Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 19 April 1788

In common with other planters in Jamaica (and across the West Indies) Taylor was taken aback by the popularity and success of the incipient abolition movement in Britain. He contemplated its effects in Jamaica and strongly asserted that he thought an end to the slave trade would result in the economic ruin of the colonies in the West Indies and have negative ramifications for the metropole. He was unsurprised by the involvement of the famous Whig politician Charles James Fox but could not believe that the prime minister, William Pitt, gave his backing to the idea, and he predicted that the proslavery lobby would pick up the support of several prominent spokesmen.

[…] Respecting negroes, I really do not know what to say or write on that subject. If the motion is carried, and a bill passed to prohibit the African Trade, there is an end to the colonies and all concerned with them, for it is impossible to carry them on without them, and I think they will draw on themselves the same destruction as they mean to bring on us, that Mr Fox should do it, is not surprising, but that Mr Pitt should have such an idea excites my utmost astonishment. How are they to replace the revenue at present gott from the colonies, what are they to do with between four and five hundred sail of ships employed in the African trade and to the West Indies, what are to become of the sailors, the manufacturers, the tradesmen the merchants (who have such large debts due them by the colonies) and their wives and families. As for us, they do not seem to think we are the least to be considered in the matter. Butt I suppose there are many people of distinction at home, as the Duke of Chandos, Lord Onslow, Lord Romney and others that will not tamely suffer themselves to be robbed of their property in this most unheard or unthought of before manner. […] Will any man stay in a country where this property is to be arbiraly [sic] taken from him. In case of an invasion by a foreign enemy will any man take up arms to defend that country. The more I consider the matter, the more I am amazed at the madness of it, and the folly and wickedness of the attempt. Things are at present quiet, how long they will continue so, God only knows. but it would have been better had it never been agitated. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1788/6, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 19 April 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)