Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hodge, Arthur

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HODGE, ARTHUR (d. 1811), West Indian planter, settled about 1792 in Tortola, the chief of the Virgin Islands in the West Indies. He occupied the estate of Bellevue, in the eastern part of the island. Though a man of quarrelsome character, he rose to be a member of council for the dependency of the Virgin Islands. In 1803 the negroes on his estate numbered 140, but in 1811 they numbered only thirty-five, and the diminution was attributed to Hodge's cruelties. Early in 1811 a free negro woman named Perreen Georges deposed before three justices of the peace for Tortola that from 1805 to 1807 she had been in occasional employment at Bellevue. During that period, she declared, three negroes named Tom Boiler, Prosper, and Cuffy had been flogged at Hodge's orders with such severity that they all died within a few days of their punishment. Two female slaves named Margaret and Else, accused, for no reason it seems, of trying to poison Hodge's children, had been murdered by having boiling water forced down their throats. Lastly, a child named Samson had been flayed alive by being dipped in a cauldron of scalding water. Astonished at this catalogue of horrors, the justices summoned before them one Stephen M'Keough, formerly overseer on Hodge's plantation, then resident in the Danish island of St. Croix. M'Keough not only corroborated Perreen's statements, but brought forward numerous additional charges of gross cruelty. The justices arrested and prosecuted Hodge on a charge of murder. Five distinct counts were stated in the indictment. The case of the negro Prosper was proceeded with first. The trial began on 29 April before a special court of oyer and terminer and gaol delivery, presided over by Mr. Hetherington. Perreen Georges and m'Keough gave evidence showing that Prosper, having been accused of pulling a mango from a tree, and being unable to find the six shillings which Hodge demanded as compensation, had been laid down and cart-whipped for the space of one hour; that the next day he had been tied to a tree and flogged ‘at short quarters,’ i.e. with a short-looped lash, till he fainted; that he had then been chained up with two other negroes; and that, while his comrades managed to escape, he himself crawled into a hut, where he died unattended. M'Keough declared that sometimes three or four negroes died in a single night. Among corroborative witnesses was Mrs. Rawbone, Hodge's sister. The defence tried in vain to discredit the witnesses, and appealed to the jury in the name of Hodge's young family. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty, and Hodge was sentenced to death. He spent the last days of his life in religious exercises, and suffered the extreme penalty of the law on 8 May 1811.

[Gent. Mag. 1811, pt. ii. 79; The Trial of Arthur Hodge … for the Murder of his Negro Slave named Prosper, stenographically taken by A. M. Belisario, 1811.]

G. P. M-y.