Simon Taylor to Simon Richard Brissett Taylor, 30 August 1806

Taylor’s letters reflect the dilemmas of slaveholding colonial planters with British identities who had, nevertheless, become disillusioned about their place within the empire. By 1806, Taylor was recommending his nephew, and principal heir, Sir Simon Brissett Taylor, who was by then aged twenty-two, to explore the possibility of moving the Taylor family and their investments to the United States. He later went cold on the idea, but the sentiment behind it perhaps showed the depth of his disillusion with Britain and reflected his fears about the potential impact of an end to the slave trade. Indeed, he used financial concerns to try to dissuade his nephew from taking up a seat in Parliament.

[…] Whoever has impressed these notions of going into Parliament into your head does not know how you was circumstanced nor knows the situation of the colonies. I who know both perfectly advised you to go to North Americato see that country, and to look out for a spott where you conceive you may as well as your mother and sisters be quiet and safe. As for any predilection for that country I can have none I never was there nor do I know any one in it I do know it is a very fruitfull country and that a man there with common industry can maintain himself and a family nothing tho could have made me advise you to go and settle there but dire necessity. […]

(Taylor Family Papers, I/G/27, Simon Taylor to Simon Richard Brissett Taylor, Kingston, 30 August 1806)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 11 October 1786

Taylor’s brother died of a fever, although the evidence available in Taylor’s letters does not allow for a more precise diagnosis of his illness. Here, Taylor reflects on the medical treatment that his brother received, on his own health, and on the preponderance of sickliness among whites in Jamaica. He also discusses the debts of Sir Charles Price, an extraordinarily wealthy and influential local sugar magnate, who died in 1772, leaving his heirs with a heavily indebted estate.

[…] I apprehend his doctor mistook his [Sir John Taylor, Simon Taylor’s brother] case, and gave him gouty medicines, when I believe the medicine he wanted ought to have been to expell bile which is the greatest and almost sole disorder of this country. We have both of us lived so long as to see very good numbers of our old friends and acquaintances drop off. I hardly know now twenty people in the island, that I knew when I first came here. […] I do not believe Sir Charles Prices debt will be recovered, he owes me upwards of two thousand pounds which I look on to be lost I am pretty well again after a slight fever I have had a few days ago, by getting cold, indeed almost every person in this part of the island have been sick, from the excessive heat of the weather in the middle of the day, with cold mornings & evenings, the weather is also drier about this town than I ever remember it in my life in October, which used to be constantly wett […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1784/19, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 11 October 1786)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 1 June 1786

The 1780s were a transformative decade in Taylor’s life. The American War and its aftermath transformed his political outlook towards a distrust of the British government in London, a perspective that became more entrenched with the advent of the parliamentary campaign against the slave trade in 1788. His sugar estates were adversely affected by the several hurricanes that hit Jamaica in the first half of the 1780s, and a fire devastated the works of his estate at Lyssons in 1784. His elder brother, Sir John Taylor, died on a visit to Jamaica from England in May 1786. Thereafter, Taylor assumed the role of head of the Taylor family, managing the plantation that belonged to his late brother’s wife, Lady Elizabeth Taylor, in western Jamaican, and making his brother’s son, Sir Simon Richard Brissett Taylor, his principal heir.

[…] I have had the misfortune to have lost my poor brother, who was taken ill at his estate down to leeward, and I believe by some mismanagement of his doctors thrown into a dropsy, on which I advised him to come up in a man of warr that was at Lucea to this town which he did but was so far gone that his life could not be saved, and he died on the 6th of last month. His death has been a very severe stroke on me, as well as his little family, which I must now take all the care of that I can, indeed they are so very young just now, that they will be for some years but with their mother, and I must endeavour to settle my matters so as to go home three or 4 years hence, when I have gott rid of the effects of the fire, the hurricane, and dry weather and other calamities that have pursued me for these three years past, and can make an arrangement of my brothers affairs, which will give me a great deal of trouble and fatigue. His wifes estate lying 150 miles from this town, I have been obliged to go there since his death, I must go there again the middle of this month, and must visitt them twice a year for there is really no person in that part of the country that there is the least dependance to be putt in, and that added to my other business will give me enough to do God knows. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1786/9, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 1 June 1786)