“Freedom of Expression in 18th-Century America:
The Case of Peter Zenger, 1735”
Caroline Winterer, Department of History
Caroline Winterer link is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University. Educated at University of Michigan, her publications include: The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780–1910), "From Royal to Republican: The Classical Image in Early America," Journal of American History, 91 (March 2005), 1264-90 and The Ornaments of the Republic: American Women and Classicism, 1750-1870 (forthcoming from Cornell University Press, 2007)
Summary: Zenger’s case is useful for understanding the origins of the notion of freedom of expression. Zenger was a German-born printer who published scathing criticisms of New York governor William Cosby. The New York council ordered copies of his paper burned and had Zenger arrested on charges of seditious libel. In the partisan conflicts of the day, the jury sided with Zenger and he was acquitted, although for many years thereafter libel laws continued to keep a check on a free press.
The Trial of Peter Zenger (1735), For more information check out this website Famous American Trials
John Peter Zenger Trial 1735
John Peter Zenger Trial 1735 A collection of primary documents, essays, statistics, images and other materials relating to the John Peter Zenger trial.
John Peter Zenger and Freedom of the Press from Social Studies for Kids http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/ushistory/johnpeterzenger1.htm
Visual Depictions of Peter Zenger Trial: Who was John Peter Zenger?, What power did royal governors use?, What were Peter Zenger's zingers?, Why was Zenger put on trial?, What is freedom of the press? illustrated by cartoonist Bentley Boyd, series presents historical events for history classrooms published by dailypress.com
More visual depictions of Trial of Peter Zenger
The Zengers (More Especially John Peter Zenger) and the Liberty of the Press
The Trial of John Peter Zenger, 1735 Click on any part of the collage below to view artifacts and information from this trial.
BASIC READINGS IN U.S. DEMOCRACY - PART VII: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Article: William Cosby Vs. Lewis Morris (Zenger Trial): A Chapter in the Struggle Between Crown Appointees and the Local Aristocracy for Political Control in Colonial New York article written by Jacob Judd, Professor Emeritus of History at City University of New York gives his analysis of the role, if any, played by the trial of John Peter Zenger and the issue of freedom of the press. http://www.sackheritagegroup.com/articles/articles.php?articleID=38
Article: Olson, Alison Gilbert "The Zenger Case Revisited: Satire, Sedition, and Political Debate in Eighteenth-Century America" Early American Literature - Volume 35, Number 3, 2000, pp. 223-245 PDF VERSION
Books Recommened by Speaker
Katz, Stanley. A Brief Narrative of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger (Harvard, 1963) The best encapsulation in a book, also with documents. Katz argues "Zenger and his associates, it becomes clear, were neither political democrats nor radical legal reformers. They were, in fact, a somewhat narrow-minded political faction seeking immediate political gain rather than long-term governmental or legal reform. Nor was the case itself a landmark in the history of law or of the freedom of the press…."link to Amazon
Patricia U. Bonomi, A Factious People: Politics and Society in Colonial New York (Columbia, 1971) A widely respected and cited history of early New York. link to Amazon
Hugh Amory and David Hall, eds., The History of the Book in America, vol 1.: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (Cambridge, 2000), especially ch. 10. Printing and books in the colonial era link to Amazon