The Love of National Independence, However Was Too Strong to Be Destroyed in This Way. The South Americans Were the First to Rebel against the Reactionary Measures of the Congress of Vienna, Greece and Belgium and Spain and a Large Number of Other Countries of the European Continent Followed Suit and the Nineteenth Century Was Filled with the Rumour of Many Wars of Independence
The Monroe Doctrine

It will serve no good purpose to say "if only the Congress of Vienna had done such and such a thing instead of taking such and such a course, the history of Europe in the nineteenth century would have been different." The Congress of Vienna was a gathering of men who had just passed through a great revolution and through twenty years of terrible and almost continuous warfare. They came together for the purpose of giving Europe that "peace and stability" which they thought that the people needed and wanted. They were what we call reactionaries. They sincerely believed in the inability of the mass of the people to rule themselves. They re-arranged the map of Europe in such a way as seemed to promise the greatest possibility of a lasting success. They failed, but not through any premeditated wickedness on their part. They were, for the greater part, men of the old school who remembered the happier days of their quiet youth and ardently wished a return of that blessed period. They failed to recognize the strong hold which many of the revolutionary principles had gained upon the people of the European continent. That was a misfortune but hardly a sin. But one of the things which the French Revolution had taught not only Europe but America as well, was the right of people to their own "nationality."

Napoleon, who respected nothing and nobody, was utterly ruthless in his dealing with national and patriotic aspirations. But the early revolutionary generals had proclaimed the new doctrine that "nationality was not a matter of political frontiers or round skulls and broad noses, but a matter of the heart and soul." While they were teaching the French children the greatness of the French nation, they encouraged Spaniards and Hollanders and Italians to do the same thing. Soon these people, who all shared Rousseau's belief in the superior virtues of Original Man, began to dig into their past and found, buried beneath the ruins of the feudal system, the bones of the mighty races of which they supposed themselves the feeble descendants.

The first half of the nineteenth century was the era of the great historical discoveries. Everywhere historians were busy publishing medieval charters and early medieval chronicles and in every country the result was a new pride in the old fatherland. A great deal of this sentiment was based upon the wrong interpretation of historical facts. But in practical politics, it does not matter what is true, but everything depends upon what the people believe to be true. And in most countries both the kings and their subjects firmly believed in the glory and fame of their ancestors.

The Congress of Vienna was not inclined to be sentimental. Their Excellencies divided the map of Europe according to the best interests of half a dozen dynasties and put "national aspirations" upon the Index, or list of forbidden books, together with all other dangerous "French doctrines."

But history is no respecter of Congresses. For some reason or other (it may be an historical law, which thus far has escaped the attention of the scholars) "nations" seemed to be necessary for the orderly development of human society and the attempt to stem this tide was quite as unsuccessful as the Metternichian effort to prevent people from thinking.

Curiously enough the first trouble began in a very distant part of the world, in South America. The Spanish colonies of that continent had been enjoying a period of relative independence during the many years of the great Napoleonic wars. They had even remained faithful to their king when he was taken prisoner by the French Emperor and they had refused to recognize Joseph Bonaparte, who had in the year 1808 been made King of Spain by order of his brother.

Indeed, the only part of America to get very much upset by the Revolution was the island of Haiti, the Espagnola of Columbus' first trip. Here in the year 1791 the French Convention, in a sudden outburst of love and human brotherhood, had bestowed upon their Haitian brethren all the privileges hitherto enjoyed by their European masters. Just as suddenly they had repented of this step, but the attempt to undo the original promise led to many years of terrible warfare between General Leclerc, the brother-in-law of Napoleon, and Toussaint l'Ouverture, the Haitian chieftain. In the year 1801, Toussaint was asked to visit Leclerc and discuss terms of peace. He received the solemn promise that he would not be molested. He trusted his European adversaries, was put on board a ship and shortly afterwards died in a French prison. But the native Haitians gained their independence all the same and founded a Republic. Incidentally, they were of great help to the first great South American patriot in his efforts to deliver his native country from the Spanish yoke.

