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Extended Families:

Mixed-Race Children and Scottish Experience, 1770-1820

Daniel Livesay

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Three years prior to the ending of the slave trade, Jamaica’s richest and most influential merchant mused on the possible consequences of abolition. Writing to his friend George Hibbert in January of 1804, Simon Taylor offered a stark vision of the British imperial economy without slave importation, echoing scores of other pro-slavery writers who preached the financial doom and gloom of a post-abolitionist society. Economics, however, were not the only thing on either man’s mind. Hibbert, in a previous letter, had asked Taylor for his thoughts on the future of Jamaica’s white population if fresh supplies of slaves came to a halt. He wondered if the colony’s whites could farm sugar themselves and if such back-breaking labour would further stifle the increase of the island’s already meager European population. Throwing off his earlier pessimism, Taylor replied with high hopes for the growth of Jamaica’s white residents. His optimism sprung from a phenomenon he had watched develop over the last two generations: ‘When I returned from England in the year 1760 there were only three Quadroon[1] 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’. Taylor had seen all other attempts to increase the white population fail and he believed that this process of ‘washing the Blackamoor White’ to be the only way to build an effective racial hedge against an overwhelming black majority on the island.[2]

If miscegenation was the answer to Jamaica’s problems, Simon Taylor could claim to be doing his part for the movement. Indeed, he had earned a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic for his multiracial family. Not long after arriving in Jamaica with her husband, the new Lieutenant-Governor of the island, Lady Maria Nugent visited Simon Taylor in his Golden Grove estate. She commented in her diary that Taylor was ‘an old bachelor’ who ‘detests the society of women’, but she seemed determined to win him over. However, she could not help but register surprise after an evening at Taylor’s estate when ‘[a] little mulatto girl was sent into the drawing-room to amuse [her]’. Recording the event in her diary, she noted, ‘Mr. T[aylor] appeared very anxious for me to dismiss her, and in the evening, the housekeeper told me she was his own daughter, and that he had a numerous family, some almost on every one of his estates’.[3] Taylor’s sexual activities with slaves and women of colour were not unusual, nor was his attempt to hide them from European eyes. Like many white West Indians at the time, Taylor may have given some favours to his children of colour, but he did not treat them as full members of his family.

In contrast to Simon Taylor’s inattention to his mixed-race children, John Tailyour, Simon’s cousin, made a significant attempt to provide for his offspring of colour.[4] Tailyour originated from Montrose, near Simon’s ancestral home in Borrowfield, and made several unsuccessful attempts at business in the colonies. Forced to abandon his tobacco trade in Virginia at the outbreak of the American Revolution, he returned to North America in 1781, but failed to establish himself in New York’s dry-goods market. Rather than return home to Scotland once again, Tailyour ventured to Jamaica at his cousin Simon’s invitation, where he operated as a merchant from 1783 to 1792. With very few white women on the island from which to choose, Tailyour took up residence with an enslaved woman from his cousin’s plantation. The couple eventually had four children together before Tailyour finally decided to return to Scotland in 1792. Rather than leave his children in Jamaica, however, John Tailyour sent at least three of them to Britain for their education and to be brought up in a trade. His conduct toward his mixed-race offspring stands in sharp relief with that of his cousin’s and reveals the complicated attitudes that whites had toward these children.

The contrasting behaviours within this family emblematise some of the most common practices amongst Scots with mixed-race families at this time. White fathers had no legal compulsion to care for their children born of enslaved women, and indeed a majority made no effort to rescue them from the shackles of slavery. However, a significant portion of those with a ‘West-Indian family’ took some steps toward providing for their colonial kin. For Simon Taylor, a first-generation Jamaican who decided to stay in the colonies, those steps were minimal. For Taylor’s cousin, however, his Jamaican children would take the same journey from colony to metropole as their father. Like him, many Scots sent their children of colour to Britain in order to ‘whiten’ them along class and cultural lines, rather than subject them to the legal and racial impediments built into West-Indian society. If the Caribbean was a stepping stone for rising Scots to enter into the British landed aristocracy, as some have suggested, then the remigration back to Scotland needs to be reconsidered with these children of colour in mind.[5] For many Scottish migrants, they not only brought back colonial riches to Britain, but also colonial families. This paper argues that just as the movement back to the metropole sought to authenticate and legitimise new-found Scottish fortunes, so too did the migration of mixed-race children to Britain seek to validate and advance a marginalised group by removing them from their colonial environment.



Unlike many of the migrants into the Caribbean, Simon Taylor had little wish to settle finally in Britain. His father, Patrick Tailzour, arrived in Jamaica from Borrowfield in Forfarshire, Scotland in the first half of the eighteenth century, and married a white creole before standardising the family name to ‘Taylor’. Their son, Simon, was born on the island in 1740, but left for his education in Scotland as a young child, eventually moving to England to attend Eton. At the age of twenty, he returned to Jamaica and established himself as a prominent planter. He became extraordinarily wealthy, perhaps the richest man in Jamaica, and came to hold tremendous power within the colonial government. Except for occasional visits to Britain, which included stops at Westminster to lobby for the West India Committee, he enjoyed this privileged position within Jamaican society and entertained no desire to leave the island.[6] After arriving in London in 1792 in an attempt to fight off the growing abolitionist sentiment in Parliament, Simon wrote to John Tailyour, ‘I assure you I do not stay here for the benefit of my Health or Pleasure for I like Jamaica ten thousand times better than England, but my reason is to see what the People in this Part of the world mean to do with the West Indies’.[7] His Scottish roots and European education had not won him over to the idea of absenteeism, and Taylor resolved to stay in Jamaica.

