At this congress, which met on October 20, 1820 in Opava, the emperor Alexander I of Russia and Francis I of Austria were present in person; King Frederick William III of Prussia was represented by the crown prince (afterwards Frederick William IV). The three eastern powers were further represented by the ministers responsible for their foreign policy: Austria by Prince Metternich, Russia by Count Capo d'lstria, Prussia by Prince Hardenberg. Great Britain, on the other hand, which objected on principle to the suggested concerted action against the Neapolitan Liberals, sent no plenipotentiary, but was represented by Lord Stewart, ambassador in Vienna. France, too, though her policy was less clearly defined, had given no plenary powers to her representatives. Thus from the very first was emphasized that division within the concert of the powers which the outcome of the congress was to make patent.
The characteristic note of this congress was its intimate and informal nature; the determining fact at the outset was Metternich's discovery that he had no longer anything to fear from the "Jacobinism" of the emperor Alexander. In a three hours' conversation over a cup of tea at the little inn he had heard the tsar's confession and promise of amendment: "Aujourd'hui je deplore tout ce que j'ai dit et fait entre les annees 1814 et 1818 . . . Dites-moi ce que vous voulez de moi. Je le ferai" (Metternich to Esterhazy, Oct. 24, 1820, F. O. Austria Dom. Sep.-Dec. 1820). His failure to convert Castlereagh to his views was now of secondary importance; the "free" powers being in accord, it was safe to ignore the opinions of Great Britain and France, whose governments, whatever their goodwill, were fettered by constitutional forms.
In a series of conferences - to which the representatives of Great Britain and France were not admitted, on the excuse that they were only empowered to "report," not to "decide" - was drawn up the famous preliminary protocol signed by Austria, Russia and Prussia on November 8. The main pronouncement of the "Troppau Protocol" is as follows: "States, which have undergone a change of government due to revolution, the result of which threaten other states, ipso facto cease to be members of the European. Alliance, and remain excluded from it until their situation gives guarantees for legal order and stability. If, owing to such alterations, immediate danger threatens other states the powers bind themselves, by peaceful means, or if need be, by arms, to bring back the guilty state into the bosom of the Great Alliance."
No effort was made by the powers to give immediate effect to the principles enunciated in the protocol; and after its promulgation the conferences were adjourned, it being decided to resume them at Laibach in the following January.