Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 17 January 1791

As the abolition debate continued, Taylor’s frustration rose and his language grew more colourful. In his view, abolitionists were behaving unreasonably by interfering with a lucrative system that he thought was best left to the oversight and management of slave-traders and slaveholders. His reference to events in the French islands is probably to the failed insurrection by free people of colour in Saint-Domingue, led by Vincent Ogé, seeking legal equality with whites.

[…] I do not think peace will be of any long continuance but it seems this unhappy country [Jamaica] is never to be at rest and I consider the British minister to be a more inveterate enemy to us than the French or Spanish nation, I see that the miscreant Wilberforce has begun upon the slave business again, if they mean nothing why do they plague us but they are so ignorant and obstinate they do not nor will not hear truth or reason, reason tells every one to be humane to everything under him but they will not allow us to have common sense. Reason tells them not to grate and harrass [sic] the minds of people that give them a revenue of a million & a half yearly & feeds 600,000 of her inhabitants but envy says no I will annihilate you I will suck the blood from your vitals […] a day may come and he [Prime Minister Pitt] is young enough to live to see it, that England may not have a colony in the West Indies & sink into as despicable a state as it was before it had colonies, & it has been only owing to them & the bigottry, folly & tyranny of Lewes [sic. Louis] the 14th who drove the manufacturers out of his country that she has made the respectable figure she has, for my part I solemnly wish I could dispose of my property here and I would do it at 25 pc less than what it would be valued at, & I would have disposed of it before the scene of robbery and oppression was opened & remove myself and effects to any other country so much do I conceive of Mr Pitts & Mr Wilberforces schemes of benefiting us will imediately [sic] injure me and every one else and I forsee nothing but total ruin will be the upshot of the folly madness & rancour of these two people and their gang, they must have heard what fine doings the madmen of France have provided in the French islands & I hope the blood that has been shed on that occasion may fall on the heads that designed the same for us […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1791/1, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 17 January 1791)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 7 September 1790

On 7 September 1790, Taylor wrote to Arcedeckne from his sugar plantation, called Holland, at the far eastern end of Jamaica. While a revolution by white slaveholders might have been an unlikely prospect for Jamaica in 1790, foreign invasion was not. And as the possibility of war with France loomed, Taylor described the outlook of his fellow planters. He speculates here that tensions between Jamaica and Britain will escalate to crisis point as soon as the unrest in France and prospect of war subsides. He did not realise that the French Revolution was yet to become more radical, that the neighbouring colony of French Saint-Domingue would experience a revolution of its own, and that conflict with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France would continue for more than two decades (and for the remainder of his life).

[…] it [the prospect of an invasion] has not given the alarm that in other circumstances it would have done, for from the apathy that at present prevails here from the cursed treatment we have received at home from the minister and his friends, respecting the slave business, I believe they will if it comes to the test, hardly find any one foolish enough (except the military themselves) to take up arms, or risque their lives to keep a country for England, that thinks them monsters, murderers, and a people that ought to be exterminated from the face of the earth, but that if their properties and laws are securited [sic] to them that it signifies very little to them what is the name of the tyrant and accordingly will wait with indifference and if it should so happen change masters they will do it without any reluctance, as they cannot be more oppressed by any people in the world, than by the present system established in England. […] I really conceive that they [the British government] want to gett ridd of them [the Caribbean colonies], as if they were useless to them, and I positively do not think that in the course of ten years, there will be one belonging to Britain, or even so long, if the French National Assembly establish themselves on a secure footing, and form any thing like an efficient constitution, for men can scratch a pimple untill in becomes an uncurable ulcer, that is the case at present subsists between Britain and this island, & had it not been for the troubles in France, it might have broke out sooner but as soon as they are at an end, it will break out with more virulence, if they do not stop it, by altering their measures […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1790/29, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Holland, 7 September 1790)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 7 April 1788

In April 1788 Taylor gave Chaloner Arcedeckne his early reactions to two phenomena that would define the remaining 25 years of his life: the French Revolution and the abolition movement. Political tensions in Paris were apparent throughout the Atlantic world by this time, and Taylor appears simultaneously to have relished the prospect of French weakness while hinting that Jamaica could invoke French support in a future struggle between the colony and the British metropole over the question slavery. Taylor wrote at the beginning of mass-petitioning in Britain against the slave trade and offered an early proslavery critique of the campaign, arguing that enslaved people were well treated and that a unilateral reform of the British-Atlantic slave system would be commercially damaging.

[…] I was exceeding happy when I found that we were to have no warr & have not the least objection that France should be distracted and torn to pieces by faction for half a dozen centurys, it is the only thing that can keep us out of hott water, I hope that the humanity of the Quakers Universities & people who want to abolish the African trade will extend itself to the colonists & buy our estates & slaves & then they may make them free if they please, but for to stop it now, will occasion more mischief than they are aware of, and people will not tamely see themselves stripped of their property, and what they have acquired under severall acts of the legislature for 100 years past, the French are near enough to us to take us under their protection, and armaments to the West Indies would be as fatall a to North America. As for the plea that the negoes are cruelly used, and more so than in any other island, is false. Your negroes at Golden Grove and in short all over the island live infinitely better than the lower class of white people at home, eat more meat and fish than they do, are better lodged and cloathed, and when sick, have doctors and people to attend them, whereas when a poor labouring man at home falls sick, he has no person to attend him, and during the time he is sick, his family are starving, and if he dies, his family is maintained by the parish, a maintenance a tolerable good negro would not accept of. […] Were all the different nations of Europe to enter into a combination not to buy any more negroes, it would be different, but neither the French, the Danes, the Portuguese, nor the Dutch have that respect for the humanity of the Universities, Quakers, and fools that know not what they are about, as to putt a stop to it, for their reveries, and what is it to a negroe who at any rate will be sold from the coast of Guinea, if any man of their nations buy him, or an Englishman. In short the peoples heads seem to be all turned, and they do not know what they are about. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1788/3, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 7 April 1788)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 30 March 1783

Taylor’s comments here illustrate how far the uncertainties of war hampered planning in plantation management. With the cessation of hostilities, much remained to be decided, but Taylor felt relieved and able to make plans for the future, which included the purchase of enslaved Africans for Golden Grove.

I would upon the presumption of a peace, have bought you a doz. of negroes lately, but I considered that sugars would sell very low indeed for the first year, did not know what terms the peace was to be made, and was very diffident what to do, but now thank God that blessed event has happened we can with ease and safety with prudent management go on improving every year, and adding to the strength yearly.

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1783/12, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 30 March 1783)

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)