Birth of the First Amendment

On this date August 4th, back in 1735, a German-American man named John Peter Zenger was acquitted of libel in colonial New York. Zenger was the writer of the New York Weekly Journal and had been charged with seditious libel by the royal governor.

Creative rendering depicting the events that led to the trial of colonial New Yorker John Peter Zenger.

The jury found him innocent and concluded that “the truth is not libelous.”

In defending Zenger in this landmark case, his lawyers attempted to establish the precedent that a statement, even if defamatory, is not libelous if it can be proved, thus affirming freedom of the press in America.

Poster print of the John Peter Zenger Trial.

The decision made by the jury on this date 285 years ago went on to establish the parameters for the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

First Amendment to the constitution of the United States.

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