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)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 19 March 1782

An invasion scare in Jamaica was at its height during the early part of 1782. The new Lieutenant-Governor, Archibald Campbell, made detailed plans for a defence of the island against attack by French and Spanish troops. These were time consuming and expensive. White men were obliged to serve in the militia, and Taylor, as a militia officer, was kept busy helping to coordinate their activities. Enslaved people were also commandeered by the military to work on the preparations. A fire in February 1782 destroyed much of the town of Kingston, adding to a litany of setbacks and anxieties for white colonists like Taylor, who, despite his faith in the vision and abilities of the Lieutenant-Governor, now feared that a successful invasion was likely.

[…] The Spanish troops from Cadiz are arrived at Hisponiola, I do not know if those from the Havanna are yet arrived, tho the General Don Galvez is in an 80 gun ship, Solano was to follow him with 8 more. Martial law was put on two weeks ago, drafts of negroes from all the estates are made to work on the fortifications & nothing but military matters are going on, so that we may make the best defence we can, but all will not do, if we do not get a large supply of troops, the force to come against us is said to consist of 40000 troops which the French & Spanish forces would have consisted of had the Brest fleet arrived without accident. Untill last Friday we had no provisions to exist the navy or the troops when 16 sail of vessells arrived who sailed some time ago from Cork & were detained 11 weeks at the Windward Islands untill Sir George Rodney arrived, & four running vessels with flour, bread, &ca. Thank God, I am very well now; I would have wrote you a longer letter but have not time being the oldest officer in this part & works erecting at Portmorant, with dispatches, expresses & demands for every thing, my house is constantly full of people & my time & attention is entirely taken up, so that I am not able to attend to any private matters, indeed I have sent my books up into the heart of the country, for in case of an attack Kingston may be burnt, indeed the richest part of it suffered that calamity a few weeks ago, indeed we have nothing but disasters attending us & we are really surrounded with enemies & nothing but the providential hand of God can save us. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1782/11, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Lyssons, 19 March 1782)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 18 August 1781

On 1 August 1781, another hurricane hit Jamaica. It was less severe than the hurricanes of 1780, and again much of the damage was in the west of the island. However, as Simon Taylor’s letter mentions, shipping was driven ashore in Kingston Harbour, and there was damage in eastern districts, where Simon Taylor’s Lyssons estate and Chaloner Arcedeckne’s Golden Grove estate were located. Taylor went from Kingston to inspect the damage.

[…] we had a very sever gale of wind which has drove ashore a great many ships that were at anchor at Port Royall some of which are lost and others greatly injured but I can give you no further information of them further than the papers as I sett out for this part of the country as soon as ever the river was fordable and have employed my whole time in going to the different estates I am concerned for and doing what i can to assist the negroes who really want it. It has ruined all the provisions on every estate. The storm last year threw down a great many plantain tress the very dry weather putt those that escaped back so the negroes were obliged to live on ground provisions which were just out as the storm happened and in a few weeks they would have been very well of everywhere with respect to plantains and corn had not this unfortunate matter happened what they are to do now I know not flour is at a most exorbitant price and there are no pease to be had neither is there any ground provisions any where or will be for some time. I was at Golden Grove and your plantain walk and negroe grounds are quite down and very foul and your negroes are weakly indeed and it will require a prodigious deal of work to bring the estate in order […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/20, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Lyssons, 18 August 1781)