Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

yard of Solomon was let out to keepers, who paid a pecuniary rent for it. And though the same thing should be understood of the return due to the landlord in the parable; it would be equally correct to say that the mission of the proper persons, to enforce his claims, and to receive his dues, whensoever that took place, was both at such a time, “ when the sea“ son of fruits drew nigh,” and for such a purpose, as “ to receive of the fruit of the vineyard.” The time when vineyards ripen their fruits is as proper to be the time when these dues should be paid, whether in money or in kind, as any; and anciently seems to have been the time expressly appropriated by landlords to reckoning with their tenants f.

or might be so, appears from the Song of Solomon, viii. 11: “ Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vine“yard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof, was to “ bring a thousand pieces of silver.” It appears from the next verse, that the keepers themselves derived a profit of two hundred pieces of silver, from their engagement; “ My vineyard, “ which is mine, is before me; thou, O Solomon, must have a “ thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.”

I should understand Isaiah vii. 23. also of the same thing in general; the rent derived from the produce of the vine, as let out to persons farming it: “And it shall come to pass in that “ day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand “ vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and “ thorns.” If a vineyard was large enough to contain a thousand vines, then at this rate of a piece of silver for every vine, the rent of such a vineyard would be a thousand pieces of silver, as that of Solomon's at Baal-hamon was.

f If the practice of Pliny the younger, with respect to the disposal of the produce of his estates, may be taken as a specimen of the practice of Roman landlords in his time, in general ; then it appears that it was his custom to visit his estates in the country, when he had occasion to let them, in the autumnal season ; that these estates wäre principally his vineyards; and The next circumstance in the order of the narrative, the departure of the owner from his own coun

the terms on which he disposed of them were such and such an annual rent, as the value of their productions: which he calls his vindemiæ.

Thus, Epistolarum lib. vii. 30, 3: writing to one of his friends, when he was in the country upon an occasion of this sort, and holding an audit with his farmers, he says, Accedunt querelæ rusticorum, qui auribus meis post longum tempus suo jure abutuntur, instat et necessitas agrorum locandorum, perquam molesta. adeo rarum est invenire idoneos conductores. Again, viii. 2, 1: Alii in prædia sua proficiscuntur, ut locupletiores revertantur; ego, ut pauperior. vendideram vindemias certatim negotiatoribus ementibus. invitabat pretium ; et quod tunc, et quod fore videbatur. spes fefellit. Again, ix. 28, 2: Indicas etiam, modicas te vindemias collegisse. communis hæc mihi tecum, quamquam in diversissima parte terrarum, querela est. Again, ix. 37: Præsertim quum me necessitas locandorum prædiorum, plures annos ordinatura, detineat; in quo mihi nova consilia sumenda sunt. nam priore lustro, quamquam post magnas remissiones, reliqua creverunt : inde plerisque nulla jam cura minuendi æris alieni, quod desperant posse persolvi; rapiunt etiam, consumuntque, quod natum est, ut qui jam putent se non sibi parcere. occurrendum ergo augescentibus vitiis, et medendum est. medendi una ratio, si non nummo, sed partibus locem, ac deinde ex meis aliquos exactores operi, custodes fructibus ponam : et alioqui nullum justius genus reditus, quam quod terra, cælum, annus refert.

For the chronology of the Epistles of Pliny, see my Supplementary Dissertations, Dissertation xii. p. 200—223. It appears plainly from this last passage, that Pliny's farmers were strictly the cultivators of his estates, by whose care and labour their productions were to be raised and brought to maturity; but that the fruits of their labour, the productions of his vineyards themselves, or whatever else they might be, were his—and in some manner or other to be accounted for to him. This would answer very exactly to the state of the case in the parable, between the owner of the vineyard, and the husbandmen who were engaged to cultivate it for him.

try, and his subsequent residence abroad, which is supposed to ensue immediately after the conclusion of the covenant with the husbandmen, and their being placed in possession of the vineyard, cannot be shewn, indeed, to be any necessary consequence of what had preceded; but it serves a variety of important purposes for the sake of what follows : so much so, that without this preliminary step, the rest of the history, from this time forward, could not possibly be conceived to have happened.

In the mean while, we may observe upon this part of the parabolic æconomy, that whatever cause might require the departure of the owner of the vineyard from home-after having done all that could be considered incumbent upon an owner, both in providing his vineyard with every necessary to its integrity, and making choice, as it might be presumed, of trusty persons, to take charge of it, and stipulating for the acknowledgment of his own rights and claims, as the landlord, as well as for those of the husbandmen, as the tenants; he had done all which its owner, up to this point of time, could be expected to do—all which could be considered to require his personal presence, and personal agency, in that capacity. With respect to the rest, the husbandmen must be left for a time to themselves; and in the discharge of their stipulated part, as his tenants, had no need of his own presence, and much less of his own superintendence, as their landlord.

The first consequence of the departure of the owner of the vineyard, into another country, immediately after the conclusion of a formal contract, which binds the husbandmen to the performance of certain duties in behalf of the vineyard, and of himself, during his absence, is this ; that the husbandmen are placed in such circumstances from thenceforward, that though subject to an acknowledged covenant, and bound to certain definite performances for the observance of their own engagement—they are absolutely left to themselves, and to their own sense of honour, and regard to justice, to render those performances accordingly. The obligations of their covenant would remain the same, whether the owner of the vineyard were at home or abroad; but the opportunities afforded for the breach of their engagement, and the kind of temptation to the disregard and neglect of their proper duty to which they might be liable, would not be the same, whether their master were present or absent. It would be absurd to suppose, that their covenant could be deliberately broken, and their duty deliberately disregarded, under the eye of their master; at least with impunity to themselves; but the very circumstance that he was not at hand to observe and to resent on the spot, their misconduct, might become the moving cause to the possible breach of their covenant, and the possible neglect of their duty, in his absence.

It is an effect then, of the departure of the principal person from home, that it places the subordinate persons in a state of probation, and tries them for a certain time, by the use and administration of a certain responsible trust. The beginning of this æconomy bears date from the time of his departure, and the close of it must as evidently coincide with his return. Its duration in the mean while is coextensive with the period of his absence : and the enjoyment of the trust, which begins as soon as the

S SOON &

husbandmen are actually placed in the possession of the vineyard, instead of its owner, followed by his own departure abroad, necessarily continues to be retained by them, so long as he remains from home; but whether it should continue to be retained by them after his return, must depend on the use they should be found to have made of it, during his absence. This use might be such as justly to entitle them to the continuance of their present relation; and it might be such as necessarily to require it to be taken from them: but whether their trust should be used or abused, and consequently which of these ultimate effects was to be expected from its present enjoyment, must be left to the event to determine.

Nor do the parties in the contract separate, the principal personage to go abroad, the inferior ones to enter upon the discharge of their proper duties at home-without a perfect understanding of their mutual rights and mutual obligations. The subordinate parties know that so long as they retain possession of his vineyard, they are bound to respect the just claims of its owner; and so long as they continue to respect those claims, that they have no right to be dispossessed of the usufruct of his vineyard. The principal party knows that so long as his tenants continue to respect his own claims, as their landlord, he is bound to respect their rights, as his tenants; and as he could have no inducement, so neither, it may be presumed, could he feel any inclination, to take away the enjoyment of their trust from them, and to transfer it to others. And if the parties in a common relation separate with this understanding of their mutual claims, it is to

« IndietroContinua »