Slavery and Revolution


Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 19 April 1788

By Admms |

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)