This time all Europe felt the shock. Hungary declared itself independent, and commenced a war against the Habsburgs under the leadership of Louis Kossuth. The unequal struggle lasted more than a year. It was finally suppressed by the armies of Tsar Nicholas who marched across the Carpathian mountains and made Hungary once more safe for autocracy. The Habsburgs thereupon established extraordinary court-martials and hanged the greater part of the Hungarian patriots whom they had not been able to defeat in open battle.
Giuseppe Mazzini

As for Italy, the island of Sicily declared itself independent from Naples and drove its Bourbon king away. In the Papal states the prime minister, Rossi, was murdered and the Pope was forced to flee. He returned the next year at the head of a French army which remained in Rome to protect His Holiness against his subjects until the year 1870. Then it was called back to defend France against the Prussians, and Rome became the capital of Italy. In the north, Milan and Venice rose against their Austrian masters. They were supported by king Albert of Sardinia, but a strong Austrian army under old Radetzky marched into the valley of the Po, defeated the Sardinians near Custozza and Novara and forced Albert to abdicate in favor of his son, Victor Emanuel, who a few years later was to be the first king of a united Italy.

In Germany the unrest of the year 1848 took the form of a great national demonstration in favor of political unity and a representative form of government. In Bavaria, the king who had wasted his time and money upon an Irish lady who posed as a Spanish dancer—(she was called Lola Montez and lies buried in New York's Potter's Field)—was driven away by the enraged students of the university. In Prussia, the king was forced to stand with uncovered head before the coffins of those who had been killed during the street fighting and to promise a constitutional form of government. And in March of the year 1849, a German parliament, consisting of 550 delegates from all parts of the country came together in Frankfort and proposed that king Frederick William of Prussia should be the Emperor of a United Germany.

Then, however, the tide began to turn. Incompetent Ferdinand had abdicated in favor of his nephew Francis Joseph. The well-drilled Austrian army had remained faithful to their warlord. The hangman was given plenty of work and the Habsburgs, after the nature of that strangely cat-like family, once more landed upon their feet and rapidly strengthened their position as the masters of eastern and western Europe. They played the game of politics very adroitly and used the jealousies of the other German states to prevent the elevation of the Prussian king to the Imperial dignity. Their long training in the art of suffering defeat had taught them the value of patience. They knew how to wait. They bided their time and while the liberals, utterly untrained in practical politics, talked and talked and talked and got intoxicated by their own fine speeches, the Austrians quietly gathered their forces, dismissed the Parliament of Frankfort and re-established the old and impossible German confederation which the Congress of Vienna had wished upon an unsuspecting world.

But among the men who had attended this strange Parliament of unpractical enthusiasts, there was a Prussian country squire by the name of Bismarck, who had made good use of his eyes and ears. He had a deep contempt for oratory. He knew (what every man of action has always known) that nothing is ever accomplished by talk. In his own way he was a sincere patriot. He had been trained in the old school of diplomacy and he could outlie his opponents just as he could outwalk them and outdrink them and outride them.

Bismarck felt convinced that the loose confederation of little states must be changed into a strong united country if it would hold its own against the other European powers. Brought up amidst feudal ideas of loyalty, he decided that the house of Hohenzollern, of which he was the most faithful servant, should rule the new state, rather than the incompetent Habsburgs. For this purpose he must first get rid of the Austrian influence, and he began to make the necessary preparations for this painful operation.

Italy in the meantime had solved her own problem, and had rid herself of her hated Austrian master. The unity of Italy was the work of three men, Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi. Of these three, Cavour, the civil-engineer with the short-sighted eyes and the steel-rimmed glasses, played the part of the careful political pilot. Mazzini, who had spent most of his days in different European garrets, hiding from the Austrian police, was the public agitator, while Garibaldi, with his band of red-shirted rough-riders, appealed to the popular imagination.

Mazzini and Garibaldi were both believers in the Republican form of government. Cavour, however, was a monarchist, and the others who recognized his superior ability in such matters of practical statecraft, accepted his decision and sacrificed their own ambitions for the greater good of their beloved Fatherland.

Cavour felt towards the House of Sardinia as Bismarck did towards the Hohenzollern family. With infinite care and great shrewdness he set to work to jockey the Sardinian King into a position from which His Majesty would be able to assume the leadership of the entire Italian people. The unsettled political conditions in the rest of Europe greatly helped him in his plans and no country contributed more to the independence of Italy than her old and trusted (and often distrusted) neighbor, France.

In that turbulent country, in November of the year 1852, the Republic had come to a sudden but not unexpected end. Napoleon III the son of Louis Bonaparte the former King of Holland, and the small nephew of a great uncle, had re-established an Empire and had made himself Emperor "by the Grace of God and the Will of the People."

This young man, who had been educated in Germany and who mixed his French with harsh Teutonic gutturals (just as the first Napoleon had always spoken the language of his adopted country with a strong Italian accent) was trying very hard to use the Napoleonic tradition for his own benefit. But he had many enemies and did not feel very certain of his hold upon his ready-made throne. He had gained the friendship of Queen Victoria but this had not been a difficult task, as the good Queen was not particularly brilliant and was very susceptible to flattery. As for the other European sovereigns, they treated the French Emperor with insulting haughtiness and sat up nights devising new ways in which they could show their upstart "Good Brother" how sincerely they despised him.

