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, 28 August 1781

Taylor’s callous disregard for enslaved people as anything other than commodities and units of labour is evident in his reaction to the effects of the storm at Arcedeckne’s Golden Grove estate, which he managed as Arcedeckne’s attorney. The shocking human cost of the hurricane is nevertheless apparent, although Taylor conflates this with a diatribe about the various hardships that Jamaican planters are facing as a result of the war, including high sugar duties and a lack of security for transporting produce and supplies around coast of the island. We can only imagine the feelings (or motivations?) of those enslaved people ‘carried off’ by ‘Spanish pickeroons’ raiding the Jamaican coast or of those they left behind on Taylor and Arcedeckne’s plantations.

[…] I did apprehend that there would have been orders come down to have sent up some provisions to Golden Grove by this time, tho’ I do not see any, and the negroes were crying out very much before I came down, and I saw their negroe grounds exceedingly damaged and little or no ground provisions, as I before wrote you, your negroes were but very weakly and not in a condition to make the crops that you had a right to expect from the numbers you have put on the estate. There is a large Guinea man at present in but from the extreme scarcity of provisions it would be the height of imprudence to buy negroes to put on the estate untill there is something for them to eat, and besides the times are so very precarious a person must be afraid to risque any part of his capital but what he cannot help in the West Indies where our foes are so potent, the minds of people much disatisfied [sic] and growing more and more so daily from the new duty on sugar and the contrivances of the refiners should the latter take place we must throw up our estates and remove our negroes to some other government where we may be able to make a shift to live and not to be held in Egyptian bondage. Our fleet is sailed our admiral is retired to his mountain to plant cabbage and potatoes, and our governor to his estate, while the Spanish pickeroons are dayly committing ravages on our coasts and no such thing as any vessell attempting to scour the coast about fourteen days ago they took two negroes belonging to me who were fishing close off our reef, and three days after landed at the east end and carried off two negroes belonging to me, three to you and four to Duckenfield Hall, the carelessness of our commanders is scarce believable and except they are removed and some more careful ones sent it will not be in our power next year to ship our produce. Your Irish provisions are at last arrived and to be delivered at Morant Bay, it is intolerable there is more risque to carry them from Morant Bay or Port Morant than to bring them from England or Ireland to Morant Bay. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/21, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 28 August 1781)

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)