Friday, 4 April 2014

Simon Taylor and the Golden Grove Child

Charlotte Taylor was born on the Golden Grove plantation, where the rich and powerful Simon Taylor had one of his many homes. The Honourable Simon Taylor (1739-1813) had no legitimate children in Jamaica, but he actually had a policy of producing as many mixed race children as possible!

Golden Grove Estate, lithograph by Adolphus Duperly,  c.1830

Simon Taylor and Golden Grove

Taylor owned at least six big sugar cane plantations in Jamaica, but he made most of his vast wealth from acting as an agent for absentee landlords.  It was one of these clients, Chaloner Arcedeckne (1763-1809), who actually owned the Golden Grove plantation where Charlotte Taylor was born. Arcedecne was an MP in England who had inherited Golden Grove from his father but he had no interest at all in going to Jamaica. Simon Taylor was his agent, he ran the Golden Grove estate and Taylor also maintained a home there.

Over the years, Simon Taylor wrote many letters to Arcedecne and to other clients,  and these letters are the reason that Taylor is so famous to this day. They are studied by historians, sociologists and political scientists:

"Simon Taylor's letters from Jamaica form the richest correspondence I know of bearing on politics and society, black and white, in the British Atlantic world of the late eighteenth century. His observations on slave life in Jamaica, especially when one considers the limits of his perspective, are often keen.” (Prof. Alexander Byrd) 

Simon Taylor's Philosophies

Ardently pro-slavery, Simon Taylor led a powerful group of planters in the Jamaican Assembly to prevent any moves towards emancipation. He also advocated a rather novel method of adjusting the racial imbalance in Jamaica.

There were more than 250,000 people of African origin to a mere 40,000 whites, and all efforts to encourage more white people to come to Jamaica had failed. Taylor had a solution to this which he termed, 'Whitewashing the Blackamoors’! The idea was that if a man had a child with a negro woman, and then this child in turn had a child by a white man, in 4 generations the last child born would then be legally white.

"When I returned from England in the year 1760 there were only three quadroon women in the Town of Kingston. There are now three hundred, and more of the decent class of them never will have any commerce with their own colour, but only with White People. Their progeny is growing whiter and whiter every remove - from thence a White Generation will come." (Simon Taylor, 1804)



Children of Simon Taylor

Simon Taylor practiced what he preached! Lady Maria Nugent, wife of the Governor of Jamaica, visited him on the Golden Grove estate, and she said Taylor was ‘… an old bachelor, and detests the society of women’. But Lady Maria also learnt from his housekeeper that Mr Taylor had ‘numerous family, some on almost every estate’. 3

Taylor did not acknowledge any of these children publicly, his name did not appear on a baptism record nor were there children named in his letters. His Will, on the other hand, does make reference to two mixed race children, who are both assumed to be his daughters. The first was Sarah Taylor, a free quadroon who was the daughter of his long-term housekeeper, Sarah Blacktree Hunter. Sarah Blacktree Hunter had lived with Taylor on one of his estates and he had made her a free person. He left a great deal of money for her, for her daughter and for her granddaughter Sarah Taylor Cathcart.

Slave Child of Golden Grove

The other child named in his Will is not treated quite so well. She appears in a codicil dated 1811, and she is described as a quadroon slave, the property of the Golden Grove estate. In the Will, Taylor states that he is not going to free this slave as he feels he has a better way of making provision for her. He asks his executors to take £700 and to buy ‘a negro or other slave’  to be placed on Golden Grove in her stead. She is to remain a slave, but now she will have a slave to do her work. The interest on the remainder of the £700 is to be used for her clothes and maintenance during her natural life.  

Simon Taylor names this quadroon slave of Golden Grove, and, of course, this is our Charlotte Taylor.
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* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story
* Episode 5 - Finding Charlotte Taylor
* NEXT Episode - Light on the Last Mysteries

References:

1 Professor Alexander Byrd in Plantation Life in the Carribean Part 1: Jamaica c.1765-1848: The Taylor and Vanneck-Arcedekne Papers from Cambridge University Library and the Institue of Commonwealth Studies, University of London
2  Simon Taylor in a letter to George Hibbert, 14 January 1804, MS Simon Taylor Papers, London, Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICS), Letter book F, no. 42
3 Lady Nugent’s Journal: Jamaica One Hundred Years Ago… Lady Maria Nugent, Frank Cundall, Published by the Institute of Jamaica by Adam & Charles Black, London , 1907
4 National Archives of England, Simon Taylor’s Will, PROB 10/7400/7, fols 2-4, folio 59.

2 comments:

  1. Dear kate I am descended from a Taylor in Jamaica but on the black side. My Great Great grandfather was named john Taylor, I do not know when he born , or what parish he was born in. So I cannot say if he is related to your Simon Taylor.
    From a black point of view it does not make pleasant reading, but it is what it is.
    Keep up your good work, and all the best.

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    1. Hi Julius, Thank you for contacting. Yes, I know what you mean about the unpleasant reading - I found it very difficult to digest that one of my relatives was a slave owner. For some time I thought that it would not be appropriate to write about this, but history is history and I decided in the end to put it up here!
      I hope you make progress with your ancestry. If you ever locate the parish, it should be relatively easy to get some more information.
      Best wishes,
      Kate

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