February 11 1815: Prussian Issues Kinda of Settled

” On February 11,  three days after the condemnation of the slave trade, some real results were finally seen on Saxony as well. Despite all the Prussian claims the last several months, the Kingdom of Saxony would in fact be saved. Frederick Augustus would remain its king, and Dresden its capital. Remarkably, too, Saxony would hang on to the thriving town of Leipzig and retain about three-fifths of its kingdom, including lands in the east and south, which were actually its richest and most populous regions. Prussia would have to settle for the remaining two-fifths of Saxon territory, and one-third of its population, a far cry from its demands for the entire kingdom, which only months before had looked so certain. Prussia would not gain any of the largest towns, or the strategic mountain passageways into Bohemia, but instead it would receive a string of fortresses commanding the waterways of eastern Germany. (These included Erfurt, Torgau on the upper Elbe, and also the historic fortress town of Wittenberg, birthplace of the Protestant Reformation.)

To help ease the pain of this deal, the Russian tsar offered some additional territory from his share of Poland, including the fortress town of Thorn, straddling the Vistula River. The Great Powers had also awarded Prussia Westphalia, which had recently been ruled by Napoleon’s younger brother Jérôme, and they added Swedish Pomerania, in the north. Former lands of the archbishop of Trier were also transferred to Prussia, as well as areas from neighboring Hanover and the Netherlands ceded in a last-minute offer made on Castlereagh’s initiative. Most important, the Allies handed over a sizable chunk of the Rhineland from the old Holy Roman Empire, including the city of Cologne, with its beautiful soaring medieval cathedral and its prime location on a major central European trade route. Prussia had received its promised 10 million population, and Britain had succeeded in getting a strong Prussia. Significantly, in one of the most important results of the congress, Prussia had shifted from being a state centered in the east to one pointing to the west—and this, in fact, very much against its own wishes. Significantly, too, Prussia was brought into much closer contact with France. So while the Congress had buried the centuries-old Bourbon-Habsburg rivalry, it had also, by bringing Prussia into the Rhineland, helped create another one that would soon haunt European history. Few Prussians at the time, however, saw any reason to celebrate. Many were furious. “Where is Germany going to get its security in the future,” Humboldt’s wife asked him pointedly, if they did not gain Saxony? The army had been promised this region, and they had occupied it, only to be turned out without any significant resistance. No true soldier, Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher had said, could ever again wear the Prussian uniform with any honor. When the news was announced, Hardenberg’s windows back in Berlin were smashed by an angry mob.”

— Vienna, 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made Love, War, and Peace at the Congress of Vienna by David King

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