Slavery and Revolution


Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 26 November 1781

By Admms |

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)