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John Peter Zenger

Zenger, John Peter (zĕngˈər) [key], 1697–1746, American journalist, b. Germany. He emigrated to America in 1710 and was trained as a printer by William Bradford (1663–1752). Zenger began publication of the New York Weekly Journal in 1733, an opposition paper to Bradford's New York Gazette and to the policies of Gov. William Cosby. Zenger's newspaper, backed by several prominent lawyers and merchants, truculently attacked the administration. Although most of the articles were written by Zenger's backers, Zenger was legally responsible and was arrested on libel charges and imprisoned (1734). In the celebrated trial that followed (1735) Zenger was defended by Andrew Hamilton, who established truth as a defense in cases of libel. The trial, which resulted in the publisher's acquittal, helped to establish freedom of the press in America. Zenger later became public printer for the colonies of New York (1737) and New Jersey (1738).

See biography by L. Rutherford (1904, repr. 1970); V. Buranelli, ed., The Trial of Peter Zenger (1957, repr. 1985).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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