Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 10 October 1783

By the end of 1783, Taylor expressed his satisfaction with work at Golden Grove, under the supervision of the overseer, Madden. Taylor described his plans for improving the cultivation and productivity of Golden Grove, which included the purchase of more enslaved workers and the avoidance of ‘jumping crops’, which were years of heightened productivity created by managers and overseers who overworked enslaved people more than Taylor thought was advisable in order to impress absentee proprietors with a large and lucrative crop.

[…] Madden seems to me to go on very well, you have as industrious, and good sett of white people there as at any estate in the island, and your negroes are healthy and well and abounding in provisions, there are 40 acres in cocos untouched, which I reserve for new negroes, and in case of a hurricane, the next thing I must begin on is to fence off some land next Hampton Court to put into guinea grass as a beginning to keep up your cattle & by & bye [sic] when I have enough to keep what steers I shall reserve for the plough to hole your land with that instrument shall begin that method, and do away with jobbing, the new negroes I have lately bought for you are well, after buying one more lott of men, I must then think of buying some Eboe women, the estate is now coming on into its proper train, and I think that it will hardly in future make less than 600 hdds provided that no jumping crops are made, which by distressing, and harassing both negroes and stock, as well as throwing the estate back, takes three years again to bring matters into their proper channell again […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/38, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Lyssons, 10 October 1783)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 10 October 1783

In 1784, James Ramsay published his famous and influential Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies. Ramsay had lived as an Anglican clergyman in the British-Caribbean colony of St Kitts (hence Taylor’s comment here about the Windward Islands in the eastern Caribbean) and drew on his experience there to condemn the licentious violence and abuses of the British slave system. Although he did not advocate the abolition of slavery, Ramsay did publish plans for the abolition of the slave trade, and his work inspired the early abolition movement. In this letter it is clear that Taylor has learned of Ramsay’s proposals, probably from Chaloner Arcedeckne, months before the publication of the Essay, suggesting either that Ramsay’s ideas were well known by the end of 1783 or that one of Taylor’s correspondents was a close associate of the abolitionist. Taylor’s initial reaction to Ramsay’s critique seeks to paint a rosy picture of slave life on the plantations and foreshadows the proslavery arguments that planters developed in the years to follow, during their disputes with abolitionists.

[…] I do not apprehend that Mr Ramsays schemes will be of any effect many of the best negroes on almost all estates are Christened, and no one opposes it whenever they deserve it neither do we find them the worse for it, but in general better, & I remember hearing formerly a good deal of the Code Noir of the French I procured the book, & on examination of it with the negroe laws of this island found very little difference how their laws are in our Windward Islands I do not know, but upon all the well regulated estates in this island, the negroes live infinitely better than the poor people in many parts of England, they have no care for tomorrow, if sick have a doctor & maintainance [sic] from their masters are clothed by them, and in times of scarcity are fed, they breed as much small stock & hoggs as they please, & sell them to whom they please, as also plantains, yams, cocos, &c […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/38, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Lyssons, 10 October 1783)