The Story Behind the Colonial Trial that Laid the Foundation for Establishing America’s Freedom of Press

When James Madison of Virginia, later the fourth president of the United States, wrote that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”—God-given rights ultimately enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution—there is little doubt that one thing on his mind was the trial of John Peter Zenger half a century earlier.
A German by birth, 13-year-old Zenger immigrated in 1710 to New York, where, after the death of his father, he was indentured for eight years to William Bradford—the city’s lone printer. In 1726, Zenger established a modest publishing house of his own. And it was here that he ran up against the politics of William Cosby, New York’s colonial governor. Indeed, Zenger’s newspaper, The New York Weekly Journal (published from 1733 to 1751), became the chief organ of public dissent against Cosby. The Journal—“Containing the freshest Advices, Foreign, and Domestick,” according to the publication’s masthead—incessantly attacked the governor’s policies, notably his 1733 firing of Lewis Morris, chief justice of the New York Supreme Court….
Source: The Epoch Times

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