Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 6 October 1792

On his return to Jamaica, Taylor wrote to tell Arcedeckne about his voyage and the time he had spent in England, which was an even more disagreeable episode to him than when the sugar canes on his Holland estate had been afflicted by disease (‘the blast’). In particular, he despaired at British attitudes towards slavery and the slave trade. Taylor also showed concern that talk of abolition and the rise of radical politics in the mother country might encourage enslaved people in Jamaica to rebel and discussed the unhopeful prospect of a self-reproducing enslaved population on the island.

I am favoured with yours of 29 July, my former letters will have informed you that I arrived here safe, it would have been too much to have lost a ship going out, as well as coming home. after the first week which was the whole time contrary, we carried an easterly wind with us to this place. I assure you that my time except when I was among my intimate friends, was as disagreably [sic] spent, as at any period of my life, not even taking in the time I had the blast at Holland. Such an obstinacy of opinion among men who were intirely ignorant of the matter they spoke on, and malignancy of mind I never before knew or heard of among the Lords there seemed to be some reason, but I believe a great many were poisoned by Pitt & Genville. […] from what I have seen of the negroes, they seem to be very quiet, whether it is that they are contented, or that there are constant musterings of the militia, I know not. but this I know that if they had been treated as is represented they would have revolted long ago, considering the encouragement they have mett with from the speeches and inflamatory doctrine held out in the House of Commons, the publick papers, and the pulpitts. The levelling doctrines that are held out also in England may have some effect, except particular care is taken, to shew the men in power what it is to have a ferment among the multitude, and that it is much better to go on in the old beaten track, than to try new experiments, which may do harm, but cannot possibly do good. As for increasing their numbers by our own internall breed, I conceive it impossible, I have tried every means that I have known of, to do it, but have never been able to succeed. Every means that I can think of, I will still try, but I really despair of success. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1792/11, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 6 October 1792)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 29 May 1788

In May 1788 Taylor continued his defence of Jamaican slavery in response to the upsurge of abolitionist activity in Britain. He told Arcedeckne his opinions about the treatment of enslaved people and the prospect of a rebellion. He also promised to send his friend a detailed plan of Golden Grove sugar estate, which suggests that Arcedeckne was interested to know how his property was being arranged and managed, particularly with regard to innovations in pasturage and provision grounds. These were features of the estate that Taylor developed in response to needs for increased self-sufficiency and more reliable food sources following the disruption of trade with North America and famine conditions created during the early 1780s by bad weather and poor planning.

[…] As for cruelty there is no such thing practiced on estates, I do not believe that the mad men at home wish to hurt themselves, but they should endeavour to regulate their own police, and shew humanity to their own poor, before they think of making regulations for our slaves, who think themselves well of as matters are at present situation, and do not wish for their interference. God knows if they were treated as the miscreants report, they would have cutt all our throats allready, from what they have allready heard from home. There is a man now at Golden Grove doing the views, and I will gett a plan of the estate made out to send you home by him, or another good one, who can do it, and mark all you want, but as for wood land you have none but brush, but he shall mark out where the guinea grass pastures are to be, which will be hilly land, and where your provisions are. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1788/10, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 29 May 1788)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 6 December 1787

At the end of 1787, Taylor commented on proposals by Matthew Boulton, the British entrepreneur and manufacture of steam engines, to adapt steam power to sugar mills in Jamaica. He was not fully convinced by them.

[…] Respecting Mr Bolton, untill he sends out modell, & letts people know the premium he expects for his machines, and convinces them they will answer, he will gett no encouragement here, I should think if he was so certain of the success, that he would wish to have one erected on an estate even at his own expence, to be reimbursed should it answer, or leave to take his materials away if it did not, and that would convince people of its utility, for at present we here have only his own ipse dixit [i.e. unproven assertion]. As you justly observe sending out only one man is nothing, we want nothing new from him, but his mode of applying the steam to the turning the mill, the method of hanging his boiler to the most advantage to save coal, for machinery work and making the mill we know more about it than he does, or can be expected to know, and if once any person steals that mode from him, all his expectation from this island is at an end, as there is not patent that does, or can extend to this country. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1787/20, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 6 December 1787)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 1 May 1787

Taylor’s discussion of breadfruit relates to the infamous 1787 expedition of the HMS Bounty, commanded by Captain William Bligh, to collect plants in Tahiti and introduce them to the West Indies, where it was anticipated that they would help provided food for the enslaved people on sugar estates and other properties. Taylor’s discussion on this point leads into a discussion of his continuing mistrust of the British government’s policies towards the British-Caribbean colonies and speculation about the degree to which Jamaica might achieve self-sufficiency in food and clothing.

[…] The bread fruit would certainly be an addition to our negroe provisions, but a hurricane would certainly blow of [sic] the fruit, as well as either break the trees, or blow them up by the roots, but tho they are liable to that, they still would be of very essential service to us, tho I do not believe Mr Pitt cares a farthing if all Jamaica the Windward Islands and the inhabitants of them were annihilated so that he could but gett a revenue from them. […] [I] am afraid to buy any new negroes untill the hurricane months are over and we see how the blast affects the young canes and sprouts. […] there seems to be a system adopted by the British legislature to extirpate the cultivation of the cane in the British West India colonies, and consequently to force us to live upon our internall resources, and have recourse to the manufacturing our own cloathing from our cotton, and to have no connexion with the mother country at all, if it is so, the late hurricanes have cooperated wonderfull well with its plan, and they will in the course of the next seven years see their scheme so farr carried into execution that this island will hardly be able to be considered as a sugar colony, as the proprietors will not be able to carry that manufacture on, and the iron foundries copper smiths and manufacturers whose dependence is on the trade to the West Indies and the coast of Africa will have leisure to employ themselves otherwise. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1787/5, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 1 May 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)