John Peter Zenger: A Symbol for Freedom of the Press

“Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths.” John Peter Zenger

While most people have never heard of John Peter Zenger, they may have heard the latter quote or something akin to it. Zenger was an important figure in American history as the printer of the “New York Weekly Journal” and was famously sued by colonial governor William Crosby for libel. When he was acquitted he became a symbol for the freedom of the press.

Zenger was German immigrant to the American Colonies. Zenger and his family immigrated in 1710 as part of a large German Palatines group. The colonial Governor promised all of the children in the group an education and Zenger worked under the first printer in the American Colonies, William Bradford.

It was in 1773 that Zenger printed the article that would cause Crosby to sue him. Cosby wasn’t satisfied with is salary and couldn’t control the local government so he removed one of the judges and placed someone friendly to his party in the former judge’s seat.
Zenger and his paper being part of the opposing party, continued to print articles disagreeing with Cosby’s actions. Alexander Hamilton and William Smith Sr were his lawyers and eventually winning the libel suit against Zenger.