Home > History > Our Freedom of Speech is Freedom or Death. We’ve Got to Fight the Powers That Be!

Our Freedom of Speech is Freedom or Death. We’ve Got to Fight the Powers That Be!

Zenger´s trial

Image via Wikipedia

Ever wonder how the concept of freedom of the press started in America? Check out this wonderful little nugget my American Colonial History put out in his daily e-mail:

On this day in 1735, a jury found John Peter Zenger,editor of the New York Weekly Journal, not guilty of seditious libel.The background of the case was as follows. Governor William Cosby of NewYork had summarily removed the chief justice of the colony and replacedhim with a stooge, James Delancey. Zenger attacked Cosby in the Journal.Cosby had Zenger arrested for seditious libel. Under British law, any printed attack on a crown official was libelous,whether what was
written was true or not. Zenger’s attorney, Andrew Hamilton of
Philadelphia, admitted that his client had published the alleged libels,but argued that because they were true, they were therefore not libelous. Delancey forbade Hamilton to submit evidence to prove his contention. Hamilton appealed to the jury to judge the matter themselves, for the facts of the case were public and well known to them all. The jury withdrew and quickly returned with a verdict of not
guilty, even though they had no legal alternative except to convict. The case was a setback for judicial tyranny, a partial triumph for freedom of the press, and a gain for the privilege of criticizing public officials. The Zenger trial is sometimes seen as the beginning of the freedom of the press in America.

I’ll be thinking about the Zenger trial and smiling the next time I tear some Teahadist a new one on this little old blog of mine 😉

My thanks to Professor Slawson for sharing this!

  1. carvingoutavoice
    August 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Without a doubt, this is a law that we’ve somehow managed to retain while they systematically strip us of every other right that made being an American a privilege about which to be proud. Unfortunately, most of the press has been coerced into forgetting we have this right, as the wealthy 1% who own almost every major media outlet and threaten their reporters into silence for the betterment of their own wallets over the good of the people. It makes sense that blogging became so big around the same time that the mass media forgot how to do their job and thankfully so! We all need to keep practicing that constitutional right!


  2. August 5, 2011 at 3:30 am

    My stuff posts to Facebook.
    The other day I copied and pasted a post about Mullah Boehner.
    A Tehadist 2nd cousin of mine promptly wrote me some hatefel comment and called our President oVomit.
    WHat an asshole. I wrote back, simply “piss-off”, and then unfriended the dickwad.

    Free speech is great. Asshole shirt-tale conservative relatives….not so great.
    And FB sucks too.


  3. August 5, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Good article on Zenger. I hadn’t looked him up. Good Job.
    Freedom of the Press is indispensable to a Republic such as ours. Zenger, was vital in area of seditious libel.. Our Founding Fathers had to deal with it again with Sedition ACT. Essentially one could not be sued under libel if the motives were right. Freedom of the Press can be corrupted if it is biased, controlled or censored. Vigilance is without question is a necessity.


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