I have discussed Klemens von Metternich before on this blog. Here, I discussed his life on May 15th, the day he was born. Metternich was the Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire and then its Chancellor. As I have discussed the course of his life already, today, on the anniversary of his death on June 11th, 1859, I will dedicate more time to its impact.
Klemens von Metternich either played a direct role or had influence over almost every important event in 19th-century European History. During the Napoleonic Wars, he worked to preserve Austria against the military victories of Napoleon. However, he moved quickly to declare war on Napoleon after his failed invasion of Russia. During the Congress of Vienna, Metternich advocated for lenient treatment of France. His main goal was to preserve a conservative and stable Europe so as to prevent another revolution from tearing the continent apart. To this end, he organized a series of treaties that mandated that European powers crush revolutions within their own borders and in other nations. Further, within Germany, he had the Carlsbad Decrees issued, which prohibited German states from implementing liberal reforms like a constitution. These acts were successful in preventing liberal reform and revolution for over thirty years. Metternich also worked to preserve Austrian supremacy in Central Europe. In this, he was successful as Austria remained the preeminent power in Germany, Italy, and the Balkans until his death.
Near the end of his life, Metternich’s conservative Europe fell apart. He was forced to resign as Chancellor in 1848 even though the liberal revolutions of that year were suppressed. Further, after he died, Prussia took power in Germany, defeating Austria in the Six-Weeks war. Metternich’s efforts were thus only stopgap measures. They stopped the march of liberalism and the decline of Austria for a few decades. However, even Metternich could not stand against the fundamental course of history.