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Zenger, John P. (1697-1746) New-York weekly journal. [Vol. 933, no. 88 (July 14, 1735)]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06108.04 Author/Creator: Zenger, John P. (1697-1746) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Newspaper Date: 14 July 1735 Pagination: 4 p. ; 28 x 18 cm.

Summary of Content: Published three weeks before Zenger's trial. Argues that resistance is necessary in order to preserve and protect man's natural right to equity and self-preservation. Warns against submission to corrupt powers and those who consider themselves above the law. Announces the murder of Capt. Christopher Brooks at the hands of his crew members and consequently the takeover of the ship by Boatswain Robert Anderson. Includes an update on the War of the Polish Succession. In addition to the editorial, the journal also includes a section on foreign affairs with an update on the War of the Polish Succession, New York customs house arrival and departures, and advertisements. There is no designated New York news section in this issue.

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
Brooks, Christopher, d. 1735
Boatswain, Robert Anderson, fl. 1730-1735

Historical Era: Colonization and Settlement, 1585-1763

Subjects: Civil RightsJournalismGovernment and CivicsCorruption and ScandalMutinyMaritimeGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsMilitary History

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