1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aix-la-Chapelle, Congresses of
AIX-LA-CHAPELLE, CONGRESSES OF. Three congresses have been held at Aix-la-Chapelle: the first in 1668, the second in 1748, the third in 1818.
1. The treaty of the 2nd of May 1668, which put an end to the War of Devolution, was the outcome of that of St Germain signed on the 15th of April by France and the representatives of the powers of the Triple Alliance. The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle left to France all the conquests made in Flanders during the campaign of 1667, with all their “appartenances, dépendances et annexes.” a vague provision of which, after the peace of Nijmwegen (1680), Louis XIV. took advantage to occupy a number of villages and towns adjudged to him by his Chambres de réunion as dependencies of the cities and territories acquired in 1668. On the other hand, France restored to Spain the cities of Cambrai, Aire and Saint-Omer, as well as the province of Franche Comté. The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was placed under the guarantee of Great Britain, Sweden and Holland, by a convention signed at the Hague on the 7th of May 1669, to which Spain acceded.
2. On the 24th of April 1748 a congress assembled at Aix-la-Chapelle for the purpose of bringing to a conclusion the struggle known as the War of Austrian Succession. Between the 30th of April and the 21st of May the preliminaries were agreed to between Great Britain, France and Holland, and to these Maria Theresa, queen of Bohemia and Hungary, the kings of Sardinia and Spain, the duke of Modena, and the republic of Genoa successively gave their adhesion. The definitive treaty was signed on the 18th of October, Sardinia alone refusing to accede, because the treaty of Worms was not guaranteed. Of the provisions of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle the most important were those stipulating for (1) a general restitution of conquests, including Cape Breton to France, Madras to England and the barrier towns to the Dutch; (2) the assignment to Don Philip of the duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla; (3) the restoration of the duke of Modena and the republic of Genoa to their former positions; (4) the renewal in favour of Great Britain of the Asiento contract of the 16th of March 1713, and of the right to send an annual vessel to the Spanish colonies; (5) the renewal of the article of the treaty of 1718 recognizing the Protestant succession in the English throne; (6) the recognition of the emperor Francis and the confirmation of the pragmatic sanction, i.e. of the right of Maria Theresa to the Habsburg succession; (7) the guarantee to Prussia of the duchy of Silesia and the county of Glatz.
Spain having raised objections to the Asiento clauses, the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was supplemented by that of Madrid (5th of October 1750), by which Great Britain surrendered her claims under those clauses in return for a sum of £100,000.
3. The congress or conference of Aix-la-Chapelle, held in the autumn of 1818, was primarily a meeting of the four allied powers—Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia—to decide the question of the withdrawal of the army of occupation from France and the nature of the modifications to be introduced in consequence into the relations of the four powers towards each other, and collectively towards France. The congress, of which the first session was held on the 1st of October, was attended by the emperor Alexander I. of Russia, the emperor Francis I. of Austria, and Frederick William III. of Prussia, in person. Great Britain was represented by Lord Castlereagh and the duke of Wellington, Austria by Prince Metternich, Russia by Counts Capo d'Istria and Nesselrode, Prussia by Prince Hardenberg and Count Bernstorff. The duc de Richelieu, by favour of the allies, was present on behalf of France. The evacuation of France was agreed to in principle at the first session, the consequent treaty being signed on the 9th of October. The immediate object of the conference being thus readily disposed of, the time of the congress was mainly occupied in discussing the form to be taken by the European alliance, and the “military measures,” if any, to be adopted as a precaution against a fresh outburst on the part of France. The proposal of the emperor Alexander I. to establish a “universal union of guarantee” on the broad basis of the Holy Alliance, after much debate, broke down on the uncompromising opposition of Great Britain; and the main outcome of the congress was the signature, on the 15th of November, of two instruments: (1) a secret protocol confirming and renewing the quadruple alliance established by the treaties of Chaumont and Paris (of the 20th of November 1815) against France; (2) a public “declaration” of the intention of the powers to maintain their intimate union, “strengthened by the ties of Christian brotherhood,” of which the object was the preservation of peace on the basis of respect for treaties. The secret protocol was communicated in confidence to Richelieu; to the declaration France was invited publicly to adhere.
Besides these questions of general policy, the congress concerned itself with a number of subjects left unsettled in the hurried winding up of the congress of Vienna, or which had arisen since. Of these the most important were the questions as to the methods to be adopted for the suppression of the slave-trade and the Barbary pirates. In neither case was any decision arrived at, owing (1) to the refusal of the other powers to agree with the British proposal for a reciprocal right of search on the high seas; (2) to the objection of Great Britain to international action which would have involved the presence of a Russian squadron in the Mediterranean. In matters of less importance the congress was more unanimous. Thus, on the urgent appeal of the king of Denmark, the king of Sweden (Bernadotte) received a peremptory summons to carry out the terms of the treaty of Kiel; the petition of the elector of Hesse to be recognized as king was unanimously rejected; and measures were taken to redress the grievances of the German mediatized princes. The more important outstanding questions in Germany, e.g. the Baden succession, were after consideration reserved for a further conference to be called at Frankfort. In addition to these a great variety of questions were considered, from that of the treatment of Napoleon at St Helena, to the grievances of the people of Monaco against their prince and the position of the Jews in Austria and Prussia. An attempt made to introduce the subject of the Spanish colonies was defeated by the opposition of Great Britain. Lastly, certain vexatious questions of diplomatic etiquette were settled once for all (see Diplomacy.) The congress, which broke up at the end of November, is of historical importance mainly as marking the highest point reached in the attempt to govern Europe by an international committee of the powers. The detailed study of its proceedings is highly instructive in revealing the almost insurmountable obstacles to any really effective international system.
G. F. de Martens, Nouveau recueil de traités, &c. (Gottingen, 1817–1842); F. de Martens, Recueil des traités conclus par la Russie, &c. 1874 in progr.); F. von Gentz, Dépêches inédites, &c., ed. Baron Prokesch-Osten, 3 vols. (1876–1877); Metternich,Memoirs; Wellington, Suppl. Despatches; Castlereagh, Correspondence, &c.
(W. A. P.)