British Executions

William Hodge

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 8 May 1811

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



One of the Members of his Majesty's Council in Tortola, an Island subject to Great Britain, in the West Indies, executed there on the 8th of May, 1811, for the Murder of his Negro Slave

   WE believe that this is the first Englishman, at any rate since the late amelioration of their wretched condition, who suffered capital punishment for flogging his own slaves to death; but we are very sure that numbers as well French, Spaniards, Dutch, Portuguese, and above all, Americans have deserved the fate of Hodge, for barbarity to their fellow men, differing in nought but colour.

   The greater part of Englishmen, while drinking grog, or quaffing the fumes of best Virginia; or their wives and daughters in sipping their tea, know not by what base means, rum, sugar, and tobacco are imported into their country. The case before us affords an opportunity of throwing some light upon the dark subject of bringing to public view a long continued series of barbarity of burdens not fit for beasts to bear of whips and chains that overpower the frailer flesh, and bend the spirits down of deliberate, cruel, wanton, and unpunished murders.

   The brutal murder for which Mr Hodge suffered death, caused further investigations to be made in other West India islands; and which, at length, reached the government of the mother country. This produced a correspondence between the earl of Liverpool and governor Elliot, from which we shall select the first official document laid before a committee of the house of commons, exhibiting similar scenes of barbarity in another island.


Published by the Authority of the Assembly of the Island of Nevis

   NEVIS. -- At a meeting of the gentlemen of the assembly at Charlestown, on Wednesday the 31st day of January, 1810; the following resolutions were entered into:--

   Resolved, That it is the opinion of this house, that the conduct of Edward Huggins, sen. Esq. on Tuesday the 23rd of last month, in inflicting punishment on several of his negroes in the public market-place of this town, was both cruel and illegal; and that particularly in two cases, where two hundred and forty-two, and two hundred and ninety-one lashes were given, he was guilty of an act of barbarity altogether unprecedented in this island. That this House do hold such conduct in the utmost abhorrence and detestation, which sentiments perfectly accord with the feelings of the community in general. That this House do pledge themselves to promote the strictest investigation into this cruel proceeding, so disgraceful to humanity, so injurious to the fair character of the inhabitants, and so destructive of the best interests of the West India colonies.

   Resolved, That the above resolutions, with the evidence taken in support thereof, be printed. That copies be transmitted to England, and circulated through all the islands.

   The examination of John Burke, jun. deputy secretary of the said island, upon oath, saith, that on Tuesday, the 23rd Jan. 1810, he was standing in the street opposite the house of the Rev. William Green; when he saw Edward Huggins, sen. Esq. and his two sons, Edward and Peter Thomas Huggins, ride by, with a gang of negroes, to the public market-place; from whence the deponent heard the noise of the cart-whip; that deponent walked up the street, and saw Mr Huggins, sen. standing by, with two drivers flogging a negro-man, whose name deponent understood to be Yellow Quashy. That deponent went into Dr. Crosse's gallery, and sat down: that two drivers continued flogging the said negro-man for about fifteen minutes: that as he appeared to be severely whipped deponent was induced to count the lashes given the other negroes, being under an impression that the country would take up the business. That deponent heard Mr George Abbot declare, at Dr. Crosse's steps, near the market-place, that the first negro had received one hundred and sixty-five lashes: deponent saith, that Mr Huggins, sen. gave another negro-man one hundred and fifteen lashes; to another negro-man one hundred and sixty-five lashes; to another negro-man two hundred and twelve lashes; to another negro-man one hundred and eighty-one lashes; to a woman one hundred and ten lashes: to another woman fifty-eight lashes: to another woman ninety-seven lashes; to another woman two hundred and twelve lashes; and, that the woman who received two hundred and ninety-one lashes appeared young, and was most cruelly flogged. That all the negroes were flogged by two expert whippers: that Mr Edward Huggins, jun. and Mr Peter Huggins, were present at the time the negroes were punished: that Dr. Cassin was present, when some of the negroes were whipped, and when a man received two hundred and forty-two lashes. That deponent understood that Dr. Cassin was sent for by Mr Huggins, sen. That Edward Harris, Esq., Mr Peter Butler, and Dr. Crosse, were present at Dr. Crosse's house a part of the time during the punishment: and that Mr Joseph Nicholson, Mr Joseph Laurence, and Mr William Keepe, were present all the time.
   Sworn before me, this 31st Jan., 1810, at the Secretary's office.---

