In Germany, for example, there had been 360 small states in 1789, and these had been reduced by grouping to thirty-nine by 1815.
Events in various parts of Europe soon showed that the new ideas could not be ignored. In the Balkan Peninsula the Greeks revolted against the Turks' rule, and gained their freedom (1821-29). Later, other Christian peoples in that troubled Balkan area rebelled against the Turks -- conquerors encamped in the midst of hostile peoples -- and in time they too won their freedom.
In France the old Bourbon dynasty had been restored (1815). But in July 1830 another revolution broke out in Paris and in almost every other European capital. In Paris a "citizen king," Louis Philippe, was placed on the Bourbon throne, and "the days of July were hailed as the reign, not of noble and priests, nor of grim artisan, but of broadcloth burgher, a rule of common sense." The Catholic Belgians seized the occasion of this Revolution to wrench themselves free from Protestant Holland; and their independence was guaranteed by the treaty of 1839, which to the Germans later (1914) became "a scrap of paper."
Soon there was another revolution in Paris (1848), followed by outbreaks elsewhere. This unrest led to the downfail of Metternich, who escaped from Vienna hidden in a laundry cart! The "citizen king" also fell, and left Paris in a cab on his way to England, where he arrived as "Mr. Smith"! The second French Republic now began, and in Paris the "Right to Work" was proclaimed and "National Workshops" set up.
Louis Napoleon, the great Emperor's nephew, became President. "France, in the midst of confusion, seeks for the hand, the will of him whom it elected on the 10th December," said Louis Napoleon; "the victory won on that day was the victory of a system, for the name of Napoleon is in itself a programme. It signifies order, authority, religion, national prosperity within, national dignity without. It is this policy that I desire to carry to triumph, with the support of the Assembly and of the people."
But soon the President became Emperor, as Napoleon III (1852), and feebly imitated his famous uncle in trying to make France the leading power in Europe. However, his glory was ended by the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), when there was yet another revolution in Paris; and the third French Republic began its career.
Great Britain had also felt the shock of the years of revolutions. Two years after 1830 came the Great Reform Bill, which ended the landowners' rule and gave power to the new capitalists and middie classes. Then, in 1838, came the working-class movement known as Chartism, which, though unsuccessful, was followed in time by the reforms then demanded.
Similar liberal reforms were made at different times in the course of the nineteenth century, and afterwards in other European countries. The People everywhere gradually won for themselves a share in the government, and followed the path of democracy to which the new American and French republics had pointed the way.
In the Balkan struggles the Great Powers of Europe pursued their tortuous Paths. Russia regarded herself as the natural protector of the Christian peoples ruled by the Turks, especially of their own kinsmen, the Slavs of Serbia. And both Russia and Britain were expanding in Asia, and their empires were gradually approaching each other on the Himalaya, the "roof of the world." Britain feared that Russia aimed at taking Constantinople, and so endangering the road to India.
Out of these and other problems came various wars connected with that thorny Eastern question which has "exercised a powerful influence upon the course of the world's history for above 500 years, and is the pivot upon which the general politics of the nineteenth century turned." In the Crimean War (1853-56) the Russians found themselves opposed not only by Turks, but by British and by French (under Napoleon III's rule). The happiest issue of that war was the fine hospital work of Florence Nightingale, the_first professional nurse known to history.
“God prevents our being proud of ourselves by the experience of our weakness and corruption, which is manifest by our numberless relapses.”