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)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 19 March 1782

An invasion scare in Jamaica was at its height during the early part of 1782. The new Lieutenant-Governor, Archibald Campbell, made detailed plans for a defence of the island against attack by French and Spanish troops. These were time consuming and expensive. White men were obliged to serve in the militia, and Taylor, as a militia officer, was kept busy helping to coordinate their activities. Enslaved people were also commandeered by the military to work on the preparations. A fire in February 1782 destroyed much of the town of Kingston, adding to a litany of setbacks and anxieties for white colonists like Taylor, who, despite his faith in the vision and abilities of the Lieutenant-Governor, now feared that a successful invasion was likely.

[…] The Spanish troops from Cadiz are arrived at Hisponiola, I do not know if those from the Havanna are yet arrived, tho the General Don Galvez is in an 80 gun ship, Solano was to follow him with 8 more. Martial law was put on two weeks ago, drafts of negroes from all the estates are made to work on the fortifications & nothing but military matters are going on, so that we may make the best defence we can, but all will not do, if we do not get a large supply of troops, the force to come against us is said to consist of 40000 troops which the French & Spanish forces would have consisted of had the Brest fleet arrived without accident. Untill last Friday we had no provisions to exist the navy or the troops when 16 sail of vessells arrived who sailed some time ago from Cork & were detained 11 weeks at the Windward Islands untill Sir George Rodney arrived, & four running vessels with flour, bread, &ca. Thank God, I am very well now; I would have wrote you a longer letter but have not time being the oldest officer in this part & works erecting at Portmorant, with dispatches, expresses & demands for every thing, my house is constantly full of people & my time & attention is entirely taken up, so that I am not able to attend to any private matters, indeed I have sent my books up into the heart of the country, for in case of an attack Kingston may be burnt, indeed the richest part of it suffered that calamity a few weeks ago, indeed we have nothing but disasters attending us & we are really surrounded with enemies & nothing but the providential hand of God can save us. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1782/11, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Lyssons, 19 March 1782)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 26 November 1781

By the end of November 1781, news of the British capitulation at Yorktown had reached Jamaica. In Taylor’s formulation, the failure of British forces in America, combined with the new high duties on sugar, amounted to a catastrophe for Jamaican planters.

This war with the whole world must and will involve Britain and her dependencies in everlasting ruin, you will before this reaches you have heard of the dreadful catastrophy that has befalled Cornwallis’s army and in all probability the Americans will in a few weeks retake all North and South Carolina and we have not force to oppose them, things are come to the most dreadfull crisis and I do not see what can be done but to make a peace on what terms the enemy will give us. Our navy that used to be our bulwark does nothing the captains wholy intent on prize money neglect every thing, the old and experienced officers are all disgusted and retired from the service and every day brings up some new calamity, at the same time we are so over loaded with taxes that even a peace will bring us but little relief. The late high tax on sugar will in time of peace act as a prohibition of sending home that article and if the drawback is taken off on refined sugar exported they had better give us away at once to any nation that will take us.

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/28, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 26 November 1781)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 28 August 1781

Taylor’s callous disregard for enslaved people as anything other than commodities and units of labour is evident in his reaction to the effects of the storm at Arcedeckne’s Golden Grove estate, which he managed as Arcedeckne’s attorney. The shocking human cost of the hurricane is nevertheless apparent, although Taylor conflates this with a diatribe about the various hardships that Jamaican planters are facing as a result of the war, including high sugar duties and a lack of security for transporting produce and supplies around coast of the island. We can only imagine the feelings (or motivations?) of those enslaved people ‘carried off’ by ‘Spanish pickeroons’ raiding the Jamaican coast or of those they left behind on Taylor and Arcedeckne’s plantations.

[…] I did apprehend that there would have been orders come down to have sent up some provisions to Golden Grove by this time, tho’ I do not see any, and the negroes were crying out very much before I came down, and I saw their negroe grounds exceedingly damaged and little or no ground provisions, as I before wrote you, your negroes were but very weakly and not in a condition to make the crops that you had a right to expect from the numbers you have put on the estate. There is a large Guinea man at present in but from the extreme scarcity of provisions it would be the height of imprudence to buy negroes to put on the estate untill there is something for them to eat, and besides the times are so very precarious a person must be afraid to risque any part of his capital but what he cannot help in the West Indies where our foes are so potent, the minds of people much disatisfied [sic] and growing more and more so daily from the new duty on sugar and the contrivances of the refiners should the latter take place we must throw up our estates and remove our negroes to some other government where we may be able to make a shift to live and not to be held in Egyptian bondage. Our fleet is sailed our admiral is retired to his mountain to plant cabbage and potatoes, and our governor to his estate, while the Spanish pickeroons are dayly committing ravages on our coasts and no such thing as any vessell attempting to scour the coast about fourteen days ago they took two negroes belonging to me who were fishing close off our reef, and three days after landed at the east end and carried off two negroes belonging to me, three to you and four to Duckenfield Hall, the carelessness of our commanders is scarce believable and except they are removed and some more careful ones sent it will not be in our power next year to ship our produce. Your Irish provisions are at last arrived and to be delivered at Morant Bay, it is intolerable there is more risque to carry them from Morant Bay or Port Morant than to bring them from England or Ireland to Morant Bay. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/21, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 28 August 1781)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 26 June 1781

The increase in the duty on sugar came in the budget of March 1781. A duty that had been a little under 6s 4d per hundredweight in 1776 now rose to over 11s 8d. The Prime Minister, Lord North, explained that the new tax was necessary because of the expenses of the war, which compelled government to look for a reliable means of raising a large amount of revenue for the Treasury. Taylor was incensed and, associating the duty with the other ill effects of the war, began to predict the economic decline of the British West Indies.

[…] I by no manner of means expected the new duty of 4/6 on sugar, I thought the calamity of the hurricane would have softened their hearts a little, and that they never could think of taxing people whom they looked upon to be objects of charity and as such had given charity to. In regard to Lord Norths assertion that it would be a productive tax, it certainly will be so and productive of the ruin of the old estates & persons in the island and of the ruin of the people at home who have lent money on them on bonds and mortgages, that the consumer will pay the tax I do not believe, for if they go on in the manner they are, there will be no body at home who will be able to buy sugar, and consequently no consumption, indeed all the merchants now complain that the price of sugars has very much lessened the consumption. If we are the most favoured subjects God help the rest, for we have neither protection nor nothing else, our vessells taken daily before our eyes, not less than three last week coming with sugars from Plantain Garden River to Port Morant the same thing happening daily while the admiral [Sir Peter Parker] is digging potatoes & planting cabbages in Ligunea [sic] mountains, the vessells that ought to protect the trade lying rotting and having their bottoms eat out at Port Royal for want of heaving them down and the whole squadron going home but one line of Battle Ship namely the Ramalies left to protect this island, if this is protection it is very poor indeed. If this Island should be once lost, they never will again get it and will feel it Essentially it has been a very good milk cow for them but they will drain us too dry by & by and either France or Spain would be very glad to get it […] I am very sorry to hear that Russia is also become our enemy, things are strangely altered indeed from what they used to be, formerly the words were England could never do but with her colonies they were looked upon to be her main support. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/12, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 26 June 1781)