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The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press

by Gail Jarrow

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 1-59078-432-4
Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

In this analysis-heavy study, Jarrow focuses on the real significance of the Zenger contretemps in the growth of the idea of a free press, while presenting a sketchy portrait of the man himself as a pawn used by a small group of politicians bent on ousting a corrupt new colonial governor. A printer of indifferent skill, and not much of a writer either, Zenger was hired by dismissed New York Supreme Court Justice Lewis Morris and friends to produce a newspaper filled with their anonymous attacks on Governor William Cosby. After several failed attempts, legal and otherwise, to quash the opposition, Cosby was at last able to have Zenger, at least, arrested for “seditious libel.” However, the governor had so mismanaged his job and public image that, despite clear evidence and a stacked bench, the jury returned a not-guilty verdict. As every page of text here is linked to a facing page of period or later paintings, newspapers, pamphlets and other documents, backed up by extensive endnotes and multimedia resource lists, it’s plainly designed for assignment use. Though Zenger will remain a faceless figure to readers, they’ll come away with a clear understanding of his role in our cultural and Constitutional history. (timeline, index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)