John Peter Zenger

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  • Topic: New York City, John Peter Zenger, William Cosby
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  • Published : April 15, 2012
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John Peter Zenger

Born in Palatinate, Germany, John Peter Zenger (1697- 1746) was a New York printer and journalist. He arrived in New York City at the age of 7 and was trained for eight years by William Bradford, one of the more known writers of American printing. After he completed his training with William Bradford he moved to Chestertown, Maryland to live on his own. In 1722, he returned to New York due to the lack of success he had in Maryland and began his own business in 1726.

In 1732 a new governor, William Cosby, desired nothing more but to increase his fortunes. Cosby removed the chief justice, Lewis Morris causing a group of powerful men whose economic goal was being forcefully postponed by Cosby to arise. The group gained popularity and support in New York City. The Gazette, a newspaper that was owned by Zenger’s advisor, William Bradford was controlled by the government. The Morris group, in need of a newspaper to fight its war against the government, chose John Peter Zenger as their printer. The first issue of the New-York Weekly Journal was poorly written but seemed to gain the interest due to its sharp criticism towards the government. On November 17, 1734, John Peter Zenger was arrested for printing rebellious and inaccurate material towards Cosby. Andrew Hamilton represented Zenger and made a dramatic presentation to the jury. After being imprisoned for 10 months Zenger was freed. The case was an introduction to freedom of the press.

The case its self had little to almost no effect on freedom printers had on what they published. It did not limit the power of legislature to shut down printers. The Zenger case was brief introduction towards the movement of “freedoms” of Americans. Also, the case changed the old beliefs of English law, and revealed a new way America would think.
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