Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 14 December 1786

Here Taylor discusses the quality of sugar shipped to England from Chaloner Arcedeckne’s estate, Golden Grove, and discusses the poor health of enslaved people, particularly in western Jamaican parishes, linking this to the unusually bad weather and restrictions on trading with the United States. Taylor provides some detail on his strategies for providing sustenance for enslaved people on Golden Grove, indicating that ground provisions (such as yams and cassava – or cassada) were more resilient to hurricanes and therefore a more secure option than plantains. He has also sent food to Arcedeckne in England, including turtles, a Jamaican delicacy.

[…] I am pleased the quality of the sugar pleased you the thing that made it tolerable was the dry weather in March April & May there is no year or season that does not bring some calamity to us, very great numbers of negroes especially in Trelawney St James’s Hanover & Westmoreland perished for real want they are very dry there now & if they do not get rains soon there will be another famine there again as soon as the miserable crops the will make there are over for in crop they chew canes & drink the hot liquor which helps to fill their bellies but after that is over I believe they will be very bad off indeed, if the Governor even should dare to open the ports in case of a famine the miscreants of custom house officers would seize the vessels and in case of a warr, we must starve. The pease were of great service, but the coco piece of much more. I have inclosed [sic] 60 acres, 20 of which I have planted in young cocos, I have some old ones to serve after crop. I shall putt in 20 acres a year untill the whole of the sixty acres are in, if we have no storm for three years to come, so as to have the whole in, it would maintain double the number of negroes that you have, for after they are six months old, and have had their cleanings, they ought to be suffered to run into a ruinate, and in that case will keep 10 or 15 years in the ground. I will also putt in 8 or 10 acres of seed yams, which after the first digging with little trouble will last many years, and give many rattoons. I have a good deal of cassada also planted, so that I am not very apprehensive you will ever in future want if we can but have a cessation of storms for a very few years, as I will not ever again depend on plantains, but on ground provisions, but these storms coming so fast one on the back of the other, does not give us time to have a years stock before hand. I am glad the sweet meats arrived safe, as well as the castor oil, it does not keep good very long here after it is opened, and if you cannot use it, your friends can. I am very sorry you gott none of the turtle I sent you, there was one by Capt. Watt, and two by Ayton. I have spoke to some from the Port Royall people to lett me know when they have any good ones. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1784/23, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 14 December 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)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 8 April 1781

Jamaica was prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and droughts. The 1780s witnessed a succession of hurricanes. These, mixed with other factors, such as the scarcity of food provisions as a result of the American Revolutionary War, led to ill-health and starvation among enslaved people in Jamaica. Here, Taylor recounts to Chaloner Arcedeckne the effects of a storm that hit the western end of the island during 1781, noting that Arcedeckne’s sugar plantation, Golden Grove, and Taylor’s neighbouring plantation, Holland, escaped its worst effects.

[…] we at the east end of the island were truly happy in escaping the fury of it. I believe no place felt it so violent as Barbadoes and the west end of this island, several of the Windward Islands felt nothing of it, nor did Hispaniola suffer. Mr Long writes me Parliament has given £40000 to the sufferers in this island besides that there will be a large subscription which I am glad of, for they are in a dreadfull situation, indeed we are so all over the island, from the excessive drougth [sic] we have had which has created a very great scarcity indeed, and if we do not very soon gett rain, we shall certainly have a famine every where, the mountains are as much burned up as the low lands and sea coast, and our prospect is really horrid as there is but little flour or any other but salt provisions in the country and no place to gett them from but England or Ireland. you will be lucky if the 20 blls of flour your ordered arrive safe. You at Golden Grove and I at Holland felt little or nothing of the storm. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/4, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 8 April 1781)