Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 26 November 1781

By the end of November 1781, news of the British capitulation at Yorktown had reached Jamaica. In Taylor’s formulation, the failure of British forces in America, combined with the new high duties on sugar, amounted to a catastrophe for Jamaican planters.

This war with the whole world must and will involve Britain and her dependencies in everlasting ruin, you will before this reaches you have heard of the dreadful catastrophy that has befalled Cornwallis’s army and in all probability the Americans will in a few weeks retake all North and South Carolina and we have not force to oppose them, things are come to the most dreadfull crisis and I do not see what can be done but to make a peace on what terms the enemy will give us. Our navy that used to be our bulwark does nothing the captains wholy intent on prize money neglect every thing, the old and experienced officers are all disgusted and retired from the service and every day brings up some new calamity, at the same time we are so over loaded with taxes that even a peace will bring us but little relief. The late high tax on sugar will in time of peace act as a prohibition of sending home that article and if the drawback is taken off on refined sugar exported they had better give us away at once to any nation that will take us.

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/28, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 26 November 1781)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 26 November 1781

Taylor saw enslaved people as little other than units of production but understood the necessity of enforcing routines that were conducive to efficient and sustained work. Here he talks about the value of having a medical doctor resident at Arcedeckne’s Golden Grove estate and critiques the practices of the white overseers who superintended the daily management of estates, many of whom used their position to find work for their own ‘jobbing’ gangs of slaves and to claim large bonuses to their salaries for producing large crops in the short-term, while subjecting enslaved people to such abuses that the estate was unable to keep up the output.

[…] I am glad you approve of my having let the doctor have the house, and you will be very wrong again ever to let an overseer have any land from you but for a specified number of years. Buying of more negroes is certainly the way not to have jobbing, but it is ruin to buy negroes to have them immediately killed and worked to death to aggrandise an overseer’s name by saying he made such and such a crop for a year or two, and then for the estate to fall off and the real strength gone to the devil, as for words or writing it is only whistling to the wind. I assure you your negroes are not what you have a right to expect or what they ought to be and there is no probability at present of any that may be put on thriving, it is very easy to destroy a good gang of negroes but very difficult to raise one and requires a great deal more pains than has been or will be taken of them, the first thing to be done for new negroes is to get them plenty of provisions to let them make grounds and build houses and to be easily worked untill they are seasoned but to work them immediately hard only breakes [sic] their hearts. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/28, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 26 November 1781)