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, 3 June 1787

Taylor continued to rail against British trade policy throughout the 1780s. He criticised the 1786 Anglo-French commercial treaty, which liberalised aspects of trade between the two nations, and continued to complain about the difficulty of obtaining plantation supplies and about other perceived shortcomings of the post 1783 Atlantic commercial regime.

[…] I sincerely hope the French treaty will fail, for I think it is the coup de grace to the West India colonies by destroying the sale of rum, and to make our case the harder, the damned colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada, send their lumber to the English islands, sell their cargoes there, receive the money, and then go to the French free ports, and buy molasses, which is imported duty free, and then distilled into rum for their fisheries. thus our staples are ruined on all sides, and a monopoly against us, even in case of a famine, that we cannot gett the articles of bread, such barbarity is not known even in Morocco. […] I do not know any use that can arise to England by opening a free port in the Bahama Islands, they want no lumber from America, have nothing to send there but cotton, pines & turtle, and they may as well open a free port in Nova Zembla, if there were free ports opened here, and in the other sugar colonies for lumber as staves, boards, shingles, plank, joices, ranging timber, corn, rice, flour, staves and all other articles that the cursed northern colonies cannot send […] and for them in return to take rum, we should derive some benefitt from it, but for that reason I do not expect they will do it. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1787/8, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 3 June 1787)

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, 16 January 1783

At the beginning of 1783, Taylor looked forward to peace, hoping that the post-war British Atlantic would resemble that of 1775, even to the extent of bringing America back into the British empire. He showed irritation with both American patriots and British policy. And, although he had remained loyal to the metropole throughout the conflict with America, he clearly favoured a decentralised imperial structure, which allowed autonomy to colonial provinces. He also continued to complain about the heavy British duties on sugar.

God almighty out of his infinite mercy grant we may have a peace. if we have America may still be ours as soon as the present rancour subsides and their spirits are not kept inflamed that Britain wants to make them slaves and destroy them, Peace would soften their minds, let the moderate men come in play disband their army, and then their zealots would be obliged to seek some other employment than they had lately had and show them the mad part they had been acting for these two or three years past, when more has been offered them than they at first asked. Cursed be the damned politicks that would not at first hear their petitions. They will be mad if they do not give Ireland what she wants, as well as Scotland, why are one sett of subjects to be less free than another, the place where the helm of government is will always attract the principal subjects to make that place their residence and spend their incomes there which is a very considerable benefit. […] I am not surprised the duties have fallen short, for we have been exceeding unlucky indeed in this island, a hurricane in 1781 a second in 1782 and the damned storm this year have prevented an immense quantity of goods from going home and the damned duties they have laid on produce has destroyed the consumption the only way to raise the duties and preserve a certain revenue from the country is to lower the duties and excises which will naturally encourage the settling of sugar works coffee walks &c and consequently the more that is brought into England of those articles the more the duties and excises will amount to; but the time must and will come when they will be obliged to wipe out the national debt with a spunge, it is a violent remedy but will be the only one. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/1, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 16 January 1783)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 8 May 1782

The victory of Sir George Rodney over the combined French and Spanish fleet at the Saintes on 12 April 1782 ensured that Jamaica would not face an invasion. Taylor remained fearful of the number of enemy troops who remained in the region and worried about the diminution of the white population of Jamaica. Nevertheless, with Rodney’s victory, the fall of Lord North’s government, and a parliamentary vote to cease military initiatives in North America, the immediate anxieties of war appeared to be passing, and Taylor turned his mind to the sort of peace that might be achieved.

[…] You will long before this have heard of the signal victory that Sir George Rodney has gained over the French fleet which was in its way to join the Spanish & French people of colour at Hispaniola to invade us, 6 line of battle ships with the admiral taken, 1 burnt & 1 sunk, & we yesterday had an acct. of the Corronne an 84 gun ship having foundered from the damage she received in the action, a 32 gun & 1 18 gun frigate taken, is great & glorious news; the consequences are martial law is taken of, Sir Samuel Hood is cruising off Hispanioloa & Sir George is getting his ships ready for sea as fast as possible. The French & Spaniards have a great number of troops at Hispaniola which cannot act untill sir George leaves these seas, & how long he will continue in them is uncertain; we really want a great many more soldiers for the defence of this island than we have for our militia is daily decreasing by death; a great many of the young people went on the fatal expedition to St. Johns [Saint Juan on the Mosquito Shore] & the war prevents others from coming here by going into the army. […] pray my dear friend have you any real grounds that the Americans wish for peace & would give up the French alliance & become our allies (for subjects there is no chance of), in that case it will be very right to carry on no further warlike or offensive preparations, but if they will not give up the French alliance & continue an offensive war against us what is then our situation. You must best know the grounds on which the House proceeded, there are good men on both sides & I sincerely hope a lasting & happy peace with America may be the result & which must be the true interest of both nations, for we cannot fight all the world together […] I am happy to hear you are well, I hope to God we & our families shall live & die under the British government & enjoy the happiness of peace & tranquility [sic] again. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1782/18, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 8 May 1782)