Napoleon was obliged to find a way in which he could break this opposition, either through love or through fear. He well knew the fascination which the word "glory" still held for his subjects. Since he was forced to gamble for his throne he decided to play the game of Empire for high stakes. He used an attack of Russia upon Turkey as an excuse for bringing about the Crimean war in which England and France combined against the Tsar on behalf of the Sultan. It was a very costly and exceedingly unprofitable enterprise. Neither France nor England nor Russia reaped much glory.

But the Crimean war did one good thing. It gave Sardinia a chance to volunteer on the winning side and when peace was declared it gave Cavour the opportunity to lay claim to the gratitude of both England and France.

Having made use of the international situation to get Sardinia recognized as one of the more important powers of Europe, the clever Italian then provoked a war between Sardinia and Austria in June of the year 1859. He assured himself of the support of Napoleon in exchange for the provinces of Savoy and the city of Nice, which was really an Italian town. The Franco-Italian armies defeated the Austrians at Magenta and Solferino, and the former Austrian provinces and duchies were united into a single Italian kingdom. Florence became the capital of this new Italy until the year 1870 when the French recalled their troops from Rome to defend France against the Germans. As soon as they were gone, the Italian troops entered the eternal city and the House of Sardinia took up its residence in the old Palace of the Quirinal which an ancient Pope had built on the ruins of the baths of the Emperor Constantine.

The Pope, however, moved across the river Tiber and hid behind the walls of the Vatican, which had been the home of many of his predecessors since their return from the exile of Avignon in the year 1377. He protested loudly against this high-handed theft of his domains and addressed letters of appeal to those faithful Catholics who were inclined to sympathise with him in his loss. Their number, however, was small, and it has been steadily decreasing. For, once delivered from the cares of state, the Pope was able to devote all his time to questions of a spiritual nature. Standing high above the petty quarrels of the European politicians, the Papacy assumed a new dignity which proved of great benefit to the church and made it an international power for social and religious progress which has shown a much more intelligent appreciation of modern economic problems than most Protestant sects.

In this way, the attempt of the Congress of Vienna to settle the Italian question by making the peninsula an Austrian province was at last undone.

The German problem however remained as yet unsolved. It proved the most difficult of all. The failure of the revolution of the year 1848 had led to the wholesale migration of the more energetic and liberal elements among the German people. These young fellows had moved to the United States of America, to Brazil, to the new colonies in Asia and America. Their work was continued in Germany but by a different sort of men.

In the new Diet which met at Frankfort, after the collapse of the German Parliament and the failure of the Liberals to establish a united country, the Kingdom of Prussia was represented by that same Otto von Bismarck from whom we parted a few pages ago. Bismarck by now had managed to gain the complete confidence of the king of Prussia. That was all he asked for. The opinion of the Prussian parliament or of the Prussian people interested him not at all. With his own eyes he had seen the defeat of the Liberals. He knew that he would not be able to get rid of Austria without a war and he began by strengthening the Prussian army. The Landtag, exasperated at his high-handed methods, refused to give him the necessary credits. Bismarck did not even bother to discuss the matter. He went ahead and increased his army with the help of funds which the Prussian house of Peers and the king placed at his disposal. Then he looked for a national cause which could be used for the purpose of creating a great wave of patriotism among all the German people.

In the north of Germany there were the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein which ever since the Middle Ages had been a source of trouble. Both countries were inhabited by a certain number of Danes and a certain number of Germans, but although they were governed by the King of Denmark, they were not an integral part of the Danish State and this led to endless difficulties. Heaven forbid that I should revive this forgotten question which now seems settled by the acts of the recent Congress of Versailles. But the Germans in Holstein were very loud in their abuse of the Danes and the Danes in Schleswig made a great ado of their Danishness, and all Europe was discussing the problem and German Männerchors and Turnvereins listened to sentimental speeches about the "lost brethren" and the different chancelleries were trying to discover what it was all about, when Prussia mobilised her armies to "save the lost provinces." As Austria, the official head of the German Confederation, could not allow Prussia to act alone in such an important matter, the Habsburg troops were mobilised too and the combined armies of the two great powers crossed the Danish frontiers and after a very brave resistance on the part of the Danes, occupied the two duchies. The Danes appealed to Europe, but Europe was otherwise engaged and the poor Danes were left to their fate.

Bismarck then prepared the scene for the second number upon his Imperial programme. He used the division of the spoils to pick a quarrel with Austria. The Habsburgs fell into the trap. The new Prussian army, the creation of Bismarck and his faithful generals, invaded Bohemia and in less than six weeks, the last of the Austrian troops had been destroyed at Königgrätz and Sadowa and the road to Vienna lay open. But Bismarck did not want to go too far. He knew that he would need a few friends in Europe. He offered the defeated Habsburgs very decent terms of peace, provided they would resign their chairmanship of the Confederation. He was less merciful to many of the smaller German states who had taken the side of the Austrians, and annexed them to Prussia. The greater part of the northern states then formed a new organization, the so-called North German Confederacy, and victorious Prussia assumed the unofficial leadership of the German people.

