Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 24 December 1789

As well as commenting on the rising abolition movement, Taylor expressed his views on other subjects. His thoughts on the early months of the French Revolution, penned on Christmas Eve, 1789, reveal his antipathy for the French, but also his admiration for a ‘free constitution’ and distaste for what he saw as the anarchical threat of mob rule. Revolution, thought Taylor, was also in the offing in Spanish America. At the same time as the abolition debate was getting underway in parliament, Warren Hastings, was being impeached by the House of Lords for corruption and misrule in India, and Taylor’s comments on the case reveal his sympathy for Hastings, the former governor-general of Bengal.

[…] The situation of the King of France is very awkward indeed, and they seem to me to be all mad together, and I am much afraid that the licensiousness [sic] of the mobb may make every sensible man join in to oppose them & by that means they may lose a free constitution altogether neither can I suppose that the Emperor, or the King of Spain will sitt still, & see their relations treated in such an indignant manner. But it is no more than what he deserved. He had no business to interfere with us in America. If I am not deceived there will be very soon the devil to pay in the Spanish West Indies. The Spaniards who come over to the northside with cattle and wood begin to talk bigg, and that in a short time they will be as free as the English, if they talk in this manner in the islands, I should think that they will do the same on the continent, where their numbers are so much greater. I cannot say but that I wish the parliament may be dissolved, I think there never was a man more ill used than Mr Hastings bas been, for I really have not been able to see any one thing yett proved, there has been nothing but froth and smoke, but no fire. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1789/29, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 24 December 1789)

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)

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, 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)