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Wieland or the Transformation

Chapter 5
Some time had elapsed when there happened another occurrence, still more remarkable.
Pleyel, on his return from Europe, brought information of considerable importance to my
brother. My ancestors were noble Saxons, and possessed large domains in Lusatia. The
Prussian wars had destroyed those persons whose right to these estates precluded my
brother's. Pleyel had been exact in his inquiries, and had discovered that, by the law of
male-primogeniture, my brother's claims were superior to those of any other person now
living. Nothing was wanting but his presence in that country, and a legal application to
establish this claim.
Pleyel strenuously recommended this measure. The advantages he thought attending it
were numerous, and it would argue the utmost folly to neglect them. Contrary to his
expectation he found my brother averse to the scheme. Slight efforts, he, at first, thought
would subdue his reluctance; but he found this aversion by no means slight. The interest
that he took in the happiness of his friend and his sister, and his own partiality to the
Saxon soil, from which he had likewise sprung, and where he had spent several years of
his youth, made him redouble his exertions to win Wieland's consent. For this end he
employed every argument that his invention could suggest. He painted, in attractive
colours, the state of manners and government in that country, the security of civil rights,
and the freedom of religious sentiments. He dwelt on the privileges of wealth and rank,
and drew from the servile condition of one class, an argument in favor of his scheme,
since the revenue and power annexed to a German principality afford so large a field for
benevolence. The evil flowing from this power, in malignant hands, was proportioned to
the good that would arise from the virtuous use of it. Hence, Wieland, in forbearing to
claim his own, withheld all the positive felicity that would accrue to his vassals from his
success, and hazarded all the misery that would redound from a less enlightened
It was easy for my brother to repel these arguments, and to shew that no spot on the globe
enjoyed equal security and liberty to that which he at present inhabited. That if the
Saxons had nothing to fear from mis-government, the external causes of havoc and alarm
were numerous and manifest. The recent devastations committed by the Prussians
furnished a specimen of these. The horrors of war would always impend over them, till
Germany were seized and divided by Austrian and Prussian tyrants; an event which he
strongly suspected was at no great distance. But setting these considerations aside, was it
laudable to grasp at wealth and power even when they were within our reach? Were not
these the two great sources of depravity? What security had he, that in this change of
place and condition, he should not degenerate into a tyrant and voluptuary? Power and
riches were chiefly to be dreaded on account of their tendency to deprave the possessor.
He held them in abhorrence, not only as instruments of misery to others, but to him on
whom they were conferred. Besides, riches were comparative, and was he not rich
already? He lived at present in the bosom of security and luxury. All the instruments of