The Peter Zenger Trials

The Peter Zenger Trials
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  • The Weekly Journal 
  • Cosby is unjust! Read it today in the Weekly Journal! 
  • Burning Papers 
  • Accused 
  • John Peter Zenger was a German colonist who believed that the governor of New York, William Cosby, was corrupt. He wished to write a paper that would reveal the governor's faults, however the only press was loyal to the government. Cosby made the Weekly Journal, his own newspaper that served to expose Cosby. 
  • Hamilton's Defense 
  • Ask yourself! Is this man truly guilty? 
  • When Cosby heard of this paper, he was not pleased. He ordered that all copies of the Weekly Journal be burned. These papers were found and burned. As for Zenger, the governor was not happy about what he said, and was ready to make him pay for his views. 
  • The Jury's Decision 
  • Zenger was accused of seditious libel and put in prison. He was about to face a trial, and it was important that he didn't lose. He was not only fighting for his rights, but every colonist's rights as well. His lawyer was considered to be one of the best in the colonies at the time, Andrew Hamilton. This would turn out to be a wise choice for Zenger. 
  • Life With the First Amendment 
  • The school newsletter says that you're not very good at teaching. 
  • The trial seemed over before it began. The judge was a loyalist to Cosby, and the jury was to have little say in the trial's verdict. However, during the trial, Hamilton spoke out against the laws, and said that the jury should have the right to give Zenger a verdict. It was all up to the jury now. 
  • Ultimately, Hamilton's words swayed the jury to take control and give Zenger a not guilty verdict. This was a turning point for history, as it influenced what would become the US Constitution's First Amendment, the right to a free press. 
  • With the First Amendment, people no longer worried about being persecuted for writing about their views. Others were given a voice, and now, through the press, we are able to make an impact on the world around us. 
  • Well, even if I don't like it, they have the right to say it. 
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