Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 24 February 1783

After taking full control of Arcedeckne’s Jamaican properties from John Kelly, Taylor sought to reassure his friend that they would be well managed. This extract illustrates how far the sugar estates relied upon a large and healthy enslaved workforce and aspects of the economic relationship between livestock rearing farms, or pens, and the estates. Both Taylor and Arcedeckne owned pens, which served the needs of their estates for cattle.

I do intend as soon as it is convenient to begin to buy the negroes you consent to and will endeavour to bring your estate into proper order at the least expense possible, you have been very ill used indeed for had the negroes you had bought been taken care of, you would have had nearly enough for every purpose, but it is too late now to repine, and will not mend matters. In regard to the penn near Spanish Town the great use it will be of to you, will be to draw off the old cattle annually from the estate and penn at Batchelors hall as soon as the crop is ended which is about Aug. and when there is generally good grass, and as soon as they get fatt to sell them off before the dry weather setts in, that will save your opening the land at Ventures at least for a time while the war continues, for it is by no means prudent to send negroes there at present for fear of their being stole off by the Spanish privateers.

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/9, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 24 February 1783)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 24 February 1783

Taylor argued that admitting sugar into Britain from St Kitts, which had been conquered by France, at an equal duty to sugar from British territories would provide a vent in the metropole for French sugar. His threat to stop growing sugar appears to have been a symptom of his anger, rather than a serious proposal, although Jamaican planters did seek to make their estates more self-sufficient in some regards in the years after the American Revolution, particularly with regard to food production.

I expected from the time that I heard of the bill passing to admit St Kitts sugars being imported into England lyable to the same duties as from this island Antigua and Barbados that the most iniquitous use would be made of it, which I now see has come to pass, and I do not doubt but that they will also pass the other bill you mention, for there seems to me to be a determined resolution to ruin the remainder of our islands & to drive them into rebellion, for my own part I do not intend in future to open another acre of land to raise any article that is taxable at home, but to raise cattle, provisions, and cotton which in case of need may be spun and made into a coarse cloth, for the covering of my negroes, and to endeavour to have as little to do with the mother country as possible.

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/9, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston 24 February 1783)