Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 6 December 1787

At the end of 1787, Taylor commented on proposals by Matthew Boulton, the British entrepreneur and manufacture of steam engines, to adapt steam power to sugar mills in Jamaica. He was not fully convinced by them.

[…] Respecting Mr Bolton, untill he sends out modell, & letts people know the premium he expects for his machines, and convinces them they will answer, he will gett no encouragement here, I should think if he was so certain of the success, that he would wish to have one erected on an estate even at his own expence, to be reimbursed should it answer, or leave to take his materials away if it did not, and that would convince people of its utility, for at present we here have only his own ipse dixit [i.e. unproven assertion]. As you justly observe sending out only one man is nothing, we want nothing new from him, but his mode of applying the steam to the turning the mill, the method of hanging his boiler to the most advantage to save coal, for machinery work and making the mill we know more about it than he does, or can be expected to know, and if once any person steals that mode from him, all his expectation from this island is at an end, as there is not patent that does, or can extend to this country. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1787/20, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 6 December 1787)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 1 May 1787

Taylor’s discussion of breadfruit relates to the infamous 1787 expedition of the HMS Bounty, commanded by Captain William Bligh, to collect plants in Tahiti and introduce them to the West Indies, where it was anticipated that they would help provided food for the enslaved people on sugar estates and other properties. Taylor’s discussion on this point leads into a discussion of his continuing mistrust of the British government’s policies towards the British-Caribbean colonies and speculation about the degree to which Jamaica might achieve self-sufficiency in food and clothing.

[…] The bread fruit would certainly be an addition to our negroe provisions, but a hurricane would certainly blow of [sic] the fruit, as well as either break the trees, or blow them up by the roots, but tho they are liable to that, they still would be of very essential service to us, tho I do not believe Mr Pitt cares a farthing if all Jamaica the Windward Islands and the inhabitants of them were annihilated so that he could but gett a revenue from them. […] [I] am afraid to buy any new negroes untill the hurricane months are over and we see how the blast affects the young canes and sprouts. […] there seems to be a system adopted by the British legislature to extirpate the cultivation of the cane in the British West India colonies, and consequently to force us to live upon our internall resources, and have recourse to the manufacturing our own cloathing from our cotton, and to have no connexion with the mother country at all, if it is so, the late hurricanes have cooperated wonderfull well with its plan, and they will in the course of the next seven years see their scheme so farr carried into execution that this island will hardly be able to be considered as a sugar colony, as the proprietors will not be able to carry that manufacture on, and the iron foundries copper smiths and manufacturers whose dependence is on the trade to the West Indies and the coast of Africa will have leisure to employ themselves otherwise. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1787/5, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 1 May 1787)

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, 26 June 1783

Taylor, despite his loyalty to Britain before and during the American War, was disillusioned with British policy by 1783 and believed that the remaining American colonies, such as Jamaica, were over taxed and abused by the metropole. He assessed the island’s prospects of becoming more self-sufficient with regard to clothing and livestock as well as speculating that white Jamaican colonists were so disillusioned with the empire that they might now think twice before rushing to defend the island from a foreign invasion.

I really think that the time is not farr of that will force us to sett about making our own cloathing ourselves, as for cattle there has been a very large number of penns lately settled, and many more are settling, and as the sugar works are thrown up they must begin some manufacture to employ the negroes. […] this country was loaded with taxes last year to the amount of £24000 which is to be paid this, for forts fortifications and the expences of the last martial law, and I cannot conceive what they want to do now with forts and fortifications, except they intend to send out an army to garrison them for they surely cannot be mad enough to think there is a man in the island who will be stupid enough to risque his life, or have his property destroyed, or his slaves carried off, to promote the benefitt, or to live under the protection, and contribute to support the revenue of a country who has so damnably oppressed us as Britain has lately done, and who have behaved so inconsistently with common sense, as in on session to give us charity, and at the same time burden us with a tax of £500000 stg p ann, can they conceive that we are so wanting in common sense, as not to think we consider ourselves but as the potters ass & will give the same answer he did, who when his cruel master wanted him to run from an enemy replies, can I ever gett a crueller master than you have been to me and therefore I do not care to whom I belong. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/23, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 26 June 1783)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 30 March 1783

Taylor’s comments here illustrate how far the uncertainties of war hampered planning in plantation management. With the cessation of hostilities, much remained to be decided, but Taylor felt relieved and able to make plans for the future, which included the purchase of enslaved Africans for Golden Grove.

I would upon the presumption of a peace, have bought you a doz. of negroes lately, but I considered that sugars would sell very low indeed for the first year, did not know what terms the peace was to be made, and was very diffident what to do, but now thank God that blessed event has happened we can with ease and safety with prudent management go on improving every year, and adding to the strength yearly.

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/12, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 30 March 1783)