Having never found a wife in Britain, Simon Taylor indulged in sexual relationships with the enslaved women on his plantations, as well as free women of colour, which produced a number of mixed-race children. As he was less inclined to discuss or care for them, it is difficult to estimate the number of biracial offspring that Taylor sired. Lady Nugent’s comments above seem to indicate that Taylor was quite prodigious, but he rarely spoke of his children of colour, frustrating any attempt to determine the size of his Jamaican family. Taylor did leave some clues about his mixed-race children, however, in his will. In 1763, just three years after arriving back in Jamaica from Britain, Simon Taylor drafted a will, a necessary precaution for a young man in the West Indies considering the unhealthiness of the environment. Although most of his bequests went to his white family, Taylor included a robust provision for his mistress, as well as for one of his mixed-race children. Grace Donne, Simon’s housekeeper whom he described as a ‘free Quadroon Woman’, had moved into his residence on Orange Street, in East Kingston, soon after Taylor reestablished himself on the island. Grateful for her ‘Faithful Services’, Taylor gave her his land and house in Kingston, nine slaves, 150 pounds Jamaican, most of his furniture, bedding, and silverware, and finally a horse. Considering his young age, it was a large sum for such a fledgling relationship. Indeed, he admitted to his brother John, ‘You will say I have made a great Provision for the Woman who Lives with me. I own it, but She has been a Faithful Servant To me, & I never had occasion to call twice for any thing, or awake her in any of my Severe Fitts of Illness’. He also gave a small allowance to his ‘Natural Quadroon Daughter’ Sally Taylor, which included ten slaves and an annuity of twenty pounds Jamaican.[8] Taylor never identified Sally’s mother, and owing to the fact that he classified both Sally and Grace Donne as ‘quadroons’ they were most likely not mother and daughter.[9] Thus, even at an early age, Simon Taylor had multiple relationships with women of colour. He showed some degree of commitment to one of these women and provided a reasonable inheritance to one of his children. Taylor may not have seen his daughter as a full member of his family but he certainly did not abandon her completely.

At the end of his life, Simon Taylor’s family had grown and his female companions had changed. In 1808, Taylor revised his will as his health began to worsen. He wrote the revisions soon after the death of Grace Donne and he included a bequest of 500 pounds Jamaican to Donne’s niece Grace Harris. The new will contained no alteration of Sally Taylor’s inheritance and it can be assumed that Taylor felt comfortable with his original allotment to her. In the forty-five years since his first will, Taylor had taken up residence with Sarah Blacktree Hunter, a ‘free Mulatto woman’ who served as his housekeeper. Hunter became involved with Taylor sometime around 1778 and bore him at least one child named Sarah Taylor. When amending his will, Simon gave Hunter 500 pounds Jamaican as well as several pieces of furniture from his home. To his daughter Sarah he initially gave 1000 pounds Jamaican but increased the amount by 1500 pounds, along with a thirty pound Jamaican annuity, in an 1813 amendment to the will. This subsequent amendment was most likely a response to the Jamaica Assembly’s action that year of overturning a 1761 law that capped the inheritance that an illegitimate child of colour could receive at 2000 pounds Jamaican. In addition to this bequest for his daughter, he gave 500 pounds Jamaican, a fifty pound annuity, and a slave to his granddaughter Sarah Hunter Taylor Cathcart, the child of Sarah Taylor.[10]

Despite these allocations, Simon Taylor did not care for all of his children equally. He mentioned only a handful of his mixed-race children in his will, and even then distributed his fortune disproportionately. One amendment records a bequest to an enslaved woman named Charlotte Taylor, ‘a Quadroon’, to whom he gave 700 pounds to care for her children. He did not, however, manumit any of them, claiming, ‘I prefer this mode of providing for [her] to the purchasing [of] her freedom’.[11]> Nothing in the will specifies Taylor’s reason for denying their manumission. His decisions on caring for his children of colour came more from personal preference than any kind of universal familial piety.

These endowments reveal a complicated family structure within Simon Taylor’s household. While he ignored many of his children, he did express some concern for the well being of at least two of his children, as well as two of his lovers. The amounts were enough to provide very comfortable lives to his beneficiaries and to put them in an advanced social position on the island. However, he had no desire to take them out of Jamaica for their education and employment. Despite the racial prejudice on the island, the deficiency of schools, and the limited prospect of advancement, Simon Taylor kept his biracial children in Jamaica. Just as he planned to stay in the colonies himself, so too did he expect his children to remain there as well.

