William Taylor

3rd Aug 1799 - 10th Jan 1845


Merchant and attorney in Jamaica. Later associated with the abolitionist cause.

  1. William Taylor gave evidence to the Select Committee on the Extinction of Slavery, 6, 9, 11 and 12 June 1832. His evidence was framed by the SC’s concern with establishing whether, in the event of emancipation, the enslaved ‘would be industrious and disposed to acquire property by labour’. There is much detail about conditions on the estates Taylor worked on (and in the parishes of St Andrew, Clarendon and Vere), the attitudes of the enslaved to labour and to property and other issues. According to his testimony, Taylor was resident in Jamaica for 13 years. He went there in 1816, left in 1823, returned in 1824, left again in 1825 and returned again in 1826. From 1816 to 1827 he was engaged in commercial pursuits in Kingston (in the house of Simpsons & Co.: q. 261, p. 30). In 1828 he was unoccupied but from February 1829 until May 1831 he was engaged in the management of 3 estates: one each in St Andrew’s (where he was resident), Clarendon and Vere. (The estates were 30-40 miles apart from each other.) These were all owned by Mr [James Beckford] Wildman of Chillam Castle. When he first started the number of enslaved was about 700 and they were divided equally between the 3. But within a few months he removed 100 from St Andrew’s so that there were about 250 in Vere, 250 in Clarendon and 140 in St Andrew’s. [I.e. a total of about 640.] They were all sugar estates though the St Andrew’s one was being converted into a pen on which cattle were being reared. Taylor's uncle, Mr Cunningham, was also an Attorney in Trelawny. And all of Taylor's 'relations and connexions' were West Indians; 'all my friends and intimate associates are West Indians, Jamaica people'.

  2. This William Taylor was born 03/08/1799 and baptised 29/11/1799 in Kingston, Jamaica, son of William Taylor and his first wife Margaret (nee Cunningham, eldest daughter of Hon. John Cunningham (q.v.)). The father was probably the William Taylor who was an apparently London-based partner of Hibbert, Taylors and Simpson until 1814.

  3. The will of his father William Taylor senior, proved in Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court in 1831 stated that the late John Cunningham Esquire of Jamaica made payment of £1500 to William Taylor senior to be paid to Taylor's children William Taylor junior and Elizabeth. Elizabeth now being dead, the whole benefit of Mr Cunningham's legacy was to be passed to William Taylor junior. William Taylor senior had made payment of £3000 to his son William Taylor junior "when he commenced his business some years ago". The balance of this sum was therefore to be £1500 after Mr Cunningham's legacy was taken into account and this balance was to be deducted from the share of Taylor's estate received by his son William junior: "This will put all my children on an equal footing as to the division of my own fortune." The father William Taylor senior had remarried, to Mary Burnside, in 1811, and had at least five further children baptised in Scotland between 1815 and 1825. William Taylor senior, of Troqueerholm, Kirkudbrightshire, died 16/07/1831.

  4. Likely to be the William Taylor associated 1816-1827 with Simpsons & Co. of Jamaica.

  5. William Taylor died in London 10/01/1845 and was buried in St Michael's, Dumfries. According to an obituary in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, "He resigned, at large pecuniary sacrifices, a lucrative business in which his father had established him in Kingston, and returned to Scotland a poorer man, because he would not partake in the shameful gains of slavery. His long and minute examinations before a Committee of the House of Commons on the subject of slavery; his calm and fearless denunciations of the system; and his unflinching statements of facts that himself was cognizant of, had much weight in their place; and were the means of introducing him to the acquaintance and respect of an extensive circle of the Christian philanthropy of his country..." According to this report, he was also in the Evangelical wing of the Church of Scotland and was a keen supporter of the Disruption of the Church in 1843 and advocate of the creation of the Free Church.


  1. Parliamentary Papers 1831-32 (721). Report from Select Committee on the Extinction of Slavery, qq. 1-10, p. 7. For the whole of Taylor's evidence see pp. 7-64. For reference to his uncle, see qq. 370-75, pp. 36-7; and for his relations and friends: qq. 639-40, p. 55.

  2. Familysearch.org, Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880 [database online].

  3. SC16/41/7 Dumfries Sherrif Court, Inventory and deeds of settlement of William Taylor Esquire of Troqueerholm, Kirkudbrightshire, who died 16/07/1831. His remarriage in 1811 to Mary Burnside and baptisms of children Mary Burnside (1815), George (1817), Ann Burnside (1820), Henry (1821) and James (1825) via https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk.

  4. London Gazette 17386 8/8/1818 p. 1424; London Gazette 19160 3/6/1834 p. 1006.

  5. Dumfries and Galloway Standard 22/01/1845.

We are grateful to Oliver Fowler for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

A will but no further details
Free Church of Scotland

Associated Estates (2)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1829 [SY] - 1831 [EY] → Attorney
1829 [SY] - 1831 [EY] → Attorney

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)


Relationships (5)

Grandson → Grandfather
Nephew → Uncle
Nephew → Uncle
Nephew → Uncle
Son → Father