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Zenger, John P. (1697-1746) New-York weekly journal. [Vol. 932, no. 9 (December 31, 1733)]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06108.01 Author/Creator: Zenger, John P. (1697-1746) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Newspaper Date: 31 December 1733 Pagination: 4 p. ; 28 x 18 cm.

Summary of Content: Argues that reverence should be paid only to those who are worthy of it, regardless of rank and social status. States that men in high offices and with good titles (such as bishops or lords) should not be respected if their actions are unworthy of their office or title. Includes a foreign affairs section which reports the death of Major John Cornforth, the French siege of Luxembourg, and updates on the War of Polish Succession. Also includes sections 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: Government and CivicsGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsMilitary HistoryMorality and Ethics

Sub Era:

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