How The Zenger Trial Played Out

For those who weren't following it from the beginning

New York, 1735

Newspaper Printer arrested

New York printer John Peter Zenger has been accused of Libel for pieces printed in his publication, The New York Weekly Journal. The publication has been attacking royal governor William Cosby and his conduct. Zenger did not write the pieces, but the authors write under pseudonyms. Zenger refuses to name the people behind the actual pieces. He has been publishing The New York Weekly Journal since 1733. There have been multiple charges against him over his printings, but each time, the grand jury returned no indictments. He was not arrested until this past Wednesday, the seventeenth of November. He is now in the city jail awaiting trial.

Andrew Hamilton Representing John Peter Zenger in Libel Trial

John Peter Zenger, the printer who was arrested for printing seditious libel is now on trial. He was arrested in November and has been in jail for more than eight months. Now he is being brought before a judge and jury to be tried for printing information in opposition of the government. He is being defended by Andrew Hamilton, a very prominent lawyer from Pennsylvania. Neither of the two are refuting the fact that Zenger published the pieces, but instead argue that the pieces can not be considered libelous. The pieces in question have been criticizing Governor Cosby and his conduct almost since he was first appointed. They were printed in Zenger's business on Smith street, which he opened after leaving his partnership with William Bradford. Bradford is a well known supporter of Governor Cosby.

Jury Finds Zenger Not Guilty

There has been a thrilling ending to the libel trial of John Peter Zenger. He has been represented in court by Andrew Hamilton, who insisted that the pieces Zenger published can not be considered libel. The pieces openly criticized royal governor Cosby for years, but Hamilton insists they printed only the truth and therefor are not libelous. Although the Judge told the jury that Zenger was to be found guilty for printing regardless of truth, Zenger was found not guilty. This might be because of an appeal that Hamilton made to the jury in which he very eloquently told them that it wasn't just the fate of Zenger that was at stake. Hamilton insisted to the jury that it was "the very liberty of both exposing and opposing arbitrary power" at stake. The jury did not take very long before they returned and announced that Zenger was found not guilty.