The Zenger Trial

"The Germ of American Freedom"

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John Peter Zenger

-german immigrant

-printer (publisher) of New York Weekly Journal (New York Gazette)

What Happened

Accusations From Royal Governor William S. Cosby

-Zenger's newspaper writers published critical opinions of the corrupt actions of Cosby

-Cosby accuses them of seditious libel

-Zenger, the publisher, was blamed.

-He refused to give up the names of the authors of the articles (who were anonymous)

-no publisher=no paper

Seditious Libel

"intentional publication, without lawful excuse or justification, of written blame of any public man or of the law, or any institution established by the law"

translation

saying bad things about a political figure

Things Cosby was Criticized of

  • rigging elections
  • allowing the French into the harbor
  • assortment of crimes and stupidity

Cosby Strikes

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Cosby Uses Censorship

-asked a hangman to burn the newspaper publically

  • hangman did not

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Cosby Uses an Information

Information: unpopular legal procedure without a grand jury

Cosby Uses Allies

  • Chief Judge James De Lancey
  • Justice Frederick Phillipse
Orders a warrant for the arrest of Zenger

The Arrest of John Peter Zenger

Wednesday, Nov. 17th 1734 at 12am

New York, NY, United States

New York, NY

The sheriff arrested John Peter Zenger

  • taken to New York's Old City Jail

"It is not the cause of the poor printer, nor of New York alone, which you are now trying....It may, in its consequence, affect every freeman that lives under a British government on the man of America.

-Hamilton

source: constitution.org/primarysources/zenger.html

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Zenger's Attorneys Help

  • James Alexander and William Smith
seek habeas corpus for Zenger

Habeas Corpus:

legal action where people in jail awaiting trial are brought before a judge because of unlawful imprisonment

Zenger's Hearing

Wednesday, Nov. 17th 1734 at 12am

New York, NY, United States

New York, NY

Chief Justice De Lancey sets bail too high

Zenger returns to jail

Zenger's Arraignment

Arraignment: the formal reading of criminal charges before a defended

The judges were challenged because of their ties to Cosby

A judge that wasn't an ally to Cosby had been removed in 1733

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New Legal Representations

Cosby revokes the ability for Zenger's attorneys to practice law.

April 16, 1735

New lawyer is John Chambers

Chambers Helps

Though loyal to Cosby, is a good lawyer for Zenger

Challenges biased jury to keep it fair

Aided in court by Andrew Hamilton

Zenger Wins!

Zenger found not guilty

Released from prison the day after he was found not guilty

Returns to his printing

Publishes trial account

The Impact

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"It is the cause of liberty"

The trial marks an important step in colonial freedom of speech

Which is one of the rights marked in later constitutions, documents of rights, etc.

-Led printers to feel freer to print harsher views

What Hamilton Said

"I live in a government (Pennsylvania) where liberty is well understood, and freely enjoyed... a bad precedent in one government is soon set up for an authority in another"


source: constitution.org/primarysources/zenger.html

However

The Zenger trial did NOT begin freedom of speech and of the press

It took a long time for these rights to develop in the colonies

-free press wasn't set completely until the first amendment was created.

Zenger Trial Video

Click here to watch a video about the Zenger Trial

Fun Facts

- Zenger's wife printed during the trials

-The jury returned in less than 10 minutes with the not guilty verdict

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Sources

-ushistory.org/us/7c.acp

-constitution.org/primarysoures/zenger.html

-"Crown v. John Peter Zenger" article

-u-s-history.com

-earlyamerica.com

-kids.britannica.com

-revolutionsincommunication.com

-city-journal.org

-nps.gov

Sarah Garzione, Taylor Clement, Lily Buckley