Arthur William Hodge

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Arthur William Hodge (engraving).jpg

Arthur William Hodge (1763–1811) was a slave owner in the British Virgin Isles who became the only British subject to be executed for killing a slave.

On 2 October 1807, Prosper, one of Hodge's slaves, was accused of stealing a mango. Hodge told him that he would let him off if he payed him six shillings for the mango. When Prosper was only able to give him three shillings, he was held down by other slaves while Hodge flogged him with a cartwhip for over an hour. The next day Prosper failed to get any more money and Hodge flogged him again until he was unable to get up. Prosper died of his wounds thirteen days later.

Hodge got away with murder for three years until he was eventually indicted in an attempt to deter lawlessness. He then fled from his estates and was arrested by warrant. He was charged with the murder of Prosper, with testimony about Prosper's flogging given by a free woman of colour named Perreen Georges. Due to a lack of restrictions on similar-fact evidence, testimony was also delivered about Hodge's cruelty to his other slaves:

  • Hodge had ordered slaves to be flogged to death for fun.
  • Two female slaves on the plantation were killed when Hodge had boiling water poured down their throats.
  • Bella, Hodge's eight-year-old daughter by a female slave, was regularly kicked and beaten by him.
  • Hodge had enjoyed having his mulatto children's heads held underwater until they lost consciousness, then reviving them and repeating the process.
  • A ten-year-old slave boy had been dipped in boiling liquor until his skin peeled off.
  • According to witness Daniel Ross, Hodge had owned over 100 slaves on his plantation when he married his wife; by the time she died there weren't enough to dig her grave.
    • Another witness testified that in three years at least 60 of Hodge's slaves had died; only one of these deaths was of natural causes.

Hodge was eventually convicted of Prosper's murder. The jury recommended leniency on the grounds that Prosper was legally considered Hodge's property; the judge disagreed and sentenced him to death. Hodge was hanged on 8 May 1811.