Arthur William Hodge
British Virgin Islands murderer
Arthur William Hodge
Arthur William Hodge was a plantation farmer, member of the Council and Legislative Assembly, and slave owner in the British Virgin Islands, who was hanged on 8 May 1811, for the murder of one of his slaves. He was the first West Indian slave owner to be executed for the murder of a slave considered his property, and perhaps the only British West Indian slave owner, or British subject, to be executed for murdering his slave.
Arthur William Hodge's personal information overview.
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  • 1811
    Age 48
    In 1811, Hodge was indicted for the murder of a single male slave, part of his estate, named Prosper.
    More Details Hide Details Restrictions on similar fact evidence were relatively casual in colonial courts, and much of the evidence seems to have focused upon acts of cruelty by Hodge towards slaves other than Prosper. Trial reports suggest that Hodge was a sadistic and disturbed man. During the trial, evidence was presented that Hodge caused the deaths of other slaves in his estate, including: Tom Boiler, Cuffy, Else, Jupiter, Margaret, and Simon Boiler. Three male slaves: Jupiter, Tom Boiler and his brother Simon Boiler, were whipped to death. Slaves Margaret and Else died after boiling water was poured down their throats. Evidence was presented that Hodge was cruel to child slaves, including his own offspring: Bella, a small mulatto girl of about 8 years of age, who was his offspring by his slave, Peggy; and that he held the heads of several mulatto children, possibly also sired by him, under water until they lost consciousness, then revived them, and repeated the process. Hodge previously had over 100 healthy negro slaves on his plantation, but when his wife died there were no longer enough slaves to dig a grave for her according to witness Daniel Ross.
    And finally, personal feuds may have played a role in indicting Hodge. William Cox Robertson was a young man who had returned to Tortola and become engaged in a three way exchange of insults between himself, Hodge and George Martin (Robertson's father may have been killed by Hodge in a duel).) During the series of arguments, Martin went to Hodge's house on 3 January 1811 "and there most wantonly insulted and assaulted him" according to court records, before doing the same thing to Robertson later that day.
    More Details Hide Details Hodge then made "half-uttered threats of calling him out", i.e. challenging him to a duel. Martin decided that "it better not to fight him, without first attempting to deliver himself from such a desperate enemy, by bringing him to public justice" since Hodge was known to be an excellent pistol shot and duelist. This may have started a chain of events that ultimately led to Hodge being arrested and tried for Prosper's death - not in the pursuit of justice after an atrocity, but because one man was afraid to duel against another. The ramifications of the execution of Hodge are difficult to gauge. Some historians suggest that the "case stirred up feverish feelings in the islands, and even echoed to the outside world... it was revolutionary for the times: this was an unprecedented trial, where a white man was proven guilty for the murder of a black man and sentenced to death." While the trial and execution may have shocked the slave-owning communities in the British West Indies, it does not appear to have had any immediate effect other than that on Hodge's plantation. There may have been other slave owners in the British West Indies who were as cruel as Hodge, but there does not seem to have been a move to put them on trial. And white slave owners do not appear to have voluntarily moderated their treatment of their black slaves after the trial.
    Hodge was not indicted for three years, until 11 March 1811.
    More Details Hide Details He then fled from his estates and was arrested by warrant. The evidence against Hodge was strong and credible, and Hodge's defence was weak. The two strongest prosecution witnesses were Stephen McKeough, a white man who inspected the Hodge estate, and Perreen Georges. Hodge tried to discredit them by alleging that McKeough was a drunk, and Georges was a thief. Hodge did not try to impeach the reputation of the third prosecution witness, Daniel Ross, a Justice of the Peace. Hodge called his sister, Penelope, and a witness described as an "old black woman" to give testimony to his innocence, but reports suggest that their evidence was not regarded as credible. As is customary in common law legal systems, the defendant was allowed to address the jury before they retired to consider their verdict, and Hodge said this:
  • 1763
    Age 0
    Born in 1763.
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