Part of Taylor’s reluctance in providing more fully for his children of colour might have sprung from his distrust of the mixed-race community in general. As one of the wealthiest men on the island, Taylor stood at the pinnacle of Jamaica’s political and social elite. He served as a member of the Assembly for over thirty years between 1763 and 1810, acted as Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, held the position of Lieutenant Governor of the militia, and maintained a central role in the West India Committee in London. Taylor did not just support the policies of the Jamaican ruling class; he helped direct them. In his letters to friends and family, he revealed a common anxiety among West-Indian whites towards mixed-race peoples in the Caribbean. As whites attempted to use race as a neat delineation between enslaved and free in the West Indies, those of a hybrid ancestry greatly complicated such idealised divisions. Often free, sometimes with wealth and education behind them, mixed-race individuals took an uneasy position in this polarised society.

This tenuous position became even more problematic in the 1790s with the advent of the Revolution in St. Domingue. Believing that the island’s free people of colour had orchestrated the Revolution, whites in Britain’s West-Indian islands worried that their mixed-race populations might also rise up in rebellion. Simon Taylor himself expressed intense concern that Jamaica’s free ‘Negroes and Mulattoes’ would overtake the island, after drawing inspiration from the nearby insurrection.[12] Calls from within Jamaica to raise a regiment of ‘Black and Mulattoe Troops’ to help defend against an enslaved revolt, exacerbated his fears even more.[13] So great seemed their power, that Taylor worried that Jamaica, ‘will either fall into the hands of Negroes or Mulattoes or the [white] Inhabitants will give it up to any other European Powers who will protect their lives’.[14] As a resident Jamaican with real political power, Simon Taylor’s civic concerns over the growth of the island’s mixed-race population superceded his own personal and familial experience.

Holding such a powerful position in Jamaica, Simon Taylor regarded neither himself, nor his children, as imperial subjects intent on joining the upper ranks of British society on the other side of the ocean. The time he spent in Britain as a youth had not appealed to him, as it had to his brother John Taylor, who stayed in England after his education, and eventually purchased a baronetcy before draining the family fortune. Simon remained, to the end, a Jamaican, and never sought to attain any metropolitan glory. He died in Jamaica in 1813, fulfilling his wish, ‘to lay my Bones in my Native land’.[15] In examining Taylor’s behavior toward his mixed-race children, it is easy to see a man inured to the colonial status quo of coloured mistresses and bastard children. With no direct roots in Britain he did not wish to shuttle his children off to the imperial centre. After all, his own anxieties about the racial and class transgressions of the island’s mixed-race population inhibited any compulsion to see such a group advanced yet further. Like many of his contemporaries, Simon Taylor indulged only the children of his most esteemed mistresses, but still kept them in a marginalised and controlled position. Perhaps that was his broader hope for the whole of Jamaica’s mixed-race community.



Attitudes toward children of colour could vary greatly from those of Simon Taylor, even amongst his own family. Taylor’s Scottish cousin, John Tailyour, came to Jamaica in 1783, and quickly followed the pattern of interracial cohabitation that prevailed amongst white residents. An enslaved woman from Simon’s estate, Mary Graham, acted as Tailyour’s housekeeper and nurse, tending to him during his many illnesses on the island. Together they had four children: James, Simon, John and Catherine; all of them born enslaved to Simon Taylor’s estate. Although Tailyour wrote very little in his correspondence about his mixed-race family, he did reveal a strong degree of affection for them in several letters to his cousin. Two years before he would return to Scotland, Tailyour wrote Simon in the hopes that he would manumit his lover and children. Offering to substitute other slaves for their freedom, Tailyour recorded, ‘Having now for several years experienced [Graham’s] care & attention both while I have been in sickness & health, I confess myself much attached to her, & I find myself very much so for her Children; which makes me very desirous of putting them in a more respectable situation’. Sensing a possible refusal on Simon’s part, Tailyour implored him, ‘I feel my self more anxious to obtain this Favour than I can describe’.[16] Unlike Simon, John Tailyour took immediate responsibility for his illegitimate children. Although Tailyour did not frame them as his ‘family’ in this appeal, his letter shows a modicum of sympathy for their status and circumstance absent from Simon’s correspondence on his children. To Tailyour’s relief, his cousin obliged the request and his family became free. His eldest child, James, was only four years old at the time, and Tailyour immediately began planning for his young children’s futures.

Whereas Simon Taylor envisioned a life of relative comfort in Jamaica for his select children of colour, John Tailyour hoped to see his children leave the island for a more advanced position in the metropole. Beginning with his oldest son, James, Tailyour sent his children one by one to Britain, and called upon his Scottish family to help establish them there. Indeed, Tailyour had numerous offers of support from his family in Britain. After hearing news about the birth of James, Tailyour’s mother proudly wrote, ‘tell me what has becom of your Baby that you mentiont to me, is it alive or not[?] belive me I would be very happy to have it under my Car[e]’.[17] Despite his mother’s wishes, Tailyour felt more inclined to have his children privately tutored, and appealed to his brother in London for help. After receiving this request, Robert Taylor cheerily replied, ‘I approve very much of your sentiments respecting your little family & agree intirely with you as to the plan of Education, & the manner you Propose to bring them up in. It is surely incumbent on us to provide for our Offspring whether Black or White, in a manner the most likely to render their situation in Life comfortable to them’.[18] Tailyour’s appeals to his British family, then, drew on a sense of sympathy for his children’s disadvantaged situation in the colonies, and the need to alleviate such hardship. Robert agreed, and began looking for a tutor in England.