Simon Bolivar, a native of Caracas in Venezuela, born in the year 1783, had been educated in Spain, had visited Paris where he had seen the Revolutionary government at work, had lived for a while in the United States and had returned to his native land where the widespread discontent against Spain, the mother country, was beginning to take a definite form. In the year 1811, Venezuela declared its independence and Bolivar became one of the revolutionary generals. Within two months, the rebels were defeated and Bolivar fled.

For the next five years he was the leader of an apparently lost cause. He sacrificed all his wealth and he would not have been able to begin his final and successful expedition without the support of the President of Haiti. Thereafter the revolt spread all over South America and soon it appeared that Spain was not able to suppress the rebellion unaided. She asked for the support of the Holy Alliance.

This step greatly worried England. The British shippers had succeeded the Dutch as the Common Carriers of the world and they expected to reap heavy profits from a declaration of independence on the part of all South America. They had hopes that the United States of America would interfere but the Senate had no such plans and in the House, too, there were many voices which declared that Spain ought to be given a free hand.

Just then, there was a change of ministers in England. The Whigs went out and the Tories came in. George Canning became secretary of State. He dropped a hint that England would gladly back up the American government with all the might of her fleet, if said government would declare its disapproval of the plans of the Holy Alliance in regard to the rebellious colonies of the southern continent. President Monroe thereupon, on the 2nd of December of the year 1823, addressed Congress and stated that: "America would consider any attempt on the part of the allied powers to extend their system to any portion of this western hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety," and gave warning that "the American government would consider such action on the part of the Holy Alliance as a manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States." Four weeks later, the text of the "Monroe Doctrine" was printed in the English newspapers and the members of the Holy Alliance were forced to make their choice.

Metternich hesitated. Personally he would have been willing to risk the displeasure of the United States (which had allowed both its army and navy to fall into neglect since the end of the Anglo-American war of the year 1812.) But Canning's threatening attitude and trouble on the continent forced him to be careful. The expedition never took place and South America and Mexico gained their independence.

As for the troubles on the continent of Europe, they were coming fast and furious. The Holy Alliance had sent French troops to Spain to act as guardians of the peace in the year 1820. Austrian troops had been used for a similar purpose in Italy when the "Carbonari" (the secret society of the Charcoal Burners) were making propaganda for a united Italy and had caused a rebellion against the unspeakable Ferdinand of Naples.

Bad news also came from Russia where the death of Alexander had been the sign for a revolutionary outbreak in St. Petersburg, a short but bloody upheaval, the so-called Dekaberist revolt (because it took place in December,) which ended with the hanging of a large number of good patriots who had been disgusted by the reaction of Alexander's last years and had tried to give Russia a constitutional form of government.

But worse was to follow. Metternich had tried to assure himself of the continued support of the European courts by a series of conferences at Aix-la-Chapelle, at Troppau, at Laibach, and finally at Verona. The delegates from the different powers duly traveled to these agreeable watering places where the Austrian prime minister used to spend his summers. They always promised to do their best to suppress revolt but they were none too certain of their success. The spirit of the people was beginning to be ugly and especially in France the position of the king was by no means satisfactory.

The real trouble however began in the Balkans, the gateway to western Europe through which the invaders of that continent had passed since the beginning of time. The first outbreak was in Moldavia, the ancient Roman province of Dacia which had been cut off from the Empire in the third century. Since then, it had been a lost land, a sort of Atlantis, where the people had continued to speak the old Roman tongue and still called themselves Romans and their country Roumania. Here in the year 1821, a young Greek, Prince Alexander Ypsilanti, began a revolt against the Turks. He told his followers that they could count upon the support of Russia. But Metternich's fast couriers were soon on their way to St Petersburg and the Tsar, entirely persuaded by the Austrian arguments in favor of "peace and stability," refused to help. Ypsilanti was forced to flee to Austria where he spent the next seven years in prison.

