Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 5 August 1789

By August 1789, Taylor expressed relief that the question of abolishing the slave trade had been stalled by a parliamentary enquiry. He conceded to Arcedeckne that some sorts of regulations to the trade might be acceptable but also began to further stake out his argument that ending the slave trade would lead to the ruin of the British-Caribbean colonies and – ultimately – of Britain itself. Taylor combined this economic argument with his opinion that parliament’s discussion of abolition amounted to a breach of trust towards the colonists of the West Indies.

[…] I see our great question was not decided, and the event was precarious. It has been the maddest piece of work since the crusades and I am very glad to see so many respectable people have taken up the matter, if regulations are made in the mode of purchasing slaves on the coast, so as those regulations do not tend to prohibit the trade, we can have no objection to it, but to abolish it, is ruin to us, and ultimately to them. I see they go on very slowly in their examination of evidence, and I suppose when the House meets on a call, they will putt it off untill the next session. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1789/23, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 5 August 1789)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 5 July 1789

By July 1789, the House of Commons had launched an inquiry to the slave trade. Wilberforce made his first speech on the subject in May of that year, and it was clear that he had the support of his friend, Prime Minister William Pitt. Taylor was incensed by these turns of events in England and perceived them as part of a conspiracy against the West Indian colonies, reflecting back on the rise in the sugar duties in 1781 and claiming that British ministries had been pursuing oppressive policies against the colonies for nearly three decades. Rich in bombast,Taylor’s letter provides an insight into white colonial slaveholding perspectives on the transforming British attitude towards slavery and slaveholding.

[…] I shall be very glad to see a favourable upshot to the great question, for I believe it involves in it, whether Britain will have any sugar colonies or not, for if that trade is abolished, there will be no occasion for the naturall enemies of Great Britain to assemble any great fleets or armies, as a few frigates and troops will be sufficient, as not one will be mad enough to oppose any who ever chuses to deliver us from a nation who treats us as Pharoah did the Israelites, wanting them to make bricks without straw, and the only difference is they want us to make sugar without negroes, and negroes are as necessary to make sugar, as the straw was to burn the bricks. If they want to see the light that their exploits in America are held in, they ought to read the debates in the new congress, and there they will see in what detestation they are held there, and what they may expect from that quarter in case of a warr, can they suppose that the West Indians and inhabitants of the colonies can have any veneration or regard to a nation, that has for 29 years been continually adding burden upon burden upon them, and adding insult to injustice, as in 1781 they gave to the sufferers by the hurricane £40000 in charity, and laid an import on the staple of £500,000 in perpetuity, and now are loading us with the most opprobious names their malice can invent of devills, monsters, bloodthirsty thieves, kiddnappers, &c, &c, &c. Notwithstanding Mr Pitts and Lord Sheffields argument, that the duties on sugars would be the same whether they were made in the French or other foreign islands, yett are they sure those foreign enemies would trade on the coast of Africa with British manufacturers, would they send home the sugars in English bottoms, or their own, or use in their islands British manufactures, in that case what is to become of their shipping, shipwrights, or manufacturers. I shall be very glad to see the report of the Privy Councill, and shall be glad to find that the Bill is thrown out of the House. As for foreign nations giving up the trade, they have not the least idea of it, and instead of that are now giving a bounty on negroes imported into their colonies. I cannot conceive what can have occasioned Mr Pitts resentment against us, if they will lett us alone, we ourselves know what are the proper regulations, and they will be made with time, as for regulations for our internal police, it would be only the blind leading the blind, and no one will permitt them to chalk out the rules how we are to raise our staples, or what particular ones we will follow […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1789/19, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 5 July 1789)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 16 April 1789

During 1788, parliament received hundreds of petitions from across the country calling for the immediate abolition of the slave trade. In same year, a bill by the abolitionist MP, William Dolben, had imposed regulations on slave traders to do with space and conditions on the Middle Passage between Africa and the Caribbean. By 1789, William Wilberforce was preparing to introduce a bill to the House of Commons for the outright abolition of the trade. In this private letter to his friend and fellow plantation owner, Chaloner Arcedeckne, Taylor set out his opposition to Wilberforce and the abolitionists, using proslavery arguments that were to become familiar parts of the debate over the future of the British slave system.

I am favoured with yours of 2 March and I assure you that all ranks of people in this country are sincerely glad of the King’s recovery, and wish him a long and happy reign […] I hope that this event will prove favourable to us in the negroe business, and am happy to hear we are likely to have good and powerfull friends, who will stem the torrent. It is very surprising that Mr Wilberforce who cannot be in the least acquainted with the West Indies, or the nature of negroes, should be so strenuous in wishing to make laws for the treatment of them, and I declare before God that after a constant residence of 29 years in this country, I have never heard of one tenth of the ill treatment that they say negroes meet with, or of iron coffins, nor of putting pepper upon a negroe after he has been punished or whipped. Five and twenty or thirty years ago negroes were infinitely harsher treated, than they have been since, and I positively aver that negroes are infinitely happier than the peasantry in any part of England, and there is hardly a week passes that a negroe does not do with impunity, what would hang a white man at home. I really do not think that the trade can possibly be carried on under the regulations it is at present under, that some regulations were necessary, it was certain for any boy from school was sent as a doctor of a Guinea man, and they ought not to have been allowed to crowd the ships as they did, but to putt them under such restraints as they have is certainly destruction to the most valuable and lucrative trade they have. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1789/5, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 16 April 1789)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 15 December 1788

By the end of 1788, the assembly had produced a report, to be publicised in Britain, in response to the calls for an end to the slave trade and criticisms of slavery in the West Indies. Taylor hoped that this would be sufficient to put an end to the abolitionist campaign.

[…] I see that the spirit of persecuting us still continues, if they mean to take away our property alltogether they had better say so at once, they will find from the report of the Committee that there has not been the cruel usage to the negroes they talk about and many punishments are described by Mr Clarkson that I never heard of, there has been another consolidated slave law passed & is sent home to be printed by the Agent, & which I hope will shew them that negroes cannot be arbitrarily killed, or mutilated by any one whatsoever, if this is not sufficient for God’s sake let them pay us for our properties, & negroes, & take them, & manage them themselves, as they please, I am sure no man wishes or wants to stay here that can go away elsewhere, I am glad to hear 2 of the turtle I sent you arrived safe […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1788/27, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 15 December 1788)

Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, 23 September 1788

In September 1788, Taylor looked forward to the meeting of the Assembly, convened earlier in the year than usual to discuss the issues raised by British demands for the abolition of the slave trade. He also made some of his boldest statements about the prospect of abolitionism driving white West Indian colonists into a rebellion against the mother country.

[…] The Assembly will meet next Tuesday the 30, and I will send you an acct. of what they do. It seems to be that they really do mean to force us into a rebellion, and they forgett that Hispaniola is not more than 28 leagues from us, that St Jago de Cuba is not so much, and is only a nights run, they may know from the number of troops they lost here in the warr, how difficult a matter it is to keep up an army in the West Indies, what would it be if the inhabitants should drive away their cattle sheep & c. and refuse to supply them with provisions of any kind. Should they send out fleets, and any accident happens to them, they have not a port to go to but America, which bears them no good will, and to what purpose can all this oppression tend to, but to please the whim of a sett of fanaticks, mad priests, and a sett of vagabond negroes, and to alienate the minds and affections of, I will venture to say, of their best, and most usefull subjects. […]

(Vanneck-Arc/3A/1788/23, Simon Taylor to Chaloner Arcedeckne, Kingston, 23 September 1788)