   A bill of indictment having been preferred against the said Mr Huggins, in consequence of one of the female slaves, he was acquitted, on which occasion Mr J. W. Tobin addressed an animated letter to the governor, asserting that the jury was packed; and, that their verdict excited the surprise and indignation of the respectable part of the community.

   In the letter of lord Liverpool to the governor, after adverting to the heinousness of the transaction, he says, 'I am commanded by his Royal Highness the Prince Regent to direct that you will remove from that honourable situation any magistrate or magistrates who actually witnessed the infliction of the punishment without interference; and, that he cannot receive from the council and assembly of the Virgin Islands a more flattering assurance of their regard to the wishes of their sovereign, and of the interest they feel in supporting the honour of the British name, than their anxious endeavours to ameliorate the condition of that class of beings, whose bitter and dependant lot entitles them to every protection and support.'

   Let us now bring forward the narration of an individual, on the sufferings of African slaves in the British West India Islands.

   The following are extracts from a work lately published by Dr. Pinckard, inspector-general of hospitals, and physician to the Bloomsbury dispensary, intituled, 'Notes on the West Indies': -- The facts took place at an English plantation in Demerara, where the doctor was stationed himself at the time.

   'Two unhappy negroes, a man and a woman, having been driven by cruel treatment to abscond from the plantation of Lancaster, were taken a few days since, and brought back to the estate, when the manager, whose inhuman severity had caused them to fly from his tyrannic government, dealt out to them his avenging despotism with more than savage brutality. Taking with him two of the strongest drivers, armed with the heaviest whips, he led these trembling and wretched Africans early in the morning, to a remote part of the estate, too distant for the officers to hear their cries; and there tying down first the man, be stood by, and made the drivers flog him with many hundred lashes, until on releasing him from the ground, it was discovered that he was nearly exhausted: and in this state the inhuman monster struck him with the butt end of a large whip and felled him to the earth; when the poor negro, escaping at once from his slavery and his sufferings, expired at the murderer's feet. But not satiated with blood, this savage tyrant next tied down the naked woman, on the spot by the dead body of her husband, and with the whips, already dyed with blood, compelled the drivers to inflict a punishment of several hundred lashes, which had nearly released her also from a life of toil and torture.

   'Hearing of these acts of cruelty, on my return from the hospital, and scarcely believing it possible that they could have been committed, I went immediately to the sick-house to satisfy myself by ocular testimony; when, alas! I discovered that all I had heard was too fatally true: for, shocking to relate, I found the wretched and almost murdered woman lying stark naked on her belly, upon the dirty boards, without any covering to the horrid wounds which had been cut by the whips, with the still warm and bloody corpse of the man extended at her side, upon the neck of which was an iron collar, and a long heavy chain, which the now murdered negro had been made to wear from the time of his return to the estate.

   'A few days after the funeral, the attorney of the estate happened to call at Lancaster, to visit the officers, and the conversation naturally turning upon the cruelty of the manager, and the consequent injury derived to the proprietors we asked him what punishment the laws of the colony had provided for such horrid and barbarous crimes; expressing our hope that the manager would suffer the disgrace he so justly merited! when to our great surprise the attorney smiled, and treated our remarks only as the dreams of men unpractised in the ways of slavery. He spake of the murder with as little feeling as the manager who had perpetrated it, and seemed to be amused at our visionary ideas of punishing a white man for his cruel treatment of slaves.