The decision to keep James in England came from John and Robert’s uncertainty about how he would fit into the Scottish family, despite their mother’s enthusiasm about the Jamaican children. Although Tailyour’s mother had been forced to sell their two estates of Kirktonhill and Balmanno upon the death of her husband in 1780, the family still held a prominent position in the Scottish gentry. Robert worried that James’s illegitimacy would define relations between himself and his wealthy kin, leaving him in a regular state of embarrassment at his own status. In addition, Robert anticipated complications arising from James’s racial ancestry: ‘as soon as he has Sense to know the disadvantages with which he has been ushered into Life, & by keeping him at a distance from his own Relations I think there is the greater chance of concealing from him his Inferiority and preventing the Mortification of being slighted by relations who from early habits he might consider himself perfectly upon a footing with’.[19] Robert’s comments reveal the complications of sending mixed-race children to the metropole. On the one hand, Robert had no reservations about welcoming them to Britain, and getting them started in a school or profession. On the other hand, he understood that their racial status, and perhaps more importantly their personal history as manumitted slaves, would not allow for a smooth assimilation into their British family. This was especially true in light of Tailyour’s return to Scotland, when he repurchased both of the family’s Scottish estates, and greatly enhanced the family’s elite social position with his newfound colonial wealth. In many ways Robert’s opinions demonstrated his worry about the children’s reflection on the family’s rising status. If John Tailyour expected a better life for his children of colour on the other side of the Atlantic, he must have understood that it would not come easily.

Upon his children’s arrival in Britain, Tailyour hoped to distance them from their colonial past, and to integrate them into British society. Of the three children known to have traveled to Britain (James, John, and Catherine), Tailyour’s letters only reveal the fate of the boys once they arrived. Robert Taylor looked at tutors throughout England before settling on John Bowman’s school at Byers Green Hall in Yorkshire. Northern England may have been a popular destination to send these mixed-race children, situated at a comfortable distance from family in either Scotland or London. Sending his ‘Molatto’ boy to a Yorkshire school in 1763, one Jamaican resident commented that the institution was renowned for teaching West-Indian children.[20] Indeed, with few schools in the Caribbean, most West Indians who could afford it sent their children to British schools. Andrew O’Shaughnessy has estimated that three-quarters of Jamaica’s planters sent their children to Britain.[21] This included children of colour, and while many mixed-race students, like Tailyour’s children, studied at smaller schools or with private tutors, some attended Britain’s top institutions. Three Jamaican boys of colour, for instance, were registered in Scotland’s Inverness Royal Academy in 1806.[22] It also appears that at least one mixed-race Jamaican attended Oxford in the eighteenth century.[23] At Byers Green Hall, Bowman taught Tailyour’s children an array of subjects, including mathematics, book keeping, grammar, and the classics. Many of the lessons focused on professional skills, such as taking measurements and balancing accounts, that would help enable their careers in business and trade. The children did well, and Bowman remarked of James, ‘He is of a very mild and docile temper, and promises fair to be a good scholar’.[24]

After his children finished their education, John Tailyour asked his brother Robert to guide them in their careers. Robert Taylor put the middle son, John, in a London merchant house as a clerk, with the goal of preparing him for a future in trade. His biggest assignment, however, was to obtain a position for the eldest son, James, in the East India Company. Like his brother, and many of his fellow Scots, Robert Taylor had moved throughout the Empire in his quest for riches and social advancement. Along the way, he had set up a trade in India, and established many contacts there, both with fellow merchants, and also with the military. With John Tailyour’s prodding, and the help of his business networks, Robert won an interview for James with the East India Company Army. Both Tailyour and his brother saw the position as a vital step in conferring social legitimacy on the young James. If successful in the army, James could effectively launder his past through the channel of military accomplishment.

Securing James’s position in the East India Company would prove extraordinarily difficult, and ultimately revealed the extreme measures Tailyour would take to erase his son’s racial ancestry. From the beginning, Tailyour hid the truth about his son’s life in the West Indies. Indeed, he had good reason. The Company barred any person of African descent from serving in the army in 1800, fearing that such soldiers would be more prone to rebel.[25] James’s birth in Jamaica immediately aroused the Company’s suspicions, and they demanded information and records on his life there. Tailyour, now in Scotland, wrote to the Company confirming that James had been born in Jamaica, but lied that his absent mother was ‘born in the West Indies, but of European parents’.[26] He also demurred on confirming James’s baptism, claiming that the record for his christening had simply not been transmitted to Britain.[27] In truth, he did not want to reveal that the baptismal entry for James listed his mother as a ‘mulatto’.[28]  

