The Vienna Congress
15 January 2021
In 1814 and 1815, the great 19th-century powers (Prussia, Russia, France, Austria and the United Kingdom) sought to restore the European balance and the old regimes.
After the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 (dissolved by Napoleon) and the fall of Napoleon (1813), the Continent was not to be dominated by one power again.
They created nations around France. The Langres Agreement (29 January 1814) reduced France’s borders to their 1792 status. The independence of Switzerland was guaranteed.
The Swiss cantons were deeply divided. However, so were the great powers.
Russia and Prussia wanted a Swiss Confederation with strong federal powers. Austria was committed to maintaining the independence of the cantons.
The dividing lines in the Swiss cantons defined the old Untertanengebiete, the Catholic and Protestant cantons, supporters of the ancien régime and some other (economic) divisions.
On 8 September 1814, the English envoy reached a compromise: the independence of the cantons, the abolition of internal customs barriers and aristocratic privileges, and the establishment of some federal institutions.
Prussia got Neuchâtel back, but Neuchâtel also joined the Confederation.
Geneva and Wallis also joined the Confederation and, on 7 August 1815, an agreement was signed by twenty-two cantons.
This constitution remained in force until 1848. Switzerland’s neutrality was guaranteed as early as 20 March 1815. (Source: Thierry Lentz, 1815. The Congress of Vienna and the New Foundation of Europe, Munich 2014).