Prelude to the Zenger Trial: A Colony Divided 
The Zenger case arose out of the deep divisions in the political life of the Colony of New York in the early 1730s.  Zenger's New York Weekly Journal (America's first independent political paper) was founded by James Alexander as a means of giving voice to the many people critical of Governor William Cosby's policies and heavy-handed tactics.

Gov. William Cosby

Lewis Morris
Key Principals: Governor William Cosby (Governor of New York), James Delancey (Chief Justice), Francis Harison (censor and editor-by-appointment of Gazette), and William Bradford (establishment printer of Gazette) Key Principals: Lewis Morris (removed as Chief Justice by Cosby), Rip Van Dam (president of the New York Council sued by Cosby), James Alexander (founder and editorialist of the Weekly Journal), and John Peter Zenger (printer of Journal and defendant)
Actions: (1) Cosby demanded that Van Dam split his compensation as Council president with him; (2) Cosby removed Chief Justice Lewis Morris after he wrote that Cosby lacked the power to designate the Supreme Court as a court of equity. (Cosby did so it could decide his suit against Van Dam in his favor without his having to face a jury); (3) Cosby tried to rig an election against a Popular Party candidate by excluding Quaker voters; (4) Cosby appointed his unpopular henchman, Francis Harison, as censor and editor of the New York Gazette. Actions: (1) When Cosby demanded of Van Dam that he split his compensation as Council president, Van Dam countered that Cosby should split with him the many emoluments he received in England; (2) Chief Justice Morris, dissenting, ruled in a case that Cosby lacked the power to designate the Supreme Court as a court of equity so as to avoid facing a jury in his suit against Van Dam; (3)  James Alexander asked John Peter Zenger to print a new  paper that would attack Cosby and his policies; (4) Lewis Morris traveled to London with a list of complaints about Cosby.
Party Identification: The Court Party Party Identification: The Popular Party
Editorial Voice: The New York Gazette Editorial Voice: The New York Weekly Journal
Sample Editorial Comment:
Cosby the mild, the happy, good and great,
The strongest guard of our little state;
Let malcontents in crabbed language write,
And the D...h H...s belch, tho' they cannot bite.
He unconcerned will let the wretches roar,
And govern just, as others did before.
--Gazette, January 7, 1734.

His Majesty, to his representative and to their constituents--will, we hope, continue to us all those blessings which we enjoy under a government greatly envied, and too often disturbed by such as, instead thereof, are struggling to introduce discord and public confusion.
--Gazette, November 5, 1733.

Sample Editorial Comment:
Let this wiseacre (whoever he is) go to any country wife and tell her that the fox is a mischievous creature that can and does do her much hurt, that it is difficult if not impracticable to catch him, and that therefore she ought on any terms to keep in with him.
Why don't we keep in with serpents and wolves on this foot?  Animals much more innocent and less mischievous to the public than some Governors have proved.
A Governor turns rogue, does a thousand things for which a small rogue would have deserved a halter; and because it is difficult if not impracticable to obtain relief against him; therefore it is prudent to keep in with him and join in the roguery....
--Weekly Journal, January 21, 1734.

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