The family whitewashed James’s record in order to manoeuvre him into place, but it still had to contend with his physical appearance, which would become an issue in James’s interview with the Company’s Committee of Shipping. With a white father and a ‘mulatto’ mother, James was a ‘quadroon’ – two generations removed from an African ancestor. By Robert’s account, James had relatively fair skin, although this did not stop him from worrying about James’s interview. Writing to his brother, Robert noted, ‘His Colour altho’ as you Observe [is] not darker than the Foulertons’ – white family friends of the Tailyours. Despite his complexion, however, James’s appearance must have indicated his descent, as Robert lamented, ‘I really could not Sleep the first night after he Came’, worrying that James would be found out in the interview. In order to mask James’s ancestry, Robert attempted to disguise his features. He had James try on a number of different outfits to see which would diminish any standout African traits. As a last resort, he even powdered his face to hide any hint of a dark complexion, but noted, ‘Powder made him much worse’. In the end, Robert stumbled upon a working formula: ‘I got him a blue Coat & had his hair Cut – & in that way he Pass’d the Committee’.[29] In establishing James in the metropolis, and paving a future for him that was wholly disconnected from his former enslavement, Tailyour and his family literally disguised the young man’s heritage. This was not a matter of simply downplaying his race and personal history. Rather, it was an attempt to camouflage James’s colonial roots, and to conceal his lineage. For Tailyour’s children, then, the voyage to Britain was a clean break from their lives in the colonies, and a step toward not only refinement, but also toward a status as legitimate whites.



It is difficult to determine the regularity with which white parents sent their mixed-race children to Britain, as John Tailyour did. As many fathers were loath even to discuss their biracial progeny at all, tracing their movement and destination can be nearly impossible. Examining wills from this period, however, does give some quantitative sense of the scale of mixed-race migration to the imperial centre. In drafting their last wills and testaments, many West-Indian fathers asked that their children of colour be sent to Britain for their education, and to take up a trade. Others gave bequests to children already living across the Atlantic.

A survey of 2245 wills executed in Jamaica between 1773 and 1815 reveals the regularity of those endeavors.[30] All executed wills for the years 1773-75, 1783-85, 1793-95, 1803-05 and 1813-15 in Jamaica were counted, with each year containing an average of 150 proven wills. Tables 1 and 2, below, display the results of that survey. Two types of bequests were recorded: explicit references to mixed-race children either being sent to Britain, or currently living in Britain, and implicit references to the same. To clarify this latter category, some wills contain bequests to individuals who, although not explicitly listed as such, were almost certainly of mixed race. Examples of this occurrence include notations for beneficiaries who were the ‘natural’ or ‘reputed’ sons of a white father and born in the island. The terms ‘natural’ and ‘reputed’ denoted illegitimacy, which almost universally meant children of colour. Most of these bastard children were also the sons and daughters of housekeepers, who were, with little exception, free or enslaved women of colour. Those who fall into the ‘implicit references’ category, then, were almost certainly mixed-race individuals. The totals were then split between all wills executed for white men, and only those white men’s wills that contained a bequest for a child of colour. The inclusion criteria for this latter group was quite large. Individuals not listed explicitly as the benefactors’ children were still included due to their mothers’ status as the will writers’ housekeepers, or due to significant bequests to those children of colour that exceeded ten pounds Jamaican. Therefore, the percentages in Table 2 may be lower than their true value. The wills of women and people of colour were not included in the data analysed, below, for two reasons. First, eighty per cent of all executed wills in this survey were those of white men, and including the other twenty per cent does not significantly alter the results. Second, white men were the principle agents in sending mixed-race individuals to Britain. Indeed, of the wills with bequests for mixed-race relatives in Britain for this entire period, only seven came from free people of colour.

Table 1: Percentage of white men’s wills, proven in Jamaica, with bequests for mixed-race children in Britain (either presently resident, or soon to be sent there)








Explicit Reference






Explicit and Implicit Reference







Table 2: Percentage of white men’s wills with acknowledged mixed-race children, proven in Jamaica, that include bequests for mixed-race children in Britain (either presently resident, or soon to be sent there)








Explicit Reference






Explicit and Implicit Reference







These data demonstrate a not insignificant migration of mixed-race Jamaicans to Britain. As Table 1 indicates, at the opening of the nineteenth century, over seven per cent of all white male testators gave bequests to mixed-race individuals who were either in Britain, or on their way. Not every Jamaican drafted a will, so those in this survey had greater means at their disposal. Still, members from all strata of Jamaican society left wills, so the overall percentage of bequests for children of colour in Britain is impressive. Looking only at those with children of colour in their wills, Table 2 demonstrates that in the 1790s, nearly a quarter of those whites held out some inheritance to mixed-race children in Britain. While these wills do not give an accurate estimate of overall miscegenation and mixed-race birth, they do reveal the desires of those whites who provided some degree of care for their children of colour. Thus, amongst those who helped their mixed-race children to even a small degree, a substantial portion of them wished to see their children brought up in the metropole, rather than in Jamaica. Considering the expense incurred by sending a child to Britain, and remitting enough money for their maintenance while there (with the added expense of converting colonial currency into pounds sterling), this was a costly undertaking not all could afford. That so many chose to do so, in spite of these hurdles, speaks to the importance they attached to the endeavour.

