Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 19 April 1788

In common with other planters in Jamaica (and across the West Indies) Taylor was taken aback by the popularity and success of the incipient abolition movement in Britain. He contemplated its effects in Jamaica and strongly asserted that he thought an end to the slave trade would result in the economic ruin of the colonies in the West Indies and have negative ramifications for the metropole. He was unsurprised by the involvement of the famous Whig politician Charles James Fox but could not believe that the prime minister, William Pitt, gave his backing to the idea, and he predicted that the proslavery lobby would pick up the support of several prominent spokesmen.

[…] Respecting negroes, I really do not know what to say or write on that subject. If the motion is carried, and a bill passed to prohibit the African Trade, there is an end to the colonies and all concerned with them, for it is impossible to carry them on without them, and I think they will draw on themselves the same destruction as they mean to bring on us, that Mr Fox should do it, is not surprising, but that Mr Pitt should have such an idea excites my utmost astonishment. How are they to replace the revenue at present gott from the colonies, what are they to do with between four and five hundred sail of ships employed in the African trade and to the West Indies, what are to become of the sailors, the manufacturers, the tradesmen the merchants (who have such large debts due them by the colonies) and their wives and families. As for us, they do not seem to think we are the least to be considered in the matter. Butt I suppose there are many people of distinction at home, as the Duke of Chandos, Lord Onslow, Lord Romney and others that will not tamely suffer themselves to be robbed of their property in this most unheard or unthought of before manner. […] Will any man stay in a country where this property is to be arbiraly [sic] taken from him. In case of an invasion by a foreign enemy will any man take up arms to defend that country. The more I consider the matter, the more I am amazed at the madness of it, and the folly and wickedness of the attempt. Things are at present quiet, how long they will continue so, God only knows. but it would have been better had it never been agitated. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1788/6, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 19 April 1788)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 7 April 1788

In April 1788 Taylor gave Chaloner Arcedeckne his early reactions to two phenomena that would define the remaining 25 years of his life: the French Revolution and the abolition movement. Political tensions in Paris were apparent throughout the Atlantic world by this time, and Taylor appears simultaneously to have relished the prospect of French weakness while hinting that Jamaica could invoke French support in a future struggle between the colony and the British metropole over the question slavery. Taylor wrote at the beginning of mass-petitioning in Britain against the slave trade and offered an early proslavery critique of the campaign, arguing that enslaved people were well treated and that a unilateral reform of the British-Atlantic slave system would be commercially damaging.

[…] I was exceeding happy when I found that we were to have no warr & have not the least objection that France should be distracted and torn to pieces by faction for half a dozen centurys, it is the only thing that can keep us out of hott water, I hope that the humanity of the Quakers Universities & people who want to abolish the African trade will extend itself to the colonists & buy our estates & slaves & then they may make them free if they please, but for to stop it now, will occasion more mischief than they are aware of, and people will not tamely see themselves stripped of their property, and what they have acquired under severall acts of the legislature for 100 years past, the French are near enough to us to take us under their protection, and armaments to the West Indies would be as fatall a to North America. As for the plea that the negoes are cruelly used, and more so than in any other island, is false. Your negroes at Golden Grove and in short all over the island live infinitely better than the lower class of white people at home, eat more meat and fish than they do, are better lodged and cloathed, and when sick, have doctors and people to attend them, whereas when a poor labouring man at home falls sick, he has no person to attend him, and during the time he is sick, his family are starving, and if he dies, his family is maintained by the parish, a maintenance a tolerable good negro would not accept of. […] Were all the different nations of Europe to enter into a combination not to buy any more negroes, it would be different, but neither the French, the Danes, the Portuguese, nor the Dutch have that respect for the humanity of the Universities, Quakers, and fools that know not what they are about, as to putt a stop to it, for their reveries, and what is it to a negroe who at any rate will be sold from the coast of Guinea, if any man of their nations buy him, or an Englishman. In short the peoples heads seem to be all turned, and they do not know what they are about. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1788/3, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 7 April 1788)