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Chapter 9, Crafting: Character Design

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

Countless cases from his past life had told Franz that it wasn't necessary to genuinely stand on the same side as the majority, but at least he had to make them believe that he was standing with them.

That was what Franz was doing now. Reform was the mainstream in Austria, and he naturally had to send out a signal that he supported reform.

At this time, the strength of the Austrian Conservative Party should not be underestimated, and the Vienna Court served as the stronghold for the Conservatives; Franz could not betray his own class.

At this moment, age was the best weapon—in the eyes of the Reformists, he was supportive of reforms, and that was enough. No one expected a 16-year-old youth to lead Austria's reforms.

Since Franz had not expressed specific views on particular reforms, in the eyes of the Conservatives, this showed prudence. Everyone knew that Austria had to undergo reforms, but how to implement them was a matter of endless debate.

As the Crown Prince of the Empire, Franz supporting reforms wasn't an issue. If he were foolish enough to throw out his own reform plan, he would likely be made a target.

In comparison, Franz's concern for the living conditions of the lower classes didn't seem to matter as much. A benevolent king was beneficial to everyone.

Before the puzzle was solved, neither capitalists nor Nobility would mind Franz building his reputation amongst the populace; no one knew he was essentially posturing.

Bowenfield was convinced by Franz or rather convinced by reality. There was nothing wrong with working for the young Grand Duke.

If it were possible to influence Archduke Franz and have him embrace his ideas, that would be even better.

He was very aware of Bowenfield's intentions, but Franz did not take them to heart. For now, he only needed to utilize Bowenfield's influence to get the newspaper up and running in the shortest time possible.

The issue of political reform in Austria didn't need their concern. Franz already had a preliminary plan in mind, but before executing this plan, he had to weaken the power of both the bourgeoisie and the Nobility.

Raising the status of capitalists would never happen in his reforms.

"Capital has no borders," Franz had heard before.

Capitalists were always insatiable. With the right interests, they could betray their class in a minute. Franz could not dare to let them become the pillars of the state.

The special national conditions of Austria determined that this reform had to consider the interests of the vast majority of the lower classes to truly integrate the country. This would require the Nobility and the bourgeoisie to make sacrifices.

It was precisely in this special period, with intensified conflicts between the Nobility and the bourgeoisie, that Franz had a chance to succeed.

The more he understood the country, the more Franz was certain that the Empire was already undercurrents swirling.

In 1846, the Germany Region experienced a shortfall in grain production, and Austria was also affected.

In theory, as one of Europe's major grain exporters, the Austrian Empire, with the Hungarian Great Plain, shouldn't have felt a significant impact from reduced grain production.

However, the reality was just the opposite. For their own interests, capitalists overhyped the grain shortage, driving up the price of grain on the market, while simultaneously driving down the purchase price of grain in the Hungarian Region, because there was a surplus there.

By early 1847, grain prices on the market in Vienna had risen by fifty-four percent, and ordinary Citizens of Vienna were feeling the pressure of survival.

Behind the capitalists' manipulation of grain prices, there were also many farmers going bankrupt. Even some of the Nobility suffered heavy losses, and the Hungarian Region was beginning to see undercurrents stirring.

Lately, Franz noticed that Vienna's population of outsiders was growing. Without a doubt, these were mostly bankrupt farmers who had no choice but to enter the city to survive.

Some of these people might have been serfs under the Nobility, but by now, Austria's population had already exceeded thirty million; the Nobility did not lack for serfs and thus had eased their control.

Although serfs were also a form of wealth, they needed to eat; to the Nobility, as long as they had enough serfs to assure the completion of production tasks, that was sufficient. Having too many serfs could be a burden.

The success of serfdom abolition in various European countries wasn't as straightforward as it seemed. It had more to do with the emergence of machinery that reduced the Nobility's need for so much manual labor in agriculture, such as the Recoil Harvester.

As the 19th century moved into its latter half, the Nobility's demand for labor decreased, and their resistance to abolishing serfdom was not as strong. Most progressive Nobility preferred to release their serfs in exchange for compensation from the state.

Prime Minister Metternich's promotion of the abolitionist movement in Austria faced resistance from the Nobility because the asking price was too low; on this issue, Franz supported the Prime Minister.

Austria's finances were not strong enough to afford high compensation, so it was inevitable to keep the compensation price low.

This issue was not insoluble, however; for instance, offering tax incentives to Nobility who liberated their serfs, or sacrificing the interests of capitalists, the government could intervene in the market to set a grain protection price, safeguarding everyone's interests.

As long as the interests were aligned, there were no conflicts that couldn't be resolved. Yet, Franz was not going to put these ideas forward now; he still planned to trade interests with Prime Minister Metternich.

On January 11, 1847, the newspaper "We Want Bread, We Want Cheese" that Franz had been working on was officially launched.

He personally wrote the leading article entitled "Caring for the Lower Classes, Creating a Better Austria".

Without a doubt, this was an outright inspirational article that used a large portion of its length to emphasize the importance of the lower classes to the country, clearly proposing that only by satisfying the basic needs of the lower classes could the Austrian Empire become even better.

The effect was unquestionably affirmed; as this was the first of its kind, many people were convinced.

The Nobility and capitalists saw Franz as a Crown Prince with an abundance of compassion, who, out of boredom, concerned himself with the lives of the lowly. They did not object to such an Emperor.

A benevolent Emperor was always better than a tyrant; they wouldn't have to work in constant fear for their lives.

The impact on the lower classes, however, was much greater. A Crown Prince who cared about their living conditions—that was the hallmark of a benevolent ruler!

The only pity was that this Crown Prince was a little too young and had no political say. If he became Emperor, that would be wonderful.

"What a pity!" Franz sighed to himself. It would be great if he had a group of people to guide public sentiment across the country, which would generate even greater influence.

It wasn't that Franz hadn't sent people to steer public opinion, but the problem was that he didn't have many people at his disposal, and his influence was limited to Vienna; he had to wait for it to spread elsewhere.