Return to Contents
Birthright in Land - Forenotes

“ The earth has sworn unto the day of Paradise
that all truths will come to the light sooner or later. ”

A Sufi saying

In the summer of 1994, a small group of people, then largely strangers to each other, were brought together in a small cottage high up in highland Perthshire. Their shared political interest was in the land and tax - reform ideas of the turn - of - the - century American political-economist Henry George; and the gathering had been called to share in the rediscovery of the suppressed masterwork of Aberdeen’s own ‘proto-Georgist’, the “rebel professor” - William Ogilvie. The crucial political relevance of William Ogilvie to Scotland today became clear, and the Gathering resolved to republish his work. It is said that there are two things you should never look into too closely: firstly, how sausages are made; secondly, how our tax laws operate. The question of what goes into our food is actually high on our minds now - and likewise we need to look deeply into the matter of public revenue - which is the metre of Ogilvie’s radical and eternally relevant ‘pastoral prose poem’ - where we’ll find some surprising answers to some of our deep social problems, not very least concerning our relationship with the land. Our target in publishing this book is all the people of Scotland (and beyond too) -for a democratic rebirth of our country long overdue.

This volume has been developed from DC MacDonald’s 1891 Birthright in Land edition of Ogilvie’s anonymous 1782 Essay on the Right of Property in Land. Because both Ogilvie’s and MacDonald’s original texts are quite lengthy, and since much of their peripheral content is of less immediate interest to readers today, we have edited them - especially Ogilvie’s - with considerable freedom. Like an apple tree being pruned to bear fruit, we have cut out those dead sections of only historical interest; and too the rank growth, where his writing seemed very conditioned by the circumstances of his times (times dangerous to any Revolutionist ); to let light into the heart of the tree, punctuation, a few archaic expressions, and some minor points of syntax have been modernised; and to rebalance the structure of the new-shaped tree, and preserve a proper flow in the much shortened text, we have reorganised the work and made good use of Ogilvie’s own excellent Synoptical Contents and Footnotes to his Essay.

May the tree fruit heavily.

Return to Contents