In the same year, 1821, trouble began in Greece. Since 1815 a secret society of Greek patriots had been preparing the way for a revolt. Suddenly they hoisted the flag of independence in the Morea (the ancient Peloponnesus) and drove the Turkish garrisons away. The Turks answered in the usual fashion. They took the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, who was regarded as their Pope both by the Greeks and by many Russians, and they hanged him on Easter Sunday of the year 1821, together with a number of his bishops. The Greeks came back with a massacre of all the Muslims in Tripolitsa, the capital of the Morea and the Turks retaliated by an attack upon the island of Chios, where they murdered 25,000 Christians and sold 45,000 others as slaves into Asia and Egypt.

Then the Greeks appealed to the European courts, but Metternich told them in so many words that they could "stew in their own grease," (I am not trying to make a pun, but I am quoting His Serene Highness who informed the Tsar that this "fire of revolt ought to burn itself out beyond the pale of civilization") and the frontiers were closed to those volunteers who wished to go to the rescue of the patriotic Hellenes. Their cause seemed lost. At the request of Turkey, an Egyptian army was landed in the Morea and soon the Turkish flag was again flying from the Acropolis, the ancient stronghold of Athens. The Egyptian army then pacified the country "à la Turque," and Metternich followed the proceedings with quiet interest, awaiting the day when this "attempt against the peace of Europe" should be a thing of the past.

Once more it was England which upset his plans. The greatest glory of England does not lie in her vast colonial possessions, in her wealth or her navy, but in the quiet heroism and independence of her average citizen. The Englishman obeys the law because he knows that respect for the rights of others marks the difference between a dog-kennel and civilized society. But he does not recognize the right of others to interfere with his freedom of thought. If his country does something which he believes to be wrong, he gets up and says so and the government which he attacks will respect him and will give him full protection against the mob which today, as in the time of Socrates, often loves to destroy those who surpass it in courage or intelligence. There never has been a good cause, however unpopular or however distant, which has not counted a number of Englishmen among its staunchest adherents. The mass of the English people are not different from those in other lands. They stick to the business at hand and have no time for unpractical "sporting ventures." But they rather admire their eccentric neighbor who drops everything to go and fight for some obscure people in Asia or Africa and when he has been killed they give him a fine public funeral and hold him up to their children as an example of valor and chivalry.

Even the police spies of the Holy Alliance were powerless against this national characteristic. In the year 1824, Lord Byron, a rich young Englishman who wrote the poetry over which all Europe wept, hoisted the sails of his yacht and started south to help the Greeks. Three months later the news spread through Europe that their hero lay dead in Missolonghi, the last of the Greek strongholds. His lonely death caught the imagination of the people. In all countries, societies were formed to help the Greeks. Lafayette, the grand old man of the American revolution, pleaded their cause in France. The king of Bavaria sent hundreds of his officers. Money and supplies poured in upon the starving men of Missolonghi.

In England, George Canning, who had defeated the plans of the Holy Alliance in South America, was now prime minister. He saw his chance to checkmate Metternich for a second time. The English and Russian fleets were already in the Mediterranean. They were sent by governments which dared no longer suppress the popular enthusiasm for the cause of the Greek patriots. The French navy appeared because France, since the end of the Crusades, had assumed the role of the defender of the Christian faith in Muslim lands. On October 20 of the year 1827, the ships of the three nations attacked the Turkish fleet in the bay of Navarino and destroyed it. Rarely has the news of a battle been received with such general rejoicing. The people of western Europe and Russia who enjoyed no freedom at home consoled themselves by fighting an imaginary war of liberty on behalf of the oppressed Greeks. In the year 1829 they had their reward. Greece became an independent nation and the policy of reaction and stability suffered its second great defeat.