This migration was perhaps most important to Scottish fathers living in Jamaica. As Table 3 reveals, below, a near equal number of mixed-race children went to Scotland as those who went to England. Rough calculations estimate that a third of Jamaica’s population was Scottish by the late eighteenth century.[31] Therefore, a disproportionate number of Scots, compared to English and Irish settlers, sent their mixed-race children back to Britain. The percentage may have been even higher, as some of those listed as traveling to England were perhaps, like John Tailyour’s family, children of Scots sent to English schools. If some Jamaicans felt the need to remove their mixed-race children from the island, then those of Scottish heritage, especially wealthier Scots who had achieved financial success, felt the urge more strongly.

Table 3: Location/Destination of all mixed-race Jamaicans sent to Britain and Ireland by percentage, according to the wills of their white fathers, 1770-1820




Britain (unspecified)






Sending children of colour back to Britain may have proven an attractive option to Scottish migrants who had the same wishes for themselves. Scholars have noted that the Caribbean often served as a temporary home for Scottish travelers who hoped to build up wealth in the colonies before returning home. Alan Karras argues, ‘these people usually left Scotland intending to return to their homeland with increased wealth’, and that ‘migration became an aid to, if not a necessity for, upward mobility’ for Scottish people.[32] The Empire offered adventurous Scots economic and professional opportunities unavailable in North Britain. For impoverished Scots, as well as those pushed off their land during the Clearances, the colonies were a last chance at economic success. For those in the gentry, like Tailyour, they provided the opportunity to build a large nest egg which would catapult them into the aristocracy. Refining this notion of Scottish remigration, Douglas Hamilton maintains that success in the colonies may have contributed as much to the decision to return as any resolution made beforehand. He notes that involvement in colonial governance and administration pushed many successful Scots to send their children back to Britain for their education, in order to solemnise their family’s upward mobility.[33] This certainly seems appropriate for white children, but could the same be said for children of colour sent to the metropole? Were they part of the same movement back to Scotland as their white relatives?

Remigration back to Jamaica may hold some answers to these questions on the parity between white, and mixed-race, movement to Britain. Of all the white children who left for Britain in the late eighteenth century, Andrew O’Shaughnessy estimates that a full third never returned to the West Indies.[34] Their fathers’ colonial wealth funded their elite lives in the metropole. Amongst mixed-race children, the incidence of remigration is much more difficult to discern. Of the thirty-seven wills in the above survey that explicitly listed bequests for children of colour in Scotland, six demanded that their children never return to Jamaica, threatening to invalidate their inheritance if they did so. Surely others intended that their offspring stay in Britain, even if they did not record it in their wills. However, many still returned. Out of the 489 people of colour granted privileges by the Jamaican House of Assembly between 1772-1802, fifty-eight had spent time in Britain, either for their education or to learn a trade. Out of those fifty-eight, only six were still living in Britain, and four of those had strict instructions not to return.[35] These numbers, however, do not paint a fair picture of the overall remigration back to Jamaica, as those mixed-race individuals who had decided to stay in Britain had little need to petition for privileged rights in an island to which they would never return. These data do reveal, though, that a number of elite West-Indians of colour who had gone to Britain, did eventually come back. This could prove a risky venture, especially for those who hoped to enjoy an advanced status in the Caribbean after receiving an elite British education. Robert Renny told of a ‘Mulatto, who had been sent to Europe for his education’ who, on a stop in Barbados on his way home to Jamaica in 1799, had been refused service at a tavern for having sat down with a group of white gentlemen.[36] John Waller recorded a similar story in 1820, of a group of lower officers who refused to sit with a mixed-race naval surgeon, trained at the University of Edinburgh, at a hospital barracks in Barbados.[37] Opportunities certainly existed for British-trained children of colour in the Caribbean. With the intensified prejudice that awaited them there, however, it is easy to see why their fathers wanted them to stay on the other side of the ocean.

The out-migration and remigration of mixed-race individuals between Scotland and the Caribbean roughly follows the same pattern of white children during this period, with varying degrees of similarity between their aims. Both sets of parents wished to see their children receive an elite education and training unavailable to them in the colonies. Both saw a life in Britain as a step up in social advancement. However, those Scottish fathers who sent their children of colour across the Atlantic were motivated by much deeper concerns about their offspring’s lives in the colonies. Wealth could only take those of mixed race so far in a society constructed around racial supremacy. Their skin colour precluded them from enjoying any of the advances that their Scottish fathers had made to their families’ status. As Douglas Hamilton argues, Scottish settlers succeeded so spectacularly in the Caribbean due to their assumption of a British identity, rather than fostering an isolated ethnic solidarity. Hamilton rightly points out, ‘For Scots in the Caribbean to portray themselves as Britons was one thing; it was something else again for them to be accepted as such. But the institution of enslavement, and the perceptions of colour differences, helped to blur divisions in white society’.[38] If the strict colour line in the West Indies ‘whitened’ the Scottish and eased their entry into the Caribbean elite, then it also immediately disqualified their mixed-race children from enjoying those spoils. Sending these children of colour back to Britain, then, was not simply an attempt to cover them in a patina of refinement, but an effort to confer a sense of Britishness and legitimacy on those who were barred from such status in the colonies. The Scots emphasised, more than anyone else in the islands, the acquisition of social legitimacy from an originally marginalised position. For some, attaining that social sanction for their children of colour was an equally important ambition.