   'To the question, whether the manager would not be dismissed from the estate? be replied "Certainly not;" adding, "that if the negro had been treated as he deserved, he would have been flogged to death long before." Such was the amount of his sympathy and concern! "The laws of the country," he said, "were intended to punish any person for punishing a slave with more than 39 lashes for the same offence; but by incurring only a small fine he could at any time punish a negro with as many hundred lashes as he might wish, although the governor and the fiscal were standing at his elbow."   'Great wretchedness is occasioned at slave sales, by the separation of their friends and relatives. This dreadful and inherent feature of the traffic has not perhaps, been sufficiently attended to. The following description of a mother who was exhibited at a sale, with her son and three daughters, furnishes an instance:   'The fears of the parent, lest she should be separated from her children, or these from each other, were anxious and watchful, beyond all that imagination could paint, or the most vivid fancy portray. When anyone approached their little group, or advanced to look towards them with the attentive eye of a purchaser, the children in broken sobs, crouched nearer together, and the fearful mother in agonizing impulse, instantly fell down before the spectator, bowed herself to the earth, and kissed his feet; then alternately clinging to his legs, and pressing her children to her bosom, she fixed herself upon her knees, clasped her hands together, and in anguish cast up a look of humble petition, which might have found its way even to the heart of a Caligula; and thus, in Nature's truest language, did the afflicted parent urge the strongest appeal to his compassion, while she implored the purchaser, in dealing out to her the hard lot of slavery, to spare her the additional pang of being torn from her children.'

   Though Dr. Pinckard was always well received by the planters lived in their society on a footing of the closest intimacy was a witness of all the good as well as the evil of their manners and is, in every respect, most naturally and properly inclined to vindicate them, where truth will permit; yet his whole volumes, abounding in every species of information, containing all the results of his attentive, unwearied observations on the state of the slaves, as well as of the colonies in general, do not offer to the most attentive perusal one single fact or circumstance, approaching to a defence of the evil so often imputed to the slave trade. Their whole compass offers not a line to contradict, nor even in any degree to weaken the mass of evidence upon which former writers on colonial affairs have long denounced that detestable enormity. On the contrary, he furnishes, almost in every page, new examples of its evils, and new grounds for its abolition.

   But let us now turn to charges of an American writer upon his own countrymen; and see whether we cannot find, if possible, still greater cruelties inflicted upon their own slaves, in their own boasted land of liberty.

   Mr John Parrish, an American born citizen and an en lightened Quaker, in a pamphlet published in Philadelphia, 1806, by Kimber, Conrad, and Co. (who have correspondents in London) says:--

   'There is a species of slave trade carried on in the United States, which in cruelty equals that in the West Indies. A class of men whose minds seem to have become almost callous to every tender feeling, having agents in various places suited to their purpose, who travel through different states, and by purchase or otherwise, procure considerable numbers of these people, which consequently occasions a separation of the nearest connexions in life. Husbands from wives and parents from children -- the poignant sensations marked on their mournful countenances disregarded -- are taken in droves through the country like herds of cattle, but with less commiseration; for, being chained or otherwise fettered, the weight and friction of their shackles naturally producing much soreness and pain, they are greatly incommoded in their travel. Jails, designed for the security of such as have forfeited their liberty by a breach of the laws, are, through the countenance of some of the magistracy, made receptacles for this kind of merchandize; and when opportunity presents for moving them further, it is generally in the dead of night, that their cries might not be heard, nor legal methods pursued, such as have been kidnapped. Others are chained in the garrets or cellars of private houses till the numbers becoming nearly equal to the success which may have been expected, they are then conveyed on board, and crowded under the hatches of vessels secretly stationed for that purpose, and thus transported to Petersburg in Virginia, or such other parts as will insure the best market, and many are marched by land to unknown destined places.

   'The evidence of a free African will not be taken against a white man; and, therefore, he may go unpunished.

   'Many of the people of colour, who had fled to prevent their being sold to southern traders, have, by authority of the fugitive law, been pursued, brought back, and sold to men of this description; and, as government has refused to afford them any redress, to God only could they look for support.

