Our Freedom of Speech is Freedom or Death. We’ve Got to Fight the Powers That Be!
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!
- A Guide to Jury Nullification (anationbeguiled.wordpress.com)
- August 5 in history (homepaddock.wordpress.com)
- Do you Really have Rights? (yumaprogressive.wordpress.com)