The Holy Alliance - Encyclopedia

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THE. HOLY ALLIANCE The famous treaty, or declaration, known by this name was signed in the first instance by Alexander I., emperor of Russia, Francis I., emperor of Austria, and Frederick William III., king of Prussia, on the 26th of September 1815, and was proclaimed by the emperor Alexander the same day at a great review of the allied troops held on the Champ des Vertus near Paris. The English version of the text is as follows: In the name of the Most Holy and Indivisible Trinity.

Holy Alliance of Sovereigns of Austria, Prussia and Russia. Their Majesties the Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, and the Emperor of Russia, having, in consequence of the great events which have marked the course of the three last years in Europe, and especially of the blessings which it has pleased Divine Providence to shower down upon those States which place their confidence and their hope on it alone, acquired the intimate conviction of the necessity of settling the steps to be observed by the Powers, in their reciprocal relations, upon the sublime truths which the Holy Religion of our Saviour teaches; Government and Political Relations. They solemnly declare that the present Act has no other object than to publish, in the face of the whole world, their fixed resolution, both in the administration of their respective States, and in their political relations with every other Government, to take for their sole guide the precepts of that Holy Religion, namely, the precepts of Justice, Christian Charity and Peace, which, far from being applicable only to private concerns, must have an immediate influence on the councils of Princes, and guide all their steps, as being the only means of consolidating human institutions and remedying their imperfections. In consequence, their Majesties have agreed on the following Articles :- Principles of the Christian Religion. Art. I. Conformably to the words of the Holy Scriptures which command all men to consider each other as brethren, the Three contracting Monarchs will remain united by the bonds of a true and indissoluble fraternity, and, considering each other as fellow countrymen, they will, on all occasions and in all places, lend each other aid and assistance; and, regarding themselves towards their subjects and armies as fathers of families, they will lead them, in the same spirit of fraternity with which they are animated, to protect Religion, Peace and Justice.

Fraternity and Affection. Art. II. In consequence, the sole principle of force, whether between the said Governments or between their Subjects, shall be that of doing each other reciprocal service, and of testifying by unalterable good will the mutual affection with which they ought to be animated, to consider themselves all as members of one and the same Christian nation; the three allied Princes looking on themselves as merely delegated by Providence to govern three branches of the One family, namely, Austria, Prussia and Russia, thus confessing that the Christian world, of which they and their people form a part, has in reality no other Sovereign than Him to whom alone power really belongs, because in Him alone are found all the treasures of love, science and infinite wisdom, that is to say, God, our Divine Saviour, the Word of the Most High, the Word of Life. Their Majesties consequently recommend to their people, with the most tender solicitude, as the sole means of enjoying that Peace which arises from a good conscience, and which alone is durable, to strengthen themselves every day more and more in the principles and exercise of the duties which the Divine Saviour has taught to mankind.

Accession of Foreign Powers. Art. III. All the Powers who shall choose solemnly to avow the sacred principles which have dictated the present Act, and shall acknowledge how important it is for the happiness of nations, too long agitated, that these truths should henceforth exercise over the destinies of mankind all the influence which belongs to them, will be received with equal ardour and affection into this Holy Alliance.

The credit for inspiring this singular document was claimed by - the Baroness von Kriidener (q.v.); in any case it was the outcome. of the tsar's mood of evangelical exaltation, and was -in its inception perfectly sincere. Neither Frederick William nor Francis signed willingly, the latter remarking that "if it was a question of politics, he must refer it to his chancellor, if of religion,: to his confessor." Metternich called it a "loud-sounding nothing," Castlereagh, "a piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense." None the less, in accordance with its last article,; -.the signatures of all the European sovereigns were invited to the instrument, the pope and the Ottoman sultan alone being excepted. The prince regent courteously declined to sign, on the constitutional ground that all acts of the British crown required the counter-signature of a minister, but he sent a letter expressing his "entire concurrence with the principles laid down by the ` august sovereigns ' and stating that it would always be his endeavour to regulate his conduct by their ` sacred maxims.'" With these exceptions, all the European sovereigns sooner or later appended their names.

In popular parlance, which has found its way into the language of serious historians, the "Holy Alliance" soon became synonymous with the combination of the great powers by whom Europe was ruled in concert during the period of the congresses, and associated with the policy of reaction which gradually dominated their counsels. For the understanding of the inner history of the diplomacy of this period, however, a clear distinction must be drawn between the Holy Alliance and the Grand, or Quadruple (Quintuple) Alliance. The Grand Alliance was established on definite treaties concluded for definite purposes, of which the chief was the preservation of peace on the basis of the territorial settlement of 1815. The Holy Alliance was a general treaty - hardly indeed a treaty at all - which bound its signatories to act on certain vague principles for no well-defined end; and in its essence it was so far from necessarily reactionary that the emperor Alexander at one time declared that it involved the grant of liberal constitutions by princes to their subjects. Its main significance was due to the persistent efforts of the tsar to make it the basis of the "universal union," or general confederation of Europe, which he wished to substitute for the actual committee of the great powers, efforts which were frustrated by the vigorous diplomacy of Castlereagh, acting as the mouthpiece of the British government (see EUROPE: History; ALEXANDER I. of Russia; LONDONDERRY, ROBERT STEWART, 2ND MARQUIS OF). As a diplomatic instrument the Holy Alliance never, as a matter of fact, became effective. None the less, its principles and the fact of its signature powerfully affected the course of European diplomacy during the 19th century. It strongly influenced the emperor Nicholas I. of Russia, to whom the brotherhood of sovereigns by divine right was an article of faith, inspiring the principles of the convention of Berlin (between Russia, Austria and Prussia) in 1833, and the tsar's intervention in 1849 to crush the Hungarian insurrection on behalf of his brother of Austria. That it had become synonymous with a conspiracy against popular liberties was, however, a mere accident of the point of view of those who interpreted its principles. It was capable of other and more noble interpretations, and it was avowedly the inspiration of the famous rescript of the emperor Nicholas II., embodied in the circular of Count Muraviev to the European courts (August 4th, 1898), which issued in the first international peace conference at the Hague in 1899. z (W. A. P.)

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