8 May 1811 – Arthur William Hodge

Slave driver Arthur William Hodge was executed in the British Virgin Islands for murdering one of his slaves. In a ground-breaking case, he became the first British person to be executed for killing a black slave, according to John Andrew in his book, ‘The Hanging of Arthur Hodge’.

An Englishman who’d relocated to the Caribbean island treated a negro slave with such inhumanity that he even alienated his peers. And for that he was hanged as an example to all to ensure no slaves were treated with such depravity. Or maybe he was executed to appease the slaves – after all, dissent was growing in an age of abolition. Trade in slavery was halted in 1807 and the years of owning slaves were numbered.

On the lash

Whatever the reasoning, the case against Hodge was particularly despicable. It turns out that a slave by the name of Prosper was set to watch a mango tree. Apparently the slave had missed the fact that a mango had fallen, so the forfeit was six shillings. He tried to borrow it from a woman who came to the estate’s laundry, but she only had three shillings on her. Unable to pay the money, Prosper was given 100 lashes. Hodge then demanded that the slave bring the remaining three shillings the next day or the same fate awaited him.

Naturally, the slave was unable to pay, so he received more of the same. Prosper was then incarcerated – literally tied to two other slaves for five days. The two others managed to free themselves and make off, but he was way too weak. Instead he slunk away to the slave lodgings where he was slowly eaten to death from the outside in.

Eaten alive

When they found Prosper, his back was raw and bereft of skin. His other wounds were weeping and seething with a maggoty infestation.

Of course, the spineless turd who’d sanctioned the punishment fled knowing that this was a step too far. But with a warrant out for Hodge, he was soon apprehended.

Once in custody his lawyers had the gaul to appeal for bail – the defence: ‘A Negro being property, it was no greater offense (sic) for his master to kill him than it would be to kill his dog.’
Prosper was the last in a whole line of slaves who’d died under Hodge’s control and his evil wrongdoings were so well-known that witnesses were only too happy to testify against him.
One was a white estate inspector and the other, Prosper’s three-shilling saviour – the laundry woman. The snivelling slave owner tried to discredit them, but when a respected justice of the peace stood up in opposition, Hodge could say and do nothing in his own defence.

So Hodge was gallows bound on this day in 1811, aged roughly 48, much to the satisfaction of the islanders. The case caught the attention of many and news even travelled as far as England. The inhumane treatment of slaves came under even closer scrutiny and helped pave the path towards abolition when, in 1834, slaves in the area were finally freed.

Also on this day

8 May 1909 – William Joseh Foy
8 May 1951 – James Inglis

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