Arthur William Hodge was a plantation farmer and notoriously cruel slave owner in the British Virgin Islands, who was hanged in 1811 for the murder of one of his slaves.
During the trial, reports revealed that prosper was not the first of Hodge’s slaves who had been beaten to death.
Evidence was also presented that Hodge caused the deaths of other slaves in his estate, some he whipped to death others he killed by pouring boiling water down their throats.
Evidence was also presented that Hodge was cruel to child slaves, including his own offspring: Bella, a small girl of about 8 years of age, who was his offspring by his slave.
The Crime and Trial
The assaults took place on 2 October 1807, when Hodge flogged his slave prosper for not been able to cough out 6 shillings for a mango he had been tasked with watching which hung on his master’s tree. He was to let nothing happen to the mango. Most of all, Prosper was not to let it fall to the ground. But it did fall and when he couldn’t pay the 6 shillings Hodge demanded for as punishment for letting the mango fall he was whipped by Hodge himself.
Thirteen days later, on 15 October 1807, Prosper died of his wounds. Hodge was not indicted for three years, until 11 March 1811. He then fled from his estates and was arrested by warrant.
The main evidence given at the trial relating to the death of Prosper was given by Perreen Georges, a free black woman. Below was her testimony:
“I was present when he [Prosper] was laid down and flogged for a mango which dropt off a tree, and which Mr Hodge said he should pay six shillings for; he had not the money and came to borrow it of me, I had no more than three shillings; he said to his master that he had no more money; his master said he would flog him if he did not bring it; he was laid down and held by four negroes, on his face and belly, and flogged with a cartwhip; he was under the last better than an hour; he then got up and was carried up to the hill; and his master said he should be flogged again if he did not bring the other three shillings; he was tied to a tree the next day; and the flogging was repeated; he was licked so long that his head fell back, and he could not bawl out any longer; I supposed he was faint; I then went from the window, as I could not bear to see any more of it.”
During his unsuccessful bail application, Hodge’s counsel argued that “A Negro being property, it was no greater offence for his master to kill him than it would be to kill his dog,” but the court did not accept the submission.
Hodge was pronounced guilty and was hung in front of thousands on may 16, 1811.
Hodge was defiant to the end and held that he was justified in his actions because the whole lot of his slaves were just unruly and insubordinate. Hodge blamed the slaves themselves for running away after they were whipped. He maintained that they caused their own deaths by letting their wounds be exposed.
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