It would be absurd were I to try, in this short volume, to give you a detailed account of the struggle for national independence in all other countries. There are a large number of excellent books devoted to such subjects. I have described the struggle for the independence of Greece because it was the first successful attack upon the bulwark of reaction which the Congress of Vienna had erected to "maintain the stability of Europe." That mighty fortress of suppression still held out and Metternich continued to be in command. But the end was near.

In France the Bourbons had established an almost unbearable rule of police officials who were trying to undo the work of the French revolution, with an absolute disregard of the regulations and laws of civilized warfare. When Louis XVIII died in the year 1824, the people had enjoyed nine years of "peace" which had proved even more unhappy than the ten years of war of the Empire. Louis was succeeded by his brother, Charles X.

Louis had belonged to that famous Bourbon family which, although it never learned anything, never forgot anything. The recollection of that morning in the town of Hamm, when news had reached him of the decapitation of his brother, remained a constant warning of what might happen to those kings who did not read the signs of the times aright. Charles, on the other hand, who had managed to run up private debts of fifty million francs before he was twenty years of age, knew nothing, remembered nothing and firmly intended to learn nothing. As soon as he had succeeded his brother, he established a government "by priests, through priests and for priests," and while the Duke of Wellington, who made this remark, cannot be called a violent liberal, Charles ruled in such a way that he disgusted even that trusted friend of law and order. When he tried to suppress the newspapers which dared to criticise his government, and dismissed the Parliament because it supported the Press, his days were numbered.

On the night of the 27th of July of the year 1830, a revolution took place in Paris. On the 30th of the same month, the king fled to the coast and set sail for England. In this way the "famous farce of fifteen years" came to an end and the Bourbons were at last removed from the throne of France. They were too hopelessly incompetent. France then might have returned to a Republican form of government, but such a step would not have been tolerated by Metternich.

The situation was dangerous enough. The spark of rebellion had leaped beyond the French frontier and had set fire to another powder house filled with national grievances. The new kingdom of the Netherlands had not been a success. The Belgian and the Dutch people had nothing in common and their king, William of Orange (the descendant of an uncle of William the Silent), while a hard worker and a good business man, was too much lacking in tact and pliability to keep the peace among his uncongenial subjects. Besides, the horde of priests which had descended upon France, had at once found its way into Belgium and whatever Protestant William tried to do was howled down by large crowds of excited citizens as a fresh attempt upon the "freedom of the Catholic church." On the 25th of August there was a popular outbreak against the Dutch authorities in Brussels. Two months later, the Belgians declared themselves independent and elected Leopold of Coburg, the uncle of Queen Victoria of England, to the throne. That was an excellent solution of the difficulty. The two countries, which never ought to have been united, parted their ways and thereafter lived in peace and harmony and behaved like decent neighbors.

News in those days when there were only a few short railroads, traveled slowly, but when the success of the French and the Belgian revolutionists became known in Poland there was an immediate clash between the Poles and their Russian rulers which led to a year of terrible warfare and ended with a complete victory for the Russians who "established order along the banks of the Vistula" in the well-known Russian fashion. Nicholas the First, who had succeeded his brother Alexander in 1825, firmly believed in the Divine Right of his own family, and the thousands of Polish refugees who had found shelter in western Europe bore witness to the fact that the principles of the Holy Alliance were still more than a hollow phrase in Holy Russia.

In Italy too there was a moment of unrest. Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma and wife of the former Emperor Napoleon, whom she had deserted after the defeat of Waterloo, was driven away from her country, and in the Papal state the exasperated people tried to establish an independent Republic. But the armies of Austria marched to Rome and soon everything was as of old. Metternich continued to reside at the Ball Platz, the home of the foreign minister of the Habsburg dynasty, the police spies returned to their job, and peace reigned supreme. Eighteen more years were to pass before a second and more successful attempt could be made to deliver Europe from the terrible inheritance of the Vienna Congress.

