John Peter Zenger Found NOT GUILTY

The First Step Towards Freedom of Speech

John Peter Zenger Trial

John Peter Zenger printed the first issue of the New-York Weekly Journal on November 5th, 1733. Although the writing was not very good, the paper gained popularity because of the criticism of the government. Not only did the paper criticize William Cosby’s policies, but of the governor himself. Cosby decided the criticism of his greediness and unfairness had to be suppressed. Zenger was arrested for printing seditious libel material, which is publishing statement that can cause a rebellion against the monarchy. John Peter Zenger was defended by Andrew Hamilton, who was a prominent Philadelphian. The trial lasted two days, before a swift and eloquent presentation about the need of the role of the jury during libel cases to be more prominent. Hamilton argued that "it is not the cause of one poor printer, but the cause of liberty" because libelous material should not just be printed material that damages reputation, but of material that is false and damages reputation. He also believed that people should be able to print and share their honest opinions. John Peter Zenger is loyal to the colonists by fighting for the right of free press. His views are that every person has the right to print any true statement without suppression, the government should have a more limited power, and that law that comes from England should not always apply to the colonies. Zenger even spent 35 weeks in jail staying loyal to the colonies for standing up for what he believes in. The jury declared John Peter Zenger not guilty. This step towards freedom of speech and press will help develop independence in the colonies because after the final verdict of the trial, citizens will feel more at ease with publishing their criticisms about the government.

Zenger Demonstrates Citizenship and Integrity



John Zenger portrayed citizenship though the trial by acting in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of the citizens. He stepped up and said what needed to be said and he also vested the privilege and right for a citizen to have the freedom of speech. He carried out his duties as a printer and wrote his honest criticisms and thoughts for all citizens to see and ponder. In this day and age its is highly frowned upon to criticize and publish your criticisms of the British government, but Mr. Zenger took the first step towards allowing all printers, citizens, and other publishing companies to have the freedom of speech and press. John Peter Zenger also demonstrated integrity by being honest while standing up for what he believed in. He was honest with what he published by only telling people the truth, but not sugar coating it as well. This got him charged with libelous material, yet he was acquitted. Zenger also took responsibility for his actions which shows his integrity as well. He never once denied that he posted any libelous material and really showed his integrity. The case associates Zenger with the cause of freedom of speech and of the press in America. When charged, he spent 35 weeks in jail and stayed true to the colonies, not disguising what he had done and said.



The Past Life of Mr. Zenger

In 1697 John Peter Zenger was born in a part of the Rhine country of Germany called the Palatinate. This area had a lot of emigration due to poverty caused by many wars and strict local rulers. Zenger's parents and his two siblings took a voyage to New York with 3,000 other emigrants to establish the production of naval stores for Queen Anne of England. Zenger’s father passed away on the trip and his mother Joanna was forced to support John and his two siblings. In the year 1711, Zenger got an apprenticeship with a well known printer William Bradford at the age of 13. Zenger later went on to open his own printing shop in 1726.

Recording of the Trial

Studio_One_John_Peter_Zenger_01_12_1953 - PART 3.mov