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Zenger, John P. (1697-1746) New-York weekly journal. [Vol. 933, no. 96 (September 8, 1735)]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05676 Author/Creator: Zenger, John P. (1697-1746) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Newspaper Date: 8 September 1735 Pagination: 4 p. ; 29 x 17 cm.

Summary of Content: Published one month after Zenger's acquittal. Complains that the magistrate has no right over nor should intrude in the private lives of citizens. Argues that by liberty and natural right, men are entitled to govern over their own private affairs, have freedom of thought, and "carry his own conscience." Includes a foreign affairs section where updates on the War of Polish Succession are reported. Also includes a section for New York news, entries and departures of the New York customs house and advertisements.

Background Information: German-born printer John Peter Zenger emigrated to America in 1710 and became an apprentice in the printing office of William Bradford the elder. On 5 November, 1733, Zenger began publishing the "New York ...Weekly Journal" which became the organ of the party that was opposed to the provincial governor. Its lampoons severely attacked the government and greatly contributed toward the loosening of bonds between England and the colonies. Zenger's subsequent trial- and acquittal-on charges of libel has been termed "the morning star of that liberty which subsequently revolutionized America." In October of 1734, New York governor William Cosby ordered his chief justice to charge the Journal with libel; twice however, the grand jury refused to return indictments, citing a lack of evidence regarding the identity of the author of the libels. The governor then ordered the hangman to burn the offending papers in the presence of the mayor and magistrates. Unable to prosecute the likely author of the libels, his opponent James Alexander, Cosby had a bench order issued for Zenger's arrest, and on 17 November 1734 the printer was imprisoned for " printing and publishing several seditious libels." Zenger's friends employed Andrew Hamilton, the original " Philadelphia lawyer," to defend him. As the case revolved around freedom of the press in America, all the central colonies regarded the controversy as their own. At trial Hamilton justified Zenger's publication by asserting its truth. " You cannot be permitted," the chief justice interrupted, " to give the truth of libel in evidence." "Then," Hamilton aid to the jury, "we appeal to you for witnesses of the facts. the jury have a right to determine both the law and the fact, and they ought to do so. The question before you is not the cause of a poor printer, not of New York alone; it is the cause of liberty, the liberty of opposing arbitrary power by speaking and writing truth." On 4 August 1735, the jury returned a "not guilty" verdict and Zenger, released from his 35-week imprisonment, was received with tumultuous applause. After his death, Zenger's widow and son John conducted the Journal until 1752.See More

People: Zenger, John Peter, 1697-1746

Historical Era: Colonization and Settlement, 1585-1763

Subjects: Civil RightsJudiciaryJournalismGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsMilitary History

Sub Era:

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