ALLIANCE, in international law, a league between independent states, defined by treaty, for the purpose of combined action, defensive or offensive, or both. Alliances have usually been directed to specific objects carefully defined in the treaties. Thus the Triple Alliance of 1688 between Great Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands, and the Grand Alliance of 1689 between the emperor, Holland, England, Spain and Saxony, were both directed against the power of Louis XIV. The Quadruple or Grand Alliance of 1814, defined in the treaty of Chaumont, between Great Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia, had for its object the overthrow of Napoleon and his dynasty, and the confining of France within her traditional boundaries. The Triple Alliance of 1882 between Germany, Austria and Italy was ostensibly directed to the preservation of European peace against any possible aggressive action of France or Russia; and this led in turn, some ten years later, to the Dual Alliance between Russia and France, for mutual support in case of any hostile action of the other powers. Occasionally, however, attempts have been made to give alliances a more general character. Thus the "Holy Alliance" (q.v.) of the 26th of September 1815 was an attempt, inspired by the religious idealism of the emperor Alexander I. of Russia, to find in the "sacred precepts of the Gospel" a common basis for a general league of the European governments, its object being, primarily, the preservation of peace. So, too, by Article VI. of the Quadruple Treaty signed at Paris on the 20th of November 1815-which renewed that of Chaumont and was again renewed, in 1818, at Aix-la-Chapelle-the scope of the Grand Alliance was extended to objects of common interest not specifically defined in the treaties. The article runs:-"In order to consolidate the intimate tie which unites the four sovereigns for the happiness of the world, the High Contracting Powers have agreed to renew at fixed intervals, either under their own auspices or by their respective ministers, meetings consecrated to great common objects and to the examination of such measures as at each one of these epochs shall be judged most salutary for the peace and prosperity of the nations and the maintenance of the tranquillity of Europe."
It was this article of the treaty of the 20th of November 1815, rather than the "Holy Alliance," that formed the basis of the serious effort made by the great powers, between 1815 and 1822, to govern Europe in concert, which will be found outlined in the article on the history of Europe. In general it proved that an alliance, to be effective, must be clearly defined as to its objects, and that in the long run the treaty in which these objects are defined must--to quote Bismarck's somewhat cynical dictum -"be reinforced by the interests" of the parties concerned. Yet the "moral alliance" of Europe, as Count Nesselrode called it, though it failed to secure the permanent harmony of the powers, was an effective instrument for peace during the years immediately following the downfall of Napoleon; and it set the precedent for those periodical meetings of the representatives of the powers, for the discussion and settlement of questions of international importance, which, though cumbrous and inefficient for constructive work, have contributed much to the preservation of the general peace (see EUROPE: History.) (W. A. P.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)