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Zenger, John P. (1697-1746) New-York weekly journal. [Vol. 933, no. 98 (September 22, 1735)]

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06108.05 Author/Creator: Zenger, John P. (1697-1746) Place Written: New York, New York Type: Newspaper Date: 22 September 1735 Pagination: 4 p. ; 28 x 18 cm.

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Summary of Content: Bitterly denounces the government of William Cosby, although the writer never uses the Governor's name in the essay. Particularly focuses on the corruption of the counselors and ministers who surround the governor and prevent the voice of the people from reaching Cosby. Includes an update on the War of the Polish Succession. Reports the capture of a suspect carrying counterfeit bills from Connecticut. The suspect was imprisoned and found to be carrying a total of one hundred pounds. Advertises the soon-to-be-published "A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger, Printer of the the New-York weekly journal." Also advertises the the selling of the recently published "The Charter of the City of New-York" at three shillings a piece. The journal includes a section on foreign affairs, entries and departures of the New York Customs House, and advertisements. Unlike other issues, this issue does not include a section for local New York news.

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 CivicsCorruption and ScandalGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsMilitary HistoryForgery and FraudCoins and CurrencyCounterfeitingCivil RightsJudiciaryLaw

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