John Peter Zenger

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Zenger, John Peter

(zĕng`ər), 1697–1746, American journalist, b. Germany. He emigrated to America in 1710 and was trained in the printing trade by the pioneer printer William BradfordBradford, William,
1663–1752, British pioneer printer in the American colonies. Born in Leicestershire, England, he served an apprenticeship under a London printer before emigrating in 1685 to Philadelphia, where he set up the first press.
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. 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 HamiltonHamilton, Andrew,
1676?–1741, colonial American lawyer, defender of John Peter Zenger, b. Scotland. He practiced law in Maryland and then Pennsylvania, where he became (1717) attorney general and held other offices.
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, 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); R. Kluger, Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America's Free Press (2016).

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Zenger, John Peter

(1697–1746) printer, journalist; born in Germany. He emigrated to New York and formed a printing partnership. As editor of the New-York Weekly Journal, he was arrested and tried for libelous statements against the administration of Governor William Cosby. The sentence of not guilty was the first major victory for the freedom of the press.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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