Jamaica was prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and droughts. The 1780s witnessed a succession of hurricanes. These, mixed with other factors, such as the scarcity of food provisions as a result of the American Revolutionary War, led to ill-health and starvation among enslaved people in Jamaica. Here, Taylor recounts to Chaloner Arcedeckne the effects of a storm that hit the western end of the island during 1781, noting that Arcedeckne’s sugar plantation, Golden Grove, and Taylor’s neighbouring plantation, Holland, escaped its worst effects.
[…] we at the east end of the island were truly happy in escaping the fury of it. I believe no place felt it so violent as Barbadoes and the west end of this island, several of the Windward Islands felt nothing of it, nor did Hispaniola suffer. Mr Long writes me Parliament has given £40000 to the sufferers in this island besides that there will be a large subscription which I am glad of, for they are in a dreadfull situation, indeed we are so all over the island, from the excessive drougth [sic] we have had which has created a very great scarcity indeed, and if we do not very soon gett rain, we shall certainly have a famine every where, the mountains are as much burned up as the low lands and sea coast, and our prospect is really horrid as there is but little flour or any other but salt provisions in the country and no place to gett them from but England or Ireland. you will be lucky if the 20 blls of flour your ordered arrive safe. You at Golden Grove and I at Holland felt little or nothing of the storm. […]
(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1781/4, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 8 April 1781)