The Holy Alliance, as it was afterwards called - the Alliance started by the Emperor of Russia, and joined in by the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia - proclaimed its mission. The Holy Alliance was a natural outcome of the principles and purposes which led up to the agreement made at the Congress of Vienna. It is well that the proclamations and the purposes of the Holy Alliance should not be allowed to fade from public memory. Sydney Smith forcibly and very justly spoke of the Sovereigns who made themselves into the Holy Alliance as "the crowned conspirators of Verona." The declaration of the Holy Alliance was contained in a manifesto issued by the Emperor of Russia from St. Petersburg and bearing date on the day of the birth of our Saviour, the 25th of December, 1815. In this proclamation the Emperor ordered that the Convention concluded at Paris on the 26th of September, 1815, should be read in all the churches throughout his dominions. This was the Convention of the Holy Alliance. It was arranged between the Emperor of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, and the King of Prussia. These Sovereigns, to quote from the words of the Convention, " solemnly declare that the present act has no other object than to publish in the face of the whole world their fixed resolution, both in the administration of their respective States and in their political relations with every other Government, to take for their sole guide the precepts of the Holy Religion of our Saviour - namely, the precepts of justice, Christian charity, and peace, which, far from being applicable only to private concerns, must have an immediate influence on the Councils of Princes and guide all their steps, as being the only means of consolidating human institutions and remedying their imperfections." The Sovereigns therefore pledged themselves to "remain united by the bonds of a true and indissoluble fraternity, and to use their arms to protect religion, peace, and justice." Then the Convention went on to explain that it was not by any means the intention of the Sovereigns who signed it to limit the blessings of those counsels of perfection to the uses of the Holy Allies only, and to leave all other European States out in the cold. On the contrary, the document contained the cheering intelligence that "all Powers which were willing solemnly to avow the sacred principles which have dictated the present act will be received with equal ardour and affection into this Holy Alliance".
The world was not long left in suspense as to the inner meaning of this agreement. The Emperor of Russia, the Emperor of Austria, and the King of Prussia had their own ideas as to the way in which peace, religion, and justice were to be maintained. Peace was, in the opinion of these Allied Powers, to be secured by enslaving their own peoples and every population which was to be put under their control. Religion meant the Divine right of Sovereigns to govern according to their own despotic humours. Justice consisted in the suppression of free speech and of every other popular right or demand, in order that subjects might be taught to know their place, and compelled to keep in the position to which it had pleased the Congress of Vienna to call them. In other words, as a modern writer has described the situation, the crowned conspirators "proclaimed themselves the champions and ministers of religion and justice, but reserved to themselves the right of defining what religion and justice were." "Show me the man, and I'll show you the law," was a bitter old Scottish saying. "Show me the Sovereigns, and I'll show you the religion, law, and justice," would have been a saying strictly applicable to the Holy Alliance. The Sovereigns bound themselves to unite in putting down revolutionary agitation wherever it might upheave itself, and we all know what they would have defined as revolutionary agitation. Every State which should afterwards join the Alliance would be understood to have pledged itself to lend the aid of its arms and its troops to put down whatever might be defined as revolutionary agitation. The deliberate purpose of the Holy Alliance was to restore the dethroned Princes and Grand Dukes everywhere, to set up again the Divine right of Kings in France and everywhere else over which their power extended, to bring back to France the old days and the old ways of the Bourbon, and to establish as the reign of law the principle that one despot was bound to assist another in maintaining a despotic authority; but that one people was not free to help itself or any other people to liberty.
John Keats. (1795-1821).
The Holy Alliance, in fact, quite overdid its work. The Allied Sovereigns took no account of time; the season was not one when an enlightened philosophy had much influence over political action; and the two Emperors and the King did not understand that there was anything like a law of political development. So they went to work with their cheery faith in their own power to stop the movement of time and the process of growth. The influence they afterwards obtained over the Councils of reactionary dynasties in France and Spain became the principal means of upsetting the whole fabric on which the Holy Alliance was founded. When the Duke of Wellington heard of the Treaty, he gave it but a cold reception, and said something to the effect that he thought the Sovereign and the Government of England would ask for a somewhat more explicit and practical statement as to the actual purposes of the Alliance.
There can, however, be little doubt that the feelings of those most immediately around the English Sovereign would have led them far on the way with the work of the Holy Alliance. In point of fact, for a time such Ministers as Lord Liverpool and Lord Castlereagh were very willing indeed that England should lend herself to the conspiracy of Verona. It was only when Canning came into power that a complete severance took place, once for all, between the policy of England in foreign affairs and the principles of the Holy Alliance. Even if England had joined in the conspiracy, it is utterly impossible that it could have held its own for any considerable length of time. The genuine principle of democracy was, indeed, a little out of favour, even in England, at the date when the two Emperors and the King signed their portentous Treaty. The excesses of the French Revolution and the military dictatorship of Napoleon had aroused an immense alarm all through England and everywhere else. It cannot be questioned that even in domestic policy the mind of Pitt was greatly affected by the influence of this alarm. Reforms were delayed in England because of the difficulty which the mind of the average man had in distinguishing between a demand for a reform and a clamour for a revolution. But the democratic reform must have begun to develop before long, if all the Sovereigns of Europe had been combined against it. Democratic reform, to apply to it the noble language of Wordsworth's sonnet, had "great allies," its "friends were exultations, agonies, and love, and man's unconquerable mind".