   'In some places, cognizance is taken of murder, long after the perpetration. In Great Britain, the governor of Goree, in Africa, for ordering a soldier to be illegally whipped, which occasioned his death, was tried and executed fifteen or twenty years afterwards. How have the coloured people's lives been sported with in some parts of the United States! Numbers have been whipped to death, and otherwise murdered, and little or no notice taken, in a judicial capacity. It was reported, from good authority, that a black man who was sold from near Snow-hill, in Maryland, to a distant part of the continent, returned back, and lay out of doors. Being accused of stealing from his neighbours, he was pursued, taken, and brought into the village one morning, and there hung without judge or jury; of which no more notice was taken than if they had hung a dog!

   'It was a just observation of Thomas Jefferson (late President of the United States), that the whole commerce between master and slave is one perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions on the one part, and degrading submission on the other.

   'Many instances have occurred, and some of a recent date, where the slaves have rather chosen death, than to remain in a state of bondage liable to be separated from all that is dear to them.

   'When I was travelling through North Carolina, a black man who was outlawed, being shot by one of his pursuers, and left wounded in the woods, they came to the ordinary where I had stopped to bait my horse, in order to procure a cart to bring the poor wretched object in. Another, I was credibly informed, was shot, his head cut off and carried in a bag by the perpetrators of the murder, who received the reward, which was said to have been two hundred dollars, and that the head was stuck on a coal house at an iron works in Virginia. His crime was going, without leave, to visit his wife who was in slavery at some distance. One Crawford gives an account of a black man being gibbeted alive in South Carolina, and the buzzards came and picked out his eyes. Another was burnt at the stake in Charlestown, in the same state, surrounded by a multitude of spectators, some of whom were people of the first rank; the poor object was heard to cry, "Not guilty, not guilty."

   'From a recent account, published in the American Daily Advertiser, by a person who had taken a tour along the eastern shore of Maryland, it appears that from that side of the bay only, there were not less than six hundred blacks carded off in six months by the Georgia men, or southern traders. In the state of Maryland there is the greatest market, or inland trade, of the human species of any part of the United States. Some of the agents of those southern traders are so hardy as to publish advertisements of their readiness to purchase these kinds of cargo, which they effect in various ways; frequently by purchases made so secretly, that the poor blacks when engaged at their meals, or occupied in some domestic concerns, not having the least intimation of the design, are suddenly seized, bound, and carried off, either to some place provided for the purpose, or immediately on board the vessel. Many are obtained by kidnapping, until the whole supply is completed.

   'I have heard some men in eminent stations say, "The country must be thinned of these people (the blacks) they must be got rid of at any rate." Some from embarrassed circumstances have made sale of these wretched objects, who, being fallen upon unawares, were handcuffed and sent afar off, which has struck such a terror to other slaves, who would otherwise have remained with their masters that they have run away. A man and his wife on the same shore of Maryland, being thus circumstanced, fled under such alarm, that the woman left behind her sucking child. After they were taken, I met them, coupled together in irons, and drove along the road like brute beasts, by two rough unfeeling white men. When I was in Maryland, a minister of the gospel took some black children away from their parents, amid the screams of the mothers, never to meet again!'

   This wretched race of men, both in the West India islands, and United States of America, are bought and sold, exactly as we sell our horses, oxen, sheep, and swine. Planters, who are to a man gamblers, will stake a negro on the turn of a card, or the cast of the dice; or barter them for a horse, cattle, or a piece of land. They are put up in lots at auction, as we sell horses, and carried hundreds of miles, from the place where they were born. On the death of their master they are sold, along with the quadruped stock of the estate, to the best bidder, as the following advertisement, taken from a paper printed in the very town where general Washington was born, will fully prove.



All the Personal Properly belonging to his Estate:

Consisting of about One Hundred and Sixty


   Together with all the stock of horses, three mules, cattle, sheep, plantation utensils, and about 1000 barrels of corn. Amongst the negroes are seven very valuable carpenters, three excellent blacksmiths, two millers, and some other tradesmen. The greater part, if not the whole, of this valuable property, will be sold on a credit of 12 months; the purchaser giving bond with approved security, to bear interest from the date, if not punctually paid. All sums under 20 dollars must be paid money.

