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A Brief Narrative Of The Case And Trial Of John Peter Zenger By Hamilton

1028 words - 4 pages

When discussing the media, we must search back to its primal state the News Paper. For it was the News paper and its writers that forged ahead and allowed freedoms for today’s journalism on all fronts, from the Twitter accounts to the daily gazettes all must mark a single event in the evolution of media in respects to politics and all things shaping. Moving on in media history, we began to see a rapid expansion around 1990. With more than 50% of all American homes having cable TV access, newspapers in every city and town with major newspaper centers reaching far more than ever before. Then the introduction of the Internet; nothing would ever be the same.
The year was 1734 and America saw the incarceration of John Peter Zenger, publisher of the NEW YORK Weekly Journal, for publishing articles that ridiculed Governor Cosby of New York. Cosby accused Zenger of seditious libel. The law of seditious libel held that the greater the truth, the greater the libel, meaning that if the articles were true, they would, of course, undermine the Governor's authority. The most prominent attorney and a founder of America, Andrew Hamilton, represented Zenger. Hamilton rationalized that his client be acquitted. He based his reasoning’s on what Zenger had published about the governor was, in fact, true, Hamilton convinced the jury to find him not guilty. Later, "A Brief Narrative of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger," written by Hamilton, was published anonymously in Zenger's paper. The Brief Narrative argued that newspapers should be free to criticize the government as long as what they wrote was true. The article helped shape the political culture that led to the Revolutionary War and the subsequent adoption of the Bill of Rights.
A significant Amendment was added to the Bill of rights and its ratification in 1791, guaranteed freedom of the press. Amendment 1 reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” However, the Sedition Act of 1798 made it a crime to print "any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States." Introduced by President John Adams as the US was on the cusp of war with France, the law was put into effect out of fear that the press could incite the French immigrants. The Sedition Act made it illegal to critique the government, under penalty of a $2,000 fine and 2 years in jail. The law was set to expire in 1801 when Thomas Jefferson pardoned everyone convicted under it soon after he was sworn into office. {Chapter 7, Gateways to Democracy}
Theodore Roosevelt made famous a saying “muckrakers,” used as a highly critical attack on the negativism concerning the media of his era. The term first applied to journalists and writers who exposed corruption in business and...

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