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Chapter 13, The Demise of a Great General

Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio

"The glory of the nobility must not be desecrated!" Archduke Louis said sternly.

Franz knew that the deed was done and, in order to provoke the conflict between the nobility and the bourgeoisie, he had gone all out.

After a series of preparations in the earlier stages, he finally sparked the sense of crisis in this Conservative bigwig, and it was time to make his graceful exit.

Obviously, Archduke Louis had no intention of letting Franz off the hook and directly asked, "Franz, what specific proposal do you think we should put forward to strike at the bourgeoisie?"

Franz knew that he could not dodge the question now, or all his efforts would be in vain.

"Uncle Louis, this is just a rough idea of mine and not a detailed plan. We could draft a 'Labor Protection Law.'

We should put effort into aspects like wages, work hours, and labor security. We could send someone to investigate this matter and then make a detailed plan.

The most important thing right now is to divert attention. Let's first come up with a draft and throw it out there, so the Reformists won't have their eyes fixed solely on us, right?"

Archduke Louis's heart leaped with joy. The entire Austrian Empire was clamoring for reform, with various proposals, each more radical than the last, and he, as the leader of the Conservatives, was almost overwhelmed.

At this juncture, throwing out a Labor Protection Law would be just the ticket to shunt the trouble eastward and drag the bourgeoisie down too.

From now on, there would be no Conservatives in the Austrian Empire; everyone would be seen as Reformists. It's just that the reform plans would differ.

The bourgeoisie could attract supporters with slogans like emancipation of the serfs, constitutional government, parliamentary systems, and universal suffrage, while the nobility could strike them hard on labor protection, wages, and working hours.

Now those in control of Austria's ruling power were still the nobility. The slogans shouted by the bourgeoisie were just that—slogans. But the nobility's counterattack could instantly become law.

Surely the working class couldn't refuse the government's protection of their interests, a decrease in working hours, and improved wage conditions?

Once this combination punch was thrown, it was estimated that the capitalists would find it much harder to incite the workers to cause trouble.

Archduke Louis was already considering the follow-up issues. Without a doubt, as soon as the Labor Protection Law was introduced, the labor costs of the bourgeoisie would increase significantly, and their profits would naturally decrease.

In this era, the power of Austria's bourgeoisie was limited. After a decrease in profits, it would be difficult for them to continue expanding.

Once the power of the bourgeoisie was successfully contained, the internal conflicts within the country would ease, as the capitalists' demand for labor would have decreased.

As the successful leader in suppressing the bourgeoisie, he, Archduke Louis, would be a hero among the nobility. Perhaps even replacing Metternich and becoming Prime Minister himself wouldn't be an issue.

...

Archduke Louis's daydreams were unknown to Franz. After all, as long as someone else led the charge, it could be Archduke Louis or Prime Minister Metternich. In any case, it was fine as long as Franz himself didn't have to step up.

As the saying goes, cutting off one's means of livelihood is akin to killing one's parents.

Franz did not believe that the capitalists would sit still and do nothing. In the face of their interests, they were also capable of murder. As the leading figure in the public eye of this plan, he would undoubtedly end up on the capitalists' hit list.

Realizing this, Franz decided that once the Labour Protection Act was proposed, he would need to lay low, especially avoiding being seen with Archduke Louis, lest he become collateral damage. There would be nowhere to cry if that happened.

He did not believe that a "Labor Protection Law" alone could contain the growth of the bourgeois class.

There are policies above, but countermeasures below!

The capitalists were smart people, and since the workers of this age were quite easy to cheat, it was estimated that even with legal protection, it would be very difficult to implement.

Not to mention, if the capitalists decided to delay paying wages, it would leave most workers in a bind. Trying to fight it legally wasn't feasible, as the court fees were not something ordinary workers could afford.

Of course, in the short term, it would definitely be effective. The nobility still sought to trouble him, and there were lawyers willing to come prepared with their own provisions to fight the battle.

The government agencies, too, would erupt with twelvefold fighting spirit, seizing this opportunity to wine and dine excessively. Once targeted, if they didn't manage to skim off a layer of profit, it wouldn't be in keeping with the national conditions of Austria.

Having accomplished two minor goals, Franz bid farewell to Archduke Louis, content with his efforts, and returned to Belvedere Palace.

...

The next day, Franz was steeping a cup of tea, holding the latest edition of a Vienna newspaper, and began to read it with great interest.

In an era lacking in entertainment activities, Franz had no choice but to cultivate a good habit of reading books and newspapers.

"Grand Duke, the housekeeper from Archduke Carl's just came by. It seems Archduke Carl had an accident last night and is not doing well. He wishes to see you one last time," Maid Jennie said softly.

Franz's face changed drastically, and he stood up, saying, "Prepare the carriage at once. I must go to Archduke Carl's Mansion!"

It was at this moment that Franz realized that in history, Archduke Carl was supposed to pass away this year, and by his calculations, the time was about right.

Birth, aging, sickness, and death were beyond Franz's control. Archduke Carl was born in 1771 and was now 75 years old.

In an era where the average life expectancy was less than 40, this was considered a long life.

If possible, Franz genuinely wished that Archduke Carl could live to be a hundred. With this steadfast guardian, his own burdens would be greatly reduced.

Whether it was military reform or the impending civil unrest, Franz needed this ally to exist, to share the pressure with him.

Franz hastened to Archduke Carl's Mansion as fast as he could. On the way, he had already clarified the situation: last night, Archduke Carl had had a drink and then accidentally took a fall.

This fall resulted in a fractured spine. In an era with underdeveloped medical science, there was no way to fix a steel plate and undergo recovery treatment.

The doctors judged that he didn't have long to live. As a political figure, even at the end of his life, it was customary to leave one's last wishes, and Archduke Carl would be no exception.

As his most prized pupil (self-proclaimed), Franz naturally had to be there in person. Without personally receiving a few last instructions, it was presumed that Archduke Carl would not rest in peace.

By this time, many senior military officials had already arrived at Archduke Carl's Mansion. Franz had no mood for social pleasantries and headed straight to the inner chamber.

"Grandfather Carl, Franz is here to see you!" Franz said sorrowfully.

"Ah, Franz!"

"Remember, a soldier may bleed, but must never cry!"

"Albrecht, hand over the unfinished military reform plan to Franz."

"Remember, Franz, if you want Austria to truly become strong, you must complete the reforms!"

...

Archduke Carl spoke intermittently. Franz could only guess at some of the content, but the general message was for him to inherit Carl's legacy and carry on the military reforms.

"Rest assured, grandfather Carl, I, Franz Joseph, swear in the name of God, that I will carry the military reforms through to the end!"

Hearing Franz's promise, Carl revealed a relieved smile and closed his eyes.