What System did Metternich adopt to protect the Empire of Austria?

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Such was the political situation of the empire of Austria in 1815. The destiny of the people was thrown into the hands of the able chancellor, Metternich. He was the staunch follower of the Ancient Regime and a bitter enemy of liberalism.

Nationalism and democracy were serious diseases in the eyes of Metternich. Austria was the most important empire in the continent and it was the main duty of Metternich to defend his empire.

It was possible only when the principles of the French Revolution could be swept away in Austria. He knew that the empire of Austria was a melting pot of different races and different cultures.

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The administration of such a big empire could not be based on the principles of liberalism and nationalism. He never thought of the political rights of people and their participation in the administration of the country.

Hence, Metternich introduced a new system for the adminis­tration of Austria, which was called the ‘system of Metternich’.

There were two main elements of the system of Metternich. In the internal affairs, Metternich wanted to introduce such a system which might be able to prevent the tide of the revolutionary feelings.

But it was not only Austria, where the prevention of the revolutionary ideas was essential; it was inevitable in Germany and Italy too. Austria had political stakes in these states. These were under the Austrian influence.

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The expansion of the revolutionary ideas in Germany and Italy could inevitably affect the politics of Austria. It was, therefore, essential to stem the tidal flow of revolutionary feelings in Italy and Germany too.

Not only this, Metternich also wanted to crush the revolutionary activities in any other country of Europe. He thought that peace should be maintained at any cost in the whole of the continent in order to make the administration smooth.

With a view to maintaining peace and order in Europe, Metternich established an international organisation in the Congress of Vienna, which was called the Concert of Europe. The Concert of Europe was an integral part of the system of Metternich.

It has been described hereto before that there were many races in the Austrian Empire and they had no similarity of any kind among them. It was, therefore, a problem for Metternich as to how to deal with them.

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For this purpose, Metternich introduced the policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ in his empire. It was an old and well-known policy of the imperialists, and Metternich was its staunch follower. He was of the view that such circumstances should be created for the people that they might not get united.

Metternich was the high priest of the reactionary principles and the bitter enemy of the principles of revolution. He had no faith in the ideas of nationalism and democracy.

According to him, the ideas of the revolution were like the infectious disease which must be cured at once, failing which the social and political life of the whole of Europe would be spoiled. He believed in the principle of legitimacy. In other words, he was the supporter of the policy of status quo.

In this way the two elements of the system of Metternich were (i) to prevent the tide of revolutionary ideas in the Austrian Empire, and (ii) to maintain status quo in Europe. In short, the nature of his policy may be described in the words of C. D. Hazen as follows:

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“Their policy was to resist all demands for reform and to keep things as they were, to make the world standstill.”

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