Europe stood aghast at the rapidity with which the work of consolidation had been done. England was quite indifferent but France showed signs of disapproval. Napoleon's hold upon the French people was steadily diminishing. The Crimean war had been costly and had accomplished nothing.

A second adventure in the year 1863, when a French army had tried to force an Austrian Grand-Duke by the name of Maximilian upon the Mexican people as their Emperor, had come to a disastrous end as soon as the American Civil War had been won by the North. For the Government at Washington had forced the French to withdraw their troops and this had given the Mexicans a chance to clear their country of the enemy and shoot the unwelcome Emperor.

It was necessary to give the Napoleonic throne a new coat of glory-paint. Within a few years the North German Confederation would be a serious rival of France. Napoleon decided that a war with Germany would be a good thing for his dynasty. He looked for an excuse and Spain, the poor victim of endless revolutions, gave him one.

Just then the Spanish throne happened to be vacant. It had been offered to the Catholic branch of the house of Hohenzollern. The French government had objected and the Hohenzollerns had politely refused to accept the crown. But Napoleon, who was showing signs of illness, was very much under the influence of his beautiful wife, Eugénie de Montijo, the daughter of a Spanish gentleman and the grand-daughter of William Kirkpatrick, an American consul at Malaga, where the grapes come from. Eugénie, although shrewd enough, was as badly educated as most Spanish women of that day. She was at the mercy of her spiritual advisers and these worthy gentlemen felt no love for the Protestant King of Prussia. "Be bold," was the advice of the Empress to her husband, but she omitted to add the second half of that famous Persian proverb which admonishes the hero to "be bold but not too bold." Napoleon, convinced of the strength of his army, addressed himself to the king of Prussia and insisted that the king give him assurances that "he would never permit another candidature of a Hohenzollern prince to the Spanish crown." As the Hohenzollerns had just declined the honor, the demand was superfluous, and Bismarck so informed the French government. But Napoleon was not satisfied.

It was the year 1870 and King William was taking the waters at Ems. There one day he was approached by the French minister who tried to re-open the discussion. The king answered very pleasantly that it was a fine day and that the Spanish question was now closed and that nothing more remained to be said upon the subject. As a matter of routine, a report of this interview was telegraphed to Bismarck, who handled all foreign affairs. Bismarck edited the dispatch for the benefit of the Prussian and French press. Many people have called him names for doing this. Bismarck however could plead the excuse that the doctoring of official news, since time immemorial, had been one of the privileges of all civilized governments. When the "edited" telegram was printed, the good people in Berlin felt that their old and venerable king with his nice white whiskers had been insulted by an arrogant little Frenchman and the equally good people of Paris flew into a rage because their perfectly courteous minister had been shown the door by a Royal Prussian flunkey.

And so they both went to war and in less than two months, Napoleon and the greater part of his army were prisoners of the Germans. The Second Empire had come to an end and the Third Republic was making ready to defend Paris against the German invaders. Paris held out for five long months. Ten days before the surrender of the city, in the nearby palace of Versailles, built by that same King Louis XIV who had been such a dangerous enemy to the Germans, the King of Prussia was publicly proclaimed German Emperor and a loud booming of guns told the hungry Parisians that a new German Empire had taken the place of the old harmless Confederation of Teutonic states and statelets.

In this rough way, the German question was finally settled. By the end of the year 1871, fifty-six years after the memorable gathering at Vienna, the work of the Congress had been entirely undone. Metternich and Alexander and Talleyrand had tried to give the people of Europe a lasting peace. The methods they had employed had caused endless wars and revolutions and the feeling of a common brotherhood of the eighteenth century was followed by an era of exaggerated nationalism which has not yet come to an end.


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the lesson.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Answer the review questions.


Although the Vienna Congress strove for peace, their methods resulted in great strife. Across Europe, unrest broke out with the result of consolidating power and unifying countries. The work of the Vienna Congress was finally undone.


Habsburg: A noble family which became the ruling (hereditary) dynasty of Austria.
Carpathians: A large mountainous system in Central Europe, mainly in Transylvania (Romania) and the Polish (Silesian)-Slovak border region.
Teutonic: Relating to the ancient Germanic people, the Teutons.
Consolidation: The act or process of unification, grouping, or combining.


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 Hungary, Italy, Germany, Spain, Austria, France, England (UK), and Russia on the map of Europe.

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

Click the crayon above. Complete page 46 of 'World History Activities for Fourth Grade.'


Question 1

Did the Congress of Vienna provide peace and stability for Europe?
1 / 2

Answer 1

No, strife and revolution broke out both in the Americas and in Europe.
1 / 2

Question 2

What was the result of the strife in Europe?
2 / 2

Answer 2

The results included power changing hands and consolidation and the unification of countries.
2 / 2

  1. Did the Congress of Vienna provide peace and stability for Europe? No, strife and revolution broke out both in the Americas and in Europe.
  2. What was the result of the strife in Europe? The results included power changing hands and consolidation and the unification of countries.