Again it was France, the revolutionary weather-cock of Europe, which gave the signal of revolt. Charles X had been succeeded by Louis Philippe, the son of that famous Duke of Orleans who had turned Jacobin, had voted for the death of his cousin the king, and had played a role during the early days of the revolution under the name of "Philippe Egalité" or "Equality Philip." Eventually he had been killed when Robespierre tried to purge the nation of all "traitors," (by which name he indicated those people who did not share his own views) and his son had been forced to run away from the revolutionary army. Young Louis Philippe thereupon had wandered far and wide. He had taught school in Switzerland and had spent a couple of years exploring the unknown "far west" of America. After the fall of Napoleon he had returned to Paris. He was much more intelligent than his Bourbon cousins. He was a simple man who went about in the public parks with a red cotton umbrella under his arm, followed by a brood of children like any good housefather. But France had outgrown the king business and Louis did not know this until the morning of the 24th of February, of the year 1848, when a crowd stormed the Tuileries and drove his Majesty away and proclaimed the Republic.

When the news of this event reached Vienna, Metternich expressed the casual opinion that this was only a repetition of the year 1793 and that the Allies would once more be obliged to march upon Paris and make an end to this very unseemly democratic row. But two weeks later his own Austrian capital was in open revolt. Metternich escaped from the mob through the back door of his palace, and the Emperor Ferdinand was forced to give his subjects a constitution which embodied most of the revolutionary principles which his Prime Minister had tried to suppress for the last thirty-three years.


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

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  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Answer the review questions.


The Congress of Vienna was well-meaning but ultimately failed to provide peace and stability. The first hint of warning came from distant colonies in America. The native Haitians gained their freedom from the French in 1804. With the help of Haiti, Venezuela declared their independence from the Spanish. The revolution continued its spread across South America. Spain asked the Holy Alliance for help. However, with the prompting of England, the United States (under the fifth President of the United States, James Monroe) established the Monroe Doctrine as policy. The Monroe Doctrine took a stance against European colonialism in North and South America. The Holy Alliance decided not to intervene, and much of South America and Mexico gained their independence. Back in Europe, trouble rippled across the continent, and revolt broke out in France and Austria.


Doctrine: A belief or tenet, especially about philosophical or theological matters.
Monroe Doctrine: The policy of the United States against European colonialism in North and South America.


Activity 1: Narrate the Lesson

  • After you read the lesson, narrate the lesson aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Lesson Picture(s)

  • Study the lesson picture(s) and describe how they relate to the lesson.

Activity 3: Map the Lesson

  • Find Haiti and Mexico on the map of North America.
  • Find Venezuela on the map of South America.

Activity 4: Complete Copywork, Narration, Dictation, and Coloring   

Click the crayon above. Complete pages 44-45 of 'World History Activities for Fourth Grade.'


Question 1

Which country helped Venezuela in its quest for independence from Spain?
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Answer 1

Haiti helped Venezuela in its quest for independence from Spain.
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Question 2

Which factors led to the Holy Alliance's decision against helping Spain maintain control over their South American colonies?
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Answer 2

Both England and the United States opposed Spain's colonialism in North and South America.
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Question 3

What does the Monroe Doctrine state?
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Answer 3

The Monroe Doctrine advocates against European colonialism in North and South America.
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Question 4

For whom was the Monroe Doctrine named?
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Answer 4

The Monroe Doctrine was named for the 5th President of the United States, James Monroe.
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  1. Which country helped Venezuela in its quest for independence from Spain? Haiti helped Venezuela in its quest for independence from Spain.
  2. Which factors led to the Holy Alliance's decision against helping Spain maintain control over their South American colonies? Both England and the United States opposed Spain's colonialism in North and South America.
  3. What does the Monroe Doctrine state? The Monroe Doctrine advocates against European colonialism in North and South America.
  4. For whom was the Monroe Doctrine named? The Monroe Doctrine was named for the 5th President of the United States, James Monroe.