Author: Richard Kluger
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: 2016-09-13
“Vivid storytelling built on exacting research.”—Bill Keller, New York Times Book Review The liberty of expression has been fixed in the firmament of our social values since our nation’s beginning—the United States was the first government to legalize free speech and a free press as fundamental rights. But when the British began colonizing the New World, any words, true or false, thought to disparage the government were judged as criminally subversive. So when in 1733 a small newspaper, the New-York Weekly Journal, printed scathing articles assailing the new British governor, William Cosby, as corrupt and abusive, colonial New York was scandalized. The paper’s publisher, John Peter Zenger — only a front man for Cosby’s adversaries, New York Supreme Court Chief Justice Lewis Morris and the shrewd attorney James Alexander — became the endeavor’s courageous fall guy when Cosby brought the full force of his high office down upon it. Zenger faced a jury on August 4, 1735, in a proceeding matched in importance during the colonial period only by the Salem Witch Trials. In Indelible Ink, acclaimed social historian Richard Kluger re-creates in rich detail this dramatic clash of powerful antagonists that marked the beginning of press freedom in America. Here is an enduring lesson that resounds to this day on the vital importance of free public expression as the underpinning of democracy.
Covers the trial of printer John Peter Zenger in New York in 1735 who was charged with libel against the British governor for his political criticisms, a case that led to a precedent that helped inspire the creation of the Bill of Right more than five decades later.
Author: Paul Finkelman
Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
Release Date: 2010-02-22
A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger is one of the most significant publications of colonial America and represents a major turning point in the history of freedom of the press and the political development of colonial America and the early republic. The book, published by Zenger in 1736, recounts his 1735 trial on charges of seditious libel and contains groundbreaking arguments by Zenger’s attorney, Andrew Hamilton. In this volume — which reprints the text of the Narrative as well as other contemporary documents, including excerpts from Zenger’s newspaper — Paul Finkelman provides a thorough and lively overview of the issues, events, and political intrigue surrounding the Zenger trial and offers a broad perspective on the trial’s long-term impact. Finkelman’s introduction and headnotes to the documents provide historical context and analysis, which make the documents accessible to students. Other useful pedagogical aids include a chronology, questions for consideration, and a selected bibliography.
In 1733, John Paul Zenger began to print the New York Journal, the newspaper that was to change Zenger's life and the direction of journalism in colonial America. The material published in the Journal so incensed Sir William Cosby, the royal governor, that Zenger was arrested for seditious libel. Zenger's case was taken on by Andrew Hamilton, the foremost lawyer in the colonies, and after several months in prison the printer was found innocent. The case became a landmark of journalistic freedom, establishing that truth was the ultimate defense against charges of slander or libel, and was both emblem and incitement of America's belief in a free press. This work traces Zenger's life, the development of what was to become the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment freedom in the colonies, and its subsequent evolution on both sides of the Atlantic.