John Peter Zenger

John Peter Zenger (zĕng´ər), 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 Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

John Peter Zenger: Selected full-text books and articles

The Trial of Peter Zenger By Vincent Buranelli New York University Press, 1957
The Press on Trial: Crimes and Trials as Media Events By Lloyd Chiasson Jr Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Case of John Peter Zenger (1735) 'A Monkey...about 4 Foot High'"
The Bill of Rights: Its Origin and Meaning By Irving Brant Bobbs-Merrill, 1965
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "The Case of John Peter Zenger"
American Political Trials By Michal R. Belknap Praeger Publishers, 1994 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Politics, the Press, and the Law: The Trial of John Peter Zenger"
Debating the Issues in Colonial Newspapers: Primary Documents on Events of the Period By David A. Copeland Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Trial of John Peter Zenger, 1735"
Banned in the Media: A Reference Guide to Censorship in the Press, Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and the Internet By Herbert N. Foerstel Greenwood Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "Prominent Examples of Media Censorship: The Trial of John Peter Zenger, 1735"
By These Words: Great Documents of American Liberty, Selected and Placed in Their Contemporary Settings By Paul M. Angle; Edward A. Wilson Rand McNally, 1954
Librarian’s tip: "Peter Zenger Fights for Freedom of the Press" begins on p. 22
Historic U.S. Court Cases: An Encyclopedia By John W. Johnson Routledge, vol.2, 2001 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Myth and Reality: The Case of John Peter Zenger" begins on p. 897
The Early American Press, 1690-1783 By William David Sloan; Julie Hedgepeth Williams Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Information on John Peter Zenger in Chap. 3 "Freedom of the Press, 1638-1735"
Legacy of Suppression: Freedom of Speech and Press in Early American History By Leonard Williams Levy Bleknap Press of Harvard University, 1960
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "From the Zenger Case to the American Revolution"
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