Slavery and Revolution


Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 26 June 1781

By Admms |

The increase in the duty on sugar came in the budget of March 1781. A duty that had been a little under 6s 4d per hundredweight in 1776 now rose to over 11s 8d. The Prime Minister, Lord North, explained that the new tax was necessary because of the expenses of the war, which compelled government to look for a reliable means of raising a large amount of revenue for the Treasury. Taylor was incensed and, associating the duty with the other ill effects of the war, began to predict the economic decline of the British West Indies.

[…] I by no manner of means expected the new duty of 4/6 on sugar, I thought the calamity of the hurricane would have softened their hearts a little, and that they never could think of taxing people whom they looked upon to be objects of charity and as such had given charity to. In regard to Lord Norths assertion that it would be a productive tax, it certainly will be so and productive of the ruin of the old estates & persons in the island and of the ruin of the people at home who have lent money on them on bonds and mortgages, that the consumer will pay the tax I do not believe, for if they go on in the manner they are, there will be no body at home who will be able to buy sugar, and consequently no consumption, indeed all the merchants now complain that the price of sugars has very much lessened the consumption. If we are the most favoured subjects God help the rest, for we have neither protection nor nothing else, our vessells taken daily before our eyes, not less than three last week coming with sugars from Plantain Garden River to Port Morant the same thing happening daily while the admiral [Sir Peter Parker] is digging potatoes & planting cabbages in Ligunea [sic] mountains, the vessells that ought to protect the trade lying rotting and having their bottoms eat out at Port Royal for want of heaving them down and the whole squadron going home but one line of Battle Ship namely the Ramalies left to protect this island, if this is protection it is very poor indeed. If this Island should be once lost, they never will again get it and will feel it Essentially it has been a very good milk cow for them but they will drain us too dry by & by and either France or Spain would be very glad to get it […] I am very sorry to hear that Russia is also become our enemy, things are strangely altered indeed from what they used to be, formerly the words were England could never do but with her colonies they were looked upon to be her main support. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/12, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 26 June 1781)