Simon Taylor (sugar planter)
detail from The family of Sir John Taylor by Daniel Gardner
|Born||23 December 1739|
Simon Taylor (born 23 December 1739 - April 1813) was the wealthiest sugar planter in the Colony of Jamaica, and one of the wealthiest men in the British Empire in the eighteenth century. Sir George Nugent, 1st Baronet, who was Governor of Jamaica between 1802-6, described Taylor as "the richest proprietor in the island". His brother was Sir John Taylor.
Taylor was born in Jamaica in 1739, the first-born son of Patrick Tailzour who migrated to Jamaica from Forfarshire in Scotland, and anglicised his surname to Taylor. Patrick married Martha, the daughter of a successful white Jamaican sugar merchant. Patrick took over the business of his father-in-law, and increased his wealth from his operations as a sugar merchant in Kingston, Jamaica.
In 1754, Patrick died when Simon was just 14 years old. At the time, Simon was being educated in England at Eton College, having been sent there by his father. At the 20 years old, Simon Taylor returned to Jamaica to take charge of his father's properties. His father left him a vast fortune of £50,000, making him one of the wealthiest men on the island. Taylor went on to substantially increase his wealth from that useful bequest.
In the early 1760s, Taylor began his first foray into sugar and slavery when he converted his father's 900-acre estate at Lyssons in Saint Thomas Parish, Jamaica into a sugar plantation. At the same time, he bought the Llanrumney sugar estate in Saint Mary Parish, Jamaica. In 1771, he bought another sugar estate in St Thomas, called Holland, containing 430 acres of sugarcane, and including 400 enslaved people. Taylor also operated as an "attorney" for several absentee planters for estates such as the Golden Grove estate, owned by Chaloner Arcedeckne. Taylor added to his wealth by charging Arcedeckne substantial sums for his services.
Taylor chose to live on the outskirts the capital Kingston, and bought a property named Prospect Pen, which he made his home. This property is now the official residence of the Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica, and has been renamed Vale Royal.
Taylor sat as a representative of the Assembly of Jamaica for most of his adult life. In 1763, he was elected by the white voters of Kingston as one of their three representatives. In the 1760s, he witnessed a standoff between a leader of the Assembly, Nicholas Bourke, and the governor, William Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton, over who should stand costs for the island's defence. Though Bourke won in the end, and Lyttelton was recalled, Taylor was not a believer in Bourke's stance of openly challenging the British government.
Taylor served in that post until 1781. Then, from 1784 to his death in 1813, Taylor represented the parish of St Thomas.
Despite his wealth, Taylor never married, instead choosing to co-habit with a number of "housekeepers", who were sometimes enslaved Black women, but were often free people of color. One of his mixed-race mistresses was Grace Donne, a "quadroon" who lived with him for more than 30 years, and was the mother of at least one of his mixed-race children. Grace was also a "doctress", who used the hygiene and traditional herbal remedies employed by obeah women, to nurse Taylor back to health when he became ill with a fever. Even though Taylor had several mixed-race children some of whom were born and remained in slavery, Taylor never saw them as his heirs, because of the black ancestry of their mother. In addition, Jamaican law at the time forbade planters from passing on significant amounts of property to their "mulatto" offspring. In 1804, Grace died, leaving Taylor distraught.
Instead, Simon Taylor always considered his younger brother John to be his heir, but while Simon was frugal, John was a spendthrift, and Simon often disapproved of his younger brother's extravagant lifestyle. Simon persuaded John to return to Jamaica to take control of the estates he had inherited in Hanover Parish, but within a year of arriving, John died in 1786. Simon was then saddled with the additional problems of clearing the debts incurred by John's Hanover estates.
The elder Simon would in later years complain about the extravagance of his nephew and namesake in England, but he was reluctant to encourage him to return to Jamaica, after the death of John.
When Taylor died in 1813, there were over 2,000 people on his properties, and his personal estate was valued at more than £750,000. He left the majority of his estate to his nephew, the baronet Sir Simon Taylor. However, he made some provisions for his mixed-race children.
- Christer Petley, White Fury: A Jamaican Slaveholder and the Age of Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 19, 34
- Petley, White Fury, p. 31.
- https://blog.soton.ac.uk/slaveryandrevolution/simon-taylor-and-jamaican-slavery/ Retrieved 22 May 2019.
- Petley, White Fury, pp. 19, 28.
- Petley, White Fury, pp. 26-7.
- Petley, White Fury, pp. 28-9, 31.
- Petley, White Fury, p. 33.
- https://opm.gov.jm/1-devon-rd/vale-royal/ Retrieved 13 May 2019.
- Petley, White Fury, pp. 101-2.
- Petley, White Fury, pp. 33, 98.
- Petley, White Fury, pp. 35-6, 81-2, 88-9.
- Petley, White Fury, pp. 82-7.
- Petley, White Fury, pp. 87-8.
- Daniel Livesay, 'Extended Families: Mixed-race families and the Scottish Experience, 1770-1820' International Journal of Scottish Literature (2008: Issue 4), pp. 1-2. http://www.ijsl.stir.ac.uk/issue4/livesay.pdf Retrieved 22 May 2019.
- Petley, White Fury, p. 31.
- "Simon Taylor of Jamaica". UCL Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. Retrieved 2019-05-21.
- "'Washing the Blackamoor White’: Interracial Intimacy and Coloured Women’s Agency in Jamaica", Meleisa Ono-George in Will Jackson and Emily Manktelow (eds), Subverting Empire: Deviance and Disorder in the British Colonial World (Palgrave, 2015), pp.42-60; http://www.ijsl.stir.ac.uk/issue4/livesay.htm Extended Families: Mixed-Race Children and Scottish Experience, 1770–1820, Daniel Livesay, International Journal of Scottish Literature, Spring/Summer 2008