1735: The Zenger Trial

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In 1734 the poor printer John Peter Zenger is jailed and charged with printing libellous criticism of New York’s governor. His lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, convinces the jury that the criticism is true, and that “truth ought to govern the whole affair of libels”. Zenger walks out a free man in August 1735.


“The loss of liberty in general would soon follow the suppression of the liberty of the press; for it is an essential branch of liberty, so perhaps it is the best preservative of the whole. Even a restraint of the press would have a fatal influence. No nation ancient or modern has ever lost the liberty of freely speaking, writing or publishing their sentiments, but forthwith lost their liberty in general and became slaves”
– Andrew Hamilton, lawyer, 1733