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, 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)

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, 1 June 1783

Economic prospects for Taylor and Arcedeckne improved with the ending of the war. Taylor laid out his plans for buying more enslaved workers from the next ‘Guinea man’ (slave ship) to arrive from ‘a good’ part of Africa and indicated that slaves from Africa were in much demand across the Caribbean. He noted that the enslaved people living on Arcedeckne’s property were in good health (before commenting on the state of the livestock), and his letter details some of the many tasks and jobs involved in maintaining a sugar estate.

[…] there will not be any danger or your negroes wanting a belly full, and there is plenty for new negroes as soon as any Guinea man from a good country arrives, many ships have been expected but there has as yett but few arrived from their having stopped at St. Thomas’s and there disposed of their cargos for to supply the French and Spaniards […] as soon as negroes come in I must buy as many as I can for you, untill I gett 30 this year, and when I can buy payable in 1785 I must again gett 30 more for there is really plenty of work for them in clearing and billing your pastures which are really foul at the estate, and making fences and planting the rocky parts into Guinea Grass, for it is absolutely necessary to have pasturage as canes, from the looks of your people a man would hardly know them they are so much altered in their looks for the better, the cattle are in good working order but not so fatt as I could wish, the mules are in good order and from every appearance there ought to be a good crop […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/19, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 1 June 1783)