John Peter Zenger and the Responsibilities of the Press

Topics: New York City, John Peter Zenger, Jury nullification Pages: 2 (520 words) Published: November 18, 2008
John Peter Zenger (1687-1746) emigrated from Palatinate, Germany in 1710 with his parents and two siblings. They came to America along with 3,000 other refuges to establish naval stores in New York, but unfortunately it was not easy for the Zenger’s to arrive safely since many of the other passengers died during the disastrous voyage. Merely a year after arriving Zenger was apprenticed for eight years to William Bradford, a pioneer of American printing. He later opened his own printing company in 1726 and was said to be neither thriving nor influential. A few years later in 1732 a new governor arrived for the state of New York. William Cosby, the new governor, intents were to use the press as a means of self-enrichment but this caused conflict with other New Yorkers like himself. In an attempt to save himself from any further problems he removed the chief justice, Lewis Morris, but in return Morris assembled a group of powerful men whose economic goals were at a halt by the governor. This new group, the Morris group gained popularity in New York. Following intense warfare between the two parties and the monopoly over the only newspaper,” The Gazette”, controlled by the governor, the Morris group were forced to look elsewhere for another newspaper. They selected Zenger as the new printer of the “New-York Weekly Journal” and on November, 5, 1733 their firs article was published. Since Zenger’s English was poor, James Alexander, one of the members of the Morris group, took command and wrote many of the articles. In these articles he sharply criticized the government and wrote poems making fun of the governor. Zenger’s newspaper was different in that it was the first to express freedom of speech. The new governor was not pleased with what was being printed and held Zenger responsible for what appeared in the “Journal”, and attempted to suppress the paper. On November 17, 1734 Zenger was arrested for printing seditious and libelous material. To his rescue the other...
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