Slavery and Revolution


Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 8 April 1781

By Admms |

What began as a fairly small conflict between Britain and the rebellious colonists of Massachusetts had, by 1781, escalated to become a global war between Britain and her traditional Catholic rivals, France and Spain. With the entry of the Dutch into the war, Britain found herself facing an even more formidable hostile alliance, a war ‘against all the world’, as Taylor puts it here. His letter to Chaloner Arcedeckne illustrates the impact of disease in the Caribbean upon the troops sent there from Europe and the anxieties provoked as events appeared to go increasingly against the British.

[…] There were no more men sent to the main land most of those that came here have died, particularly of McCormick’s regiment, who are all dead, they brought the goal disorder with them from England, indeed there never was known as much sickness and mortality in this island, as has happened within these last 12 months prodigious numbers of the inhabitants have died. I am not surprised at your wishing to hear from this island from the accts the Berwick brought in you have heard them allready they are disagreeable enough. […] our large fleet last year did nothing in the world, and we have an Admiral here that does as little. God knows we shall want every ship we have at home this summer, but I am in hopes that the number of Dutch ships carried into England and the surprise of Statia [Eustatius] will have such an effect on the Dutch, especially the Amsterdam men, that to gett them back again they will join us against France for it will be impossible for us to fight against all the world, tho the Dutch I am confident cannot fitt out a large fleet of heavy men of warr, yet what they have, joined to those of France and Spain, will give such a superiory [sic] over us as we shall not be able to withstand them, neither do I think we have naval stores among us to support the warr against them all, neither have we men sufficient to do it. Except our enemies quarrell among themselves and some unforseen act of providence interposes I think we must be an undone nation […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/4, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 8 April 1781)