The John Peter Zenger Trial: A Chronology
1697 John Peter Zenger is born in Germany.
1710 Zenger emigrates to America and apprentices with the only printer in New York, William Bradford.
1726 Zenger opens his own printing shop, becoming New York's second printer.  For the next six years, he publishes mainly religious tracts and open letters.
August 1, 1732 William Crosby arrives in New York and assumes his position as the new governor of New York.
Fall, 1732 Governor Cosby demands that Council president Rip Van Dam split his salary with him.  When Van Dam refuses, Cosby sues.  Cosby appoints Francis Harison to be censor (and effectively editor) of the New York Gazette.
December 1732 Cosby creates a new court of equity which he expects to favorably decide his suit against Van Dam. 
April 1733 The New York Supreme Court hears arguments on the issue of whether Cosby has the power to create a new court. 
August 1733 Gov. Cosby removes from the Supreme Court Chief Justice Lewis Morris who, alone among the three justices of the Court, voted against him in the Van Dam case.  He replaces Morris with a loyal supporter, James Delancey.
October 29, 1733 Gov. Cosby attempts (and fails) to rig an election for assembyman of Westchester so as to defeat the Popular Party candidate.
November 5, 1733 The first issue of Zenger's New York Weekly Journal is published.  The Journal is believed to be founded and funded by James Alexander, an outspoken opponent of Cosby and his policies.
January 28, 1734 The Weekly Journal accuses Cosby of threatening the "liberties and properties" of the people.
February 4, 1734 An editorial in the Cosby-controlled Gazette calls the statement in the January 28 Journal "an aggravated libel."
September 1734 In two weekly issues, the Journal accuses Governor Cosby of violating the rules of his office.
October 1734 At the instigation of Cosby, Chief Justice Delancey twice puts the issue of the "libels" before a grand jury.  In both cases, the grand jury refuses to issue indictments, based on what the grand jury says is a lack of evidence concerning the identity of the author of the libels.
October 22, 1734 Cosby orders that copies of Zenger's Journal be "burned by the hands of the common hangman or whipper near the pillory in this city."  When magistrates refuse to help carry out the order, the burning is accomplished by Harison and a slave.
November 2,
Frustrated in his efforts to prosecute Alexander, the likely author of the "libels," Cosby orders that a bench warrant be issued for the printer of the Journal, John Peter Zenger.
November 17, 1734 Zenger is arrested by the sheriff.  He is placed in jail and a very high bail (at Cosby's request) is set.  Zenger will spend the next nine months in jail.
December 6, 
Cosby complains in a letter about "the most virulent libels" contained in the Weekly Journal.  He blames Zenger, Alexander, and Van Dam for the libels.
December 1734 Lewis Morris departs for London, carrying with him a long list of complaints about Cosby.
April 15, 1735 Zenger's lawyers challenge the propriety of having two judges selected by Cosby, Delancey and Philipse, presiding over the Zenger case.  For their challenge, Zenger's two lawyers are disbarred by Delancey.
July 29, 1735 Jury selection begins in the Zenger trial.  Harison attempts to rig the jury, but his efforts are defeated. Zenger is defended by Andrew Hamilton of Philadelphia, the best known (and perhaps best) trial lawyer of the day.
August 4, 1735 The Zenger trial opens with the reading of the information against Zenger by prosecutor Bradley, Attorney General of the king for the province of New York.  Judges make clear that in order to prove the charge of "seditious libel" prosecutors need only prove that the statements in question were printed.  The truth or falsity of the statements, rule the judges, is irrelevant.
Hamilton presents a lengthy and eloquent summation to the jury.  The summation is a plea for nullification: a plea that the jury return with a "Not Guilty" verdict despite instructions from the court that the sole issue for the jury to determine is whether the libels were in fact published in Zenger's Journal.  The jury acquits Zenger after a short period of deliberation.
August 5, 1735 On the start of his return trip to Philadelphia, a "grand salute of cannon" is fired in honor of Andrew Hamilton.
September 16, 1735 The Common Council of New York grants Andrew Hamilton "the Freedom of the City" for his "learned and generous defense of the rights of mankind."
1736 On March 10, Governor Cosby dies in New York. James Alexander publishes his Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger.  Andrew Hamilton submits architectual plans for Independence Hall in Philadephia.  The building designed by Hamilton will be the site where, fifty-one years later, delegates meet to draft the Constitution of the United States of America.
1738 Lewis Morris is appointed the first governor of New Jersey.
August 4, 1741 Andrew Hamilton dies exactly six years after the Zenger trial that would become a landmark on America's path to protection for freedom of speech.

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