Remarks on Mr. Tremlett's Letter to Archdeacon Sleech: By John Andrew, M.D.

J. Spencer



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J. Spencer
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Dec 31, 1763
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John Andrew
The Hanging of Arthur Hodge-A Caribbean Anti-Slavery Milestone - selected for the Best Non-Fiction Book Award by The Sacramento Publishers Association - is a study of slavery in the British West Indies during the half-century before Parliament´s 1834 decision to emancipate the slaves. Its focus is on the crimes, trial and execution of Arthur Hodge, a prominent Virgin Islands planter and politician whose unprecedented hanging for the murder of Prosper, one of his own slaves, was to rouse the British anti-slavery movement from the contentment it was enjoying following the abolition of the slave trade and help direct its efforts toward the ultimate emancipation of the slaves throughout the British Empire. The life, trial and execution of Arthur Hodge is a story of great interest in its own right, but that story is also important because it was truly a milestone on the road to the end of slavery in the British Empire.

Arthur Hodge was a dominant figure in the Virgin Islands in the early 1800s. Born in the islands, he studied at Oxford and later served in the British army. His wife was a sister-in-law of the Marquess of Exeter. He was described as a man of great accomplishments and elegant manners. But evidence presented during his trial revealed another side of his character. Between 1803 and 1808 Hodge had murdered as many as sixty - or one-half - of the slaves who labored on his Tortola plantation. They died by whipping, scalding and having boiling water poured down their throats.

Although Hodge´s treatment of his slaves was common knowledge, he was only brought to trial several years after the killings as a consequence of a political and personal dispute. Hodge was found guilty of murder by a local jury and - when the Governor of the Leeward Islands chose to ignore the jury´s recommendation of leniency -became the only slave owner in the history of the British West Indies to be executed for the murder of one of his own slaves.

Hodge´s character contrasted sharply with that of his chief prosecutor, Governor Hugh Elliot, a noted diplomat and a supporter of the anti-slavery forces in Great Britain whose brother, the Earl of Minto, was currently Viceroy of India and whose brother-in-law, Lord Auckland, had - four years before - carried the bill ending the slave trade in the House of Lords.

The hanging of Arthur Hodge caused a sensation and transcripts of his trial were published in both Great Britain and the United States. The news helped to revitalize the anti-slavery forces, playing an important role in the debates leading to the establishment of slave registries and the accountability they implied throughout the Caribbean colonies.

After a brief introduction which concludes with the language of the indictment issued against Hodge and his counsel´s response that "A Negro being property, it was no greater offense for his master to kill him than it would be to kill his dog," the book opens with a short history of the settlement of the Virgin Islands and descriptions - from contemporary sources - of the lives of plantation owners and of their slaves. Included are personal descriptions of enslavement in Africa, the Middle Passage, the work and recreation of the slaves, their religious beliefs and the brutalities which some of them endured. The following chapters contain biographies of Hodge and Elliot and a recapitulation of the events which led to Hodges indictment and trial. Original transcripts and reports were used as the basis for the report of the trial and execution. The book concludes with a discussion of the effects of the Hodge affair on the anti-slavery movement and capsule descriptions of the subsequent careers some of those involved. (Governor Elliot later served in India as Governor of Madras and is buried in Westminster Abbey).

The work is based upon original and other contemporary sources, including both the published and official manuscript transcripts of Hodge´s trial and Governor Ell

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