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, 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, 26 June 1783

Taylor, despite his loyalty to Britain before and during the American War, was disillusioned with British policy by 1783 and believed that the remaining American colonies, such as Jamaica, were over taxed and abused by the metropole. He assessed the island’s prospects of becoming more self-sufficient with regard to clothing and livestock as well as speculating that white Jamaican colonists were so disillusioned with the empire that they might now think twice before rushing to defend the island from a foreign invasion.

I really think that the time is not farr of that will force us to sett about making our own cloathing ourselves, as for cattle there has been a very large number of penns lately settled, and many more are settling, and as the sugar works are thrown up they must begin some manufacture to employ the negroes. […] this country was loaded with taxes last year to the amount of £24000 which is to be paid this, for forts fortifications and the expences of the last martial law, and I cannot conceive what they want to do now with forts and fortifications, except they intend to send out an army to garrison them for they surely cannot be mad enough to think there is a man in the island who will be stupid enough to risque his life, or have his property destroyed, or his slaves carried off, to promote the benefitt, or to live under the protection, and contribute to support the revenue of a country who has so damnably oppressed us as Britain has lately done, and who have behaved so inconsistently with common sense, as in on session to give us charity, and at the same time burden us with a tax of £500000 stg p ann, can they conceive that we are so wanting in common sense, as not to think we consider ourselves but as the potters ass & will give the same answer he did, who when his cruel master wanted him to run from an enemy replies, can I ever gett a crueller master than you have been to me and therefore I do not care to whom I belong. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/23, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 26 June 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)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 24 February 1783

After taking full control of Arcedeckne’s Jamaican properties from John Kelly, Taylor sought to reassure his friend that they would be well managed. This extract illustrates how far the sugar estates relied upon a large and healthy enslaved workforce and aspects of the economic relationship between livestock rearing farms, or pens, and the estates. Both Taylor and Arcedeckne owned pens, which served the needs of their estates for cattle.

I do intend as soon as it is convenient to begin to buy the negroes you consent to and will endeavour to bring your estate into proper order at the least expense possible, you have been very ill used indeed for had the negroes you had bought been taken care of, you would have had nearly enough for every purpose, but it is too late now to repine, and will not mend matters. In regard to the penn near Spanish Town the great use it will be of to you, will be to draw off the old cattle annually from the estate and penn at Batchelors hall as soon as the crop is ended which is about Aug. and when there is generally good grass, and as soon as they get fatt to sell them off before the dry weather setts in, that will save your opening the land at Ventures at least for a time while the war continues, for it is by no means prudent to send negroes there at present for fear of their being stole off by the Spanish privateers.

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/9, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 24 February 1783)