   All persons having claims against said estate, will please to make them known as speedily as possible; and those indebted will, it is hoped, be forward in making payment to
   ROBERT PATTON, Administrator with the will annexed.

   Fredericksburgh, Virginia, Dec. 1, 1806

   The sum of these doleful tales is the case of Hodge, who, for his wickedness to his slaves, expiated his crimes by the hands of the executioner; unpitied by the whites, and execrated by the blacks of Tortola.

   The Hon. A. W. Hodge, Esq., proprietor, and one of the members of his Majesty's council in this island, was indicted for the murder of one of his own negroes, of the name of Prosper.

   The prisoner on his trial, being put to the bar, pleaded 'Not guilty'. The first witness called to prove the charge was a free woman of colour, of the name of Pareen Georges. She stated that she was in the habit of attending at Mr Hodge's estate to wash linen; that one day Prosper came to her to borrow 6s., being the sum that his master required of him, because a mango had fallen from a tree, which (he) Prosper was set to watch. He told the witness that he must either find the 6s. or be flogged; that the witness had only 3s. which she gave him, but that it did not appease Mr Hodge: that Prosper was flogged for upwards of an hour, receiving more than 100 lashes, and threatened by his master, that if he did not bring the remaining 3s. on the next day, the flogging should be repeated; that the next day he was tied to a tree, and flogged for such a length of time, with the thong of the whip doubled, that his head fell back, and that he could bawl no more. From thence he was carried to the sick-house, and chained to two other negroes: that he remained in this confinement during five days, at the end of which time his companions broke away, and thereby released him; that he was unable to abscond; that he went to the negro-houses and shut himself up; that he was found there dead, and in a state of putrefaction, some days afterwards; that crawlers were found in his wounds, and not a piece of black flesh was to be seen on the hinder part of his body where he had been flogged.   Stephen M'Keogh, a white man, who had lived as manager on Mr Hodge's estate, deposed, that he saw the deceased, Prosper, after he had been so severely flogged; that he could put his finger in his side; he saw him some days before his death in a cruel state; he could not go near him for the blue flies. Mr Hodge had told the witness, while he was in his employ, that if the work of the estate was not done, he was satisfied if he heard the whip.

   This was the evidence against the prisoner. His counsel, in their attempt to impeach the veracity of the witnesses, called evidence as to his general character, which disclosed instances of still greater barbarity on the part of Mr Hodge. Among other examples, the witness, Pareen Georges, swore that he had occasioned the death of his cook, named Margaret, by pouring boiling water down her throat.

   Before the jury retired, the prisoner addressed them as follows: -- 'Gentlemen, as bad as I have been represented, or as bad as you may think me, I assure you, that I feel support in my affliction from entertaining a proper sense of religion. As all men are subject to wrong, I cannot but say that that principle is likewise inherent in me. I acknowledge myself guilty in regard to many of my slaves; but I call God to witness my innocence in respect to the murder of Prosper. I am sensible that the country thirsts for my blood, and I am ready to sacrifice it.'

   The jury, after deliberation, brought in a verdict of Guilty. There were six other indictments on similar charges against the prisoner.

   After, as well as previous to, his condemnation, and to the last moment of his life, Mr Hodge persisted in his innocence of the crime for which he was about to suffer. He acknowledged that he had been a cruel master (which, as he afterwards said, was all he meant in his admission to the jury, of his guilt in regard to others of his slaves); that he had repeatedly flogged his negroes; that they had then run away, when, by their own neglect, and the consequent exposure of their wounds, the death of some of them had possibly ensued. He denied all intentions of causing the death of anyone, and pleaded the unruly and insubordinate disposition of his whole gang as the motive for his severity. These were the sentiments in which he died.

   The execution of this ruffian will, we trust, be the commencement of a system of milder treatment towards those unfortunate beings, denominated slaves, in the West Indies. The atrocities committed by that fellow on his slaves, present a melancholy picture of the state of manners prevalent amongst the West Indian planters, and shew how inhuman that practice was which allowed persons of their description to exercise an uncontrolled power over their fellow-creatures.