J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, September 03, 2012

Letters from a Jamaican Slaveowner

Christer Petley, Senior Lecturer at the University of Southampton, recently announced the launch of a website called Slavery and Revolution, “for research about Jamaica and Atlantic slavery in the Age of Revolution.”

It showcases the letters of slave-labor plantation owner Simon Taylor (1738-1813), who lived on the island through the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions. Taylor made only one brief trip to Britain after 1760. The site says:
He died at Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1813, at the age of seventy-four. At his death he was one of the wealthiest men in the British empire, and his massive personal fortune was built on the backs of the enslaved men, women, and children who laboured on the sugar estates and other properties that he owned or managed. He ‘owned’ over 2,000 slaves when he died.
On 16 Jan 1783, as peace negotiations proceeded in Paris, Taylor wrote to a fellow Jamaican planter who was living in England and soon to enter politics there:
God almighty out of his infinite mercy grant we may have a peace. if we have[,] America may still be ours as soon as the present rancour subsides and their spirits are not kept inflamed that Britain wants to make them slaves and destroy them, Peace would soften their minds, let the moderate men come in play disband their army, and then their zealots would be obliged to seek some other employment than they had lately had and show them the mad part they had been acting for these two or three years past, when more has been offered them than they at first asked. Cursed be the damned politicks that would not at first hear their petitions. They will be mad if they do not give Ireland what she wants, as well as Scotland, why are one sett of subjects to be less free than another, the place where the helm of government is will always attract the principal subjects to make that place their residence and spend their incomes there which is a very considerable benefit.
The recipient of that letter was named Chaloner Arcedeckne, which seems unlikely on its face, but he has a Wikipedia page and everything. Arcedeckne appears to be Welsh for “archbishop” while Chaloner was a medieval term for someone who made and sold blankets.

1 comment:

Abersnecky said...

Not "Archbishop" and not Welsh - the Arcedecknes were Irish ascendancy. It's simply an old English version of the word Archdeacon, though how a medieval archdeacon - even in Ireland - especially in ireland - might come to have descendants is probably better not enquired into.