Zenger was the publisher of The New York Weekly Journal. In 1734, Zenger was charged with libel by William Cosby, the royal governor of New York, but the jury acquitted Zenger, who became a symbol of press freedom. In August 1735, when a grand jury failed to prosecute him, the Attorney General, Richard Bradley, accused him with libel. This led to a trial before Judge Benjamin Radcliff of the New York Provincial Court. The jury took only 30 minutes to find Zenger not guilty, and Governor Bradlee ordered that he be given safe conduct out of the colony.
These events caused a surge in public support for a free press, which helped to form the United States as we know it today. They also showed that the colonial government could not silence its critics without risking losing face before the world community.
In conclusion, this case shows that even though the colonial government tried to stop criticism of their policies by shutting down newspapers, they were still able to win cases against them. It also demonstrates that the right to free speech is an important factor in creating a democratic society.
The case caused a national debate about freedom of the press.
Zenger had published articles criticizing politicians and officials including Cosby himself. The governor felt that since Zenger was only printing what others were saying, then he should be punished for libel. For example, if a newspaper wrote an article accusing someone of theft, but did not print his or her name, then this would be libel and anyone could write a letter to the editor naming them as the thief. So, Cosby sent up an arrest warrant for Zenger. Before the trial could take place, however, Zenger fled to England where he lived in exile for three years before returning home a free man.
In response to this case, our government passed the First Amendment which provides news reporters with protection from being sued for defamation. The amendment states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." This means that newspapers can report on public figures without fear of being sued for libel.
Also, it is important to note that Zenger's attorney was James Alexander. He is considered the father of criminal defense law.
The governor of New York obtained a seditious libel prosecution against John Peter Zenger for writing articles critical of him. Truth was not a defense for libel at this point in history or under English common law. Zenger was acquitted following a strong defense by Andrew Hamilton. The court's decision in Zenger's favor was based on the free speech clause of the New York State Constitution.
Peter Zenger went on to have a newspaper of his own, which became a platform for those who were being silenced by other newspapers at the time. This case has been cited as an example of freedom of the press throughout American history.
There have been many attempts over the years to set aside this judgment with only limited success. The fact that Zenger's paper was published in New York City made it even more important because these were new liberties being granted to journalists that had never been seen before.
The first amendment prohibits the federal government from making any law "prohibiting the publication of news." Although this language seems broad, courts have held that it does not protect people who work for publishers or writers who use their positions to publish defamatory statements about others. The second amendment protects the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This amendment has been interpreted to guarantee the right of individuals to possess firearms for self-defense purposes.
On August 4, 1735, a jury acquitted publisher John Peter Zenger of libel charges against New York's colonial governor, marking an early watershed event for the free press and the American judicial system. Years later, Founding Father Gouverneur Morris stated that the decision in Crown v. Zenger was "the most important event that had happened in this country since the discovery of America."
The case arose when Governor William Cosby accused Zenger of publishing articles that were damaging to the reputation of the royal government. When Zenger was found guilty by a judge and sentenced to pay a fine or go to prison, he appealed his case all the way to King George II who issued a writ of error commanding the trial judge to review it.
Zenger's lawyer, James Alexander argued that because newspapers at the time were used primarily as vehicles for news, opinions should not be held liable as criminal offenses. The court agreed and overturned Zenger's conviction, saying that freedom of the press is one of the most essential rights of citizenship.
This verdict was not only good news for Zenger but also for journalism as we know it today. Before this case, journalists were not considered witnesses worthy of an equal position with other citizens before the law. However, by being awarded this privilege, they were given credibility and access to the courts which served as a check on power.
John Peter Zenger was jailed for libel after allowing a New York political leader to attack the royal governor in his New York Weekly Journal. Zenger's case was won by the aging but intrepid Andrew Hamilton, an attorney from Philadelphia, who made a strong argument to the jury. The verdict was overturned on appeal, but it set a precedent that protected journalists' rights to report on government officials.
In 1735, another English-born journalist, Benjamin Franklin, helped publish Pennsylvania Gazette, which became one of the first daily newspapers in America. In addition to being an author and printer, Franklin was also a diplomat who helped negotiate peace between England and France. He is considered the father of American journalism.
In 1757, James Thomson published Londons Burning, a poem that told of the destruction of London by the French during their invasion of Britain in 1666. It was allegedly written by "A Yorkshireman" (in fact, written by Franklin). The poem is still considered important to Americans because it tells of their own revolution against Great Britain.
In 1831, Samuel Clemens (better known as Mark Twain) published A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, a novel about a modern man who travels back in time to help King Arthur fight the dragon Smogeraide. During this adventure, he learns about honor, loyalty, and truthfulness. This book is considered by many to be the first science fiction novel.