The birth of children of colour provoked a variety of responses among whites in the West Indies. With the high levels of sexual predation on the plantations, it is impossible to determine what percentage of whites cared for their mixed-race progeny. Although they may have been a minority, a significant number of whites provided some degree of support for these children. Within John Tailyour’s family, this support could mean either increasing a child’s comfort in the colonies, as his cousin Simon did, or removing them from the islands altogether. Each man’s ties back to Scotland helped to direct this decision. For Simon, who had spent most of his youth in Britain, but remained a lifelong creole, his disinterest in returning to Scotland eliminated any compulsion to spirit off his children to receive metropolitan refinement. John Tailyour, on the other hand, seems to have followed the pattern of the sojourning Scot who made Jamaica only a temporary home. His own wishes to return to Scotland as a triumphant man of means surely weighed on his opinions regarding his mixed-race children. Removing his children to Britain allowed Tailyour to close the door on his offspring’s enslaved past, and to reinvent them as members of the British elite – much like Tailyour’s own act of aristocratic redefinition. This depended, of course, on his Scottish family’s compliance in establishing these children in the metropole. If the social networks between Scotland and the Caribbean relied upon ‘fictive kinship’ – ties that mimicked family relations in the absence of common ancestry – then the migration of mixed-race individuals to Scotland took advantage of these loose associations.[39] Family back in Scotland may have scoffed at the notion that these children of colour were of pure relation, but attachment to their Caribbean kin provided the bridge upon which this group could cross the Atlantic.

As migration studies have helped to improve dramatically our understanding of the Scottish experience in the Caribbean, increased attention on the movement of mixed-race individuals within the Atlantic will serve to refine further our notions of that experience. This is particularly crucial to the study of the development of the West Indies. Scholars have seen the growth of a population of biracial colonists as integral to the emergence of a ‘creole’ society in the Caribbean.[40] Although that term has become highly contested in recent years, the interaction between African and European elements in the West Indies still merits sustained attention. Scholars should not constrain their view of European influence on the islands solely to the presence of white migrants, but should consider the impact of racially-mixed individuals returning from the metropole to understand better the complexity of creolisation, and the strong links between the West Indies and Britain.


[1] A ‘quadroon’ was defined at the time as a person two degrees removed from an African ancestor. He or she was the child of a white person and a ‘mulatto’ (one degree removed from an African ancestor). A person four generations removed from an African ancestor was considered legally white in Jamaica, with all the privileges that entailed.

[2] Simon Taylor to George Hibbert, 14 January 1804, MS Simon Taylor Papers, London, Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICS), Letter book F, no. 42,

[3] Lady Maria Nugent, Lady Nugent’s Journal: Jamaica One Hundred Thirty Years Ago, ed. by Frank Cundall (London: Institute of Jamaica, 1934), pp. 92-93.

[4] John Tailyour standardised his surname to ‘Taylor’ in 1784, after arriving in Jamaica. For easier identification, and to contrast with his cousin Simon, he will be referred to as ‘John Tailyour’ throughout this paper.

[5] See, in particular, Alan Karras, Sojourners in the Sun: Scottish Migrants in Jamaica and the Chesapeake, 1740-1800 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), who argues that most Scots hoped to make their fortunes in the Americas in order to establish a landed estate in Britain, which would validate their social mobility. This fits into a larger argument about Scottish involvement in the Empire, and its effect on British identity: see Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992).

[6] Many thanks to Robert Tailyour for his family biography (unpublished). For more biographical information on Simon Taylor, see Barry Higman, Plantation Jamaica 1750-1850: Capital and Control in a Colonial Economy (Mona, Jamaica: UWI Press, 2005), pp. 137-46; Richard Sheridan, ‘Simon Taylor, Sugar Tycoon of Jamaica, 1740-1813’, Agricultural History, 45 (October 1971), 285-96.

[7] Simon Taylor to John Tailyour, 4 January 1792, Ann Arbor, Michigan, The William Clements Library (WCL), MS Tailyour Papers,

[8] Simon Taylor to John Taylor, 27 January 1763, MS Simon Taylor Papers, ICS 120 II B, no. 36.

