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The passage from Gerson dealing with the circumstances to which the prince must have regard in fixing a price, which we quoted above, shows quite clearly that many other factors were recognised as no less important. This appears with special clearness in the treatise of Langenstein, whose authority on this subject was always ranked very high.
About this time the whole of this magnificent property was held in possession by a youthful maiden, who had inherited this beautiful island with all its many charms. As may be supposed, the wooers for the lovely maiden's hand and inheritance became very numerous. She, however, had made her own choice, and it had fallen upon a nobleman from Langenstein.
First and foremost there is the cost of production of the article, especially the wages of all those who helped to produce it. Langenstein lays down that every one can determine for himself the just price of the wares he has to sell by reckoning what he needs to support himself in the status which he occupies.
In the great majority of cases the rate of wages was fixed by some public municipal or corporative authority, but Langenstein enunciates a rule which seems to approach the statement of a general theory.
The young girl resigned herself at first silently to her fate; but she soon resolved on another plan: this place which had once been such a happy home had no longer any charms to offer her, and she therefore presented the island of Mainau to the German Order of Knights on one condition, that the nobleman from Langenstein should be the successor of the Grand Master.
Wintry storms blew over the waters, whistling round the lonely island, and the maiden had become as pale as the flakes of snow which fell against the window-panes. News one day reached the castle that the crusaders had returned from the East, but that the nobleman from Langenstein was languishing in a Turkish prison in a remote castle belonging to the Sultan.
When in doubt, Langenstein concludes, the price should err on the low rather than the high side. Biel gives similar rules: The legislator must regard the needs of man, the abundance or scarcity of things, the difficulty, labour, and risks of production. When all these things are carefully considered the legislator is in a position to fix a just price.
Many of the more important works written during the period are reprinted in the Tractatus Universi Juris, vols. vi. and vii. The appendix to the first chapter of Reseller's Geschichte also contains a valuable account of certain typical writers, especially of Langenstein and Henricus de Hoyta.
It is obvious that Langenstein did not regard rent charges as wrongful in themselves, but simply as being the possible occasions of wrong. In the fifteenth century definite pronouncements on rent charges were made by the Popes.
A life of idleness was considered something to be avoided, instead of something to be desired, as it had been in the ancient civilisations. Gerson says it is against the nature of man to wish to live without labour as usurers do, and Langenstein inveighs against usurers and all who live without work.