This week marks the 280th anniversary of a landmark event in the history of a free press — the trial of John Peter Zenger — that occurred 100 miles west of Shelter Island on that other island of Manhattan.
In a two-day trial that began on August 4, 1735, Zenger, publisher of the New York-Weekly Journal, was found not guilty of seditious libel by a 12-member jury.
The charge was brought by a tyrannical colonial New York governor, William Cosby, who accused Zenger of printing “false, scandalous, malicious and seditious” articles. Zenger’s real crime? Bringing to light in the New York-Weekly Journal some shady machinations by Governor Cosby. (more…)