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Congress system. Formally set up by article VI of the Quadruple Alliance, signed with the second treaty of Paris (20 November 1815). It had been foreshadowed in the treaty of Chaumont of March 1815, when the principal allies in the last coalition against Napoleon—Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia—resolved to remain united after the war to safeguard the peace settlements. Congresses met four times, at Aix-la-Chapelle (1818), Troppau (1820), Laibach (1821), and Verona (1822). The Aix-la-Chapelle meeting was harmonious. The allied army of occupation in France was to be withdrawn and France admitted to the union. Britain and France did not send representatives to the Troppau meeting, which had been called by the tsar to consider revolutionary outbreaks in Spain and Italy. The three eastern powers signed the Troppau declaration, asserting their right to intervene against revolutions. The British foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh, strongly resisted this interpretation in his State Paper of May 1820. The Troppau meeting was adjourned to Laibach but little was settled. The last congress, at Verona, discussed mainly Spain. Britain had to acquiesce in French intervention there. The congress system broke down because of the divergent aims of its members, the eastern powers wishing to use it to ‘police’ Europe, Britain insisting that it was intended only to secure the peace settlement and should not intervene in the domestic affairs of other countries. But it foreshadowed the peacekeeping efforts of the League of Nations and the United Nations in the 20th cent.
Muriel Evelyn Chamberlain
congress system Attempt during the early 19th century to conduct diplomacy through regular conferences between the European allies that had defeated Napoleonic France. It originated in the Treaty of Paris (1815). The four powers (Austria, Britain, Prussia, and Russia) met in 1818, 1820, and 1821. Britain withdrew from the Congress of Verona (1822) after opposing proposals to intervene against revolutionary forces in South America and elsewhere. In 1825, differences between the three remaining powers at a meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, caused the abandonment of the system.