Slavery and Revolution


Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 19 March 1782

By Admms |

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)