The social and political seeds of revolution can be found as far back as 1734, with the trial of John Peter Zenger. Zenger was a German immigrant and the editor of a New York newspaper, The New-York Weekly Journal. The paper frequently printed articles critical of the British government. In November of 1734, Zenger was arrested and accused of libel for unjustly attacking the reputation of the royal governor of New York. His trial began in July of 1735. In Zenger’s time, publishing any information that was in opposition to the government was considered libel. But Zenger’s lawyer, Alexander Hamilton, argued that it couldn’t be libel if it was true. Zenger won the trial, winning an important victory for freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the colonies. This freedom was increasingly important as the colonies moved toward independence.
What were some of the ways that colonists expressed their opinions about and debated social and political issues in the years leading up to the Revolution?
Check for Understanding
Students should answer the following question with evidence from the document.
How does this document illustrate the feelings of colonists during the trial of John Peter Zenger?