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Chapter 14, Hit the Deputy's Car

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

On April 30, 1847, Archduke Carl, a great military leader, died suddenly in Vienna, marking the end of an era.

The funeral for Archduke Carl was a grand affair, with Franz's Uncle Ferdinand I attending the farewell ceremony in person, and representatives from major European nobility present.

Franz was in a foul mood, for even reincarnated, he still couldn't face life and death with composure.

Even though he inherited the legacy of Archduke Carl's military, Franz had lost his enthusiasm; humans are not plants or trees, capable of being devoid of feeling, yet as a reserve for the Emperor, he couldn't afford to harbor too many emotions.

"Your Highness, Mr. Bowenfield from the newspaper office requests an audience!" Maid Jenny whispered.

Franz was somewhat puzzled about this unexpected visit, as there didn't seem to be any major issue that required his personal attention from the newspaper office. He then said, "Bring him in!"

"Your Highness, a serious matter has arisen!" exclaimed a perturbed Bowenfield.

"Speak, the sky isn't falling!" Franz replied calmly.

Austria had a system of press censorship in place, with government officials stationed in newspaper offices to review content, so Franz couldn't imagine that anything too serious could have happened.

Could the newspaper staff have dared to print banned material in secret? If so, Franz would not mind cleaning house.

Rivalry among peers?

At most that would be commercial competition, and he definitely didn't believe anyone would dare break the rules!

Bowenfield explained, "Recently, some newspapers have been calling for the creation of a 'Labor Protection Law,' and we have been involved in this as well."

"Go on, I see nothing wrong with that!" Franz said indifferently.

Seeing Franz's expression, Bowenfield continued with trepidation, "We've become one of the leading voices in this news, and to draw more attention to the plight of the lower classes, we've done a series of reports."

"Say it all at once; why hesitate? It's already happened; are you afraid to speak out now?" Franz reprimanded, frowning.

He detested individuals who spoke in half-truths, stopping abruptly when it came to the crux of the matter.

"Based on intelligence collected, our newspaper's editors have made a proposal, suggesting that capitalists should offer a range of protections to the working class; unexpectedly, the government has taken it seriously, and it's highly likely to become law!" explained a frantic Bowenfield.

Franz now understood his concern; shouting slogans on the newspaper was a common practice, and being a bit radical wasn't a problem, but once it started to become reality, that was a different story.

If the capitalists found out that the "Labor Protection Law" was drafted by "We Want Bread, We Want Cheese" newspaper, then editor Bowenfield was as good as dead.

Not just him, but likely the entire newspaper staff would be unlucky. And even Franz, the mastermind behind the scenes, might be implicated.

With such a turn of events, Franz also felt helpless. Could he say this was all done by his subordinates and had nothing to do with him?

As the Crown Prince of Austria, was he supposed to kowtow to the bourgeoisie? What to do now? Other than standing his ground, he had no other choice.

"Bring me the draft of your proposal; don't tell me you came unprepared!" Franz said with dissatisfaction.

He wasn't really blaming Bowenfield; the newspaper hadn't done anything wrong. Without knowledge of the political intrigue, their reporting was in line with Franz's positioning for the newspaper.

"I brought it with me; please take a look, Your Highness!" Bowenfield said anxiously.

Now his only reliance was on Franz; as the Crown Prince of the Empire, even if he had to enter the fray against the bourgeoisie, with the support of the nobility, the likelihood of his losing was very slim.

Once the big players stepped in, they, the minor ones, would be overlooked. When things settled, the victor wouldn't be held accountable.

As Franz quickly glanced over the document, it all seemed very familiar to him; wasn't this just a variant of the "996" working-hour system?

Work ten hours a day, with a total of two hours for meals and breaks in between, a paid day off per week, a minimum wage standard set by the government, capitalists were not to deduct wages arbitrarily or dismiss employees without cause, and factories should take the initiative to assume responsibility for work injuries.

Franz saw nothing wrong with this proposal; modern European capitalists would wake up laughing if they saw such standards in their dreams.

"Mr. Bowenfield, you've done nothing wrong in this matter," Franz said with a sense of responsibility. "Don't worry about what follows; I'll think of a way to handle it. The newspaper office is right next to the police station; I'll inform them!"

Hearing Franz's words, Bowenfield finally let out a sigh of relief, knowing the boss was willing to take charge.

Capitalists weren't fools; unless necessary, no one wanted to stick their neck out. Perhaps Franz would be wary of the entire bourgeoisie, but dealing with one or two capitalists was hardly an issue.

"Your Highness, should we continue reporting on this topic?" Bowenfield asked hesitantly.

"Of course, you must continue, but be mindful of the intensity; don't provoke the capitalists too much and avoid unnecessary trouble!" Franz said thoughtfully.

Changing stance was the least advisable. Since they had already offended the bourgeoisie, they might as well stick to their guns and, at the very least, win the support of the general public.

Trying to please both sides was the most foolish approach; playing two ends against the middle usually leaves you with nothing in the end.

In Vienna, it wasn't just their newspaper supporting the "Labour Protection Act," the Conservatives were gaining momentum, and public opinion in Austria generally sympathized with the working class.

"Yes, Your Highness!" responded Bowenfield.

Having dealt with Bowenfield, Franz turned his thoughts to damage control. Typically, to suppress one topic, another of higher intrigue was necessary.

What topic could distract the bourgeoisie? Unquestionably, it was the hot-button issue of the Labour Protection Act.

For instance: what if the ten-hour workday was further condensed to include meal and break times for workers?

Or perhaps increase the penalties for work injuries a notch, or even establish a minimum wage that would really hurt the capitalists?

In any case, as long as the government's final Labour Protection Act went further than the contents of the proposal, attention would shift.

The likelihood of the capitalists taking their wrath out on the newspaper would diminish greatly.

Thinking this through, Franz smiled contentedly; he already had a scapegoat. Now, with Grand Duke Louis representing the nobility proposing the labour protection law, Prime Minister Metternich had to act if he didn't want to be replaced, right?