[9] Jamaica, as well as the other islands in the British West Indies, had very firm racial categories assigned to individuals based on their ancestry. If Sally Taylor was the daughter of Grace Donne, then she would have been labeled a ‘mustee’ (one degree removed from her quadroon mother). Try as they might to keep these labels ‘scientific’ and firm, however, Jamaicans regularly misidentified the ‘true’ racial category of many people of colour. An examination of parish records in Jamaica reveals individuals of colour being listed under different racial categories at various entries. See the baptismal records for Kingston Parish, 1B/11/8/9 at the Jamaica Archives, Spanish Town, Jamaica. For a contemporary list of the racial categories in Jamaica in the eighteenth century, see Edward Long, The History of Jamaica, 3 vols (London, 1774), II, pp. 260-61.

[10] Simon Taylor’s Will, Kew, England, National Archives of England, PROB 10/7400/7, fols 2-4, 58-59.

[11] Ibid, folio 59.

[12] Simon Taylor to John Tailyour, 18 October 1799, WCL, MS Tailyour Papers.

[13] Simon Taylor to John Tailyour,, 5 December 1797, WCL, MS Tailyour Papers.

[14] Simon Taylor to George Hibbert, 31 October 1798, ICS, MS Simon Taylor Papers, Letter Book B, no. 30.

[15] Simon Taylor to Robert Taylor, 19 September 1811, ICS, MS Simon Taylor Papers, Letter Book J, no. 48.

[16] John Tailyour to Simon Taylor, 3 January 1790, ICS, MS Simon Taylor Papers, ICS 120 XIV/A/1, no. 50.

[17] Jean Tailyour to John Tailyour, 14 August 1787, WCL, MS Tailyour Papers.

[18] Robert Taylor to John Tailyour, 27 August 1791, WCL, MS Tailyour Papers.

[19] Ibid.

[20] JF to [More?] and Bayly, 28 April 1763, London, Guildhall Library, Attorneys Letter Books, MS 14280.

[21] Andrew O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 19.

[22] Douglas Hamilton, Scotland, the Caribbean and the Atlantic World 1750-1800 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), p. 209.

[23] Martin Williams of St. James, Jamaica is listed as receiving a privilege grant from the Jamaican House of Assembly in 1783, National Archives of England, CO 138/38. William Cowper’s notes in the National Library of Jamaica, Kingston, MS 20, include a Martin Williams of St. James, Jamaica who matriculated into Magdalen College, Oxford in 1799 at the age of sixteen. As fathers often submitted privilege petitions for their children soon after they were born, these dates correspond perfectly.

[24] John Bowman to John Tailyour, 14 April 1793, WCL, MS Tailyour Papers.

[25] Court Minutes, London, British Library, India Office Records, B/130, folio 998.

[26] Military Department, Cadet Papers, in ibid., 1804-5, Pt. 2 FF, L/MIL/9/114/211.

[27] Ibid., L/MIL/9/114/212.

[28] Kingston Baptism Register, Central Village, Jamaica, Island Record Office, Copy Register vol 1, p. 371.

[29] Robert Taylor to John Tailyour, 5 April 1805, WCL, MS Tailyour Papers.

[30] This survey was conducted through the volumes of wills at the Island Record Office, LOS 41-42, 49-51, 57-58, 60-61, 70-75, 87-91.

[31] This comes from Edward Long’s claim of 6000 Scottish inhabitants (out of 18,000 total white inhabitants) in Jamaica in 1770. See Long’s History of Jamaica, II, p. 287. Modern scholars seem to accept this estimate; see Douglas Hamilton, ‘Transatlantic Ties: Scottish Migration Networks in the Caribbean, 1750-1800’, in A Global Clan: Scottish Migrant Networks and Identities Since the Eighteenth Century, ed. Angela McCarthy (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2006), pp. 48-66 (p. 52); O’Shaugnessy, p. 8.

[32] Karras, p. 1, p. 21.

[33] Hamilton, Scotland, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic World, pp. 161-69.

[34] O’Shaughnessy, pp. 19-20.

[35] This survey comes from the Jamaican House of Assembly Minutes, National Archives of England, CO 139/22-51.

[36] Robert Renny, An History of Jamaica (London, 1807), p. 190n.

[37] John Augustine Waller, ‘A Voyage in the West Indies’, in New Voyages and Travels, 3 vols (London, 1820), III, pp. 95-96.

[38] Hamilton, Scotland, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic World, p. 50. Hamilton argues specifically against Alan Karras’s notion of Scottish ‘ethnic solidarity’ in Jamaica at this time. See Karras, p. 120.

[39] Hamilton, Scotland, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic World, pp. 25-27. Hamilton uses the term ‘fictive kinship’ to describe links between Scots without firm family or clan ties.

[40] Edward Kamau Brathwaite, The Development of a Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), pp. 298-303; Paul Lovejoy and David Trotman, ‘Enslaved Africans and their Expectations of Slave Life in the Americas: Towards a Reconsideration of Models of “Creolisation”’, in Questioning Creole: Creolisation Discourses in Caribbean Culture, ed. Verene Shepherd and Glen Richards (Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 2002), pp. 67-91 (pp. 83-84); Percy Hintzen, ‘Race and Creole Ethnicity in the Caribbean’, in ibid., pp. 92-110 (pp. 94-95).