Selected Readings from The New York Weekly Journal

1. [Two "scandalous" songs of October 1734 celebrating the Morrisite victory in the Common Council elections.  They were ordered to be burned:]

A Song Made Upon the Election of New Magistrates for This City 
To the tune of, "To you Fair Ladies Now on the Land"

To you good lads that dare oppose
all lawless power and might,
You are the theme that we have chose,
and to your praise we write:
You dared to show your faces brave
In spite of every abject slave;
with a fa la la.

Your votes you gave for those brave men
who feasting did despise;
And never prostituted pen
to certify the lies
That were drawn up to put in chains,
As well our nymphs as happy swains
with a fa la la.

And though the great ones frown at this,
what need have you to care?
Still let them fret and talk amiss,
you'll show you boldly dare
Stand up to save your country dear,
In spite of usquebaugh   and beer;
with a fa la la.

They begged and prayed for one year more,
but it was all in vain:
No wolawants  you'd have, you swore;
by jove you made in plain:
So sent them home to take their rest,
And here's a health unto the best;
with a fa la la.

A Song Made Upon the Foregoing Occasion
To the tune of, "Now, Now, You Tories All Shall Stoop"

Come on brave boys, let us be brave
for liberty and law, 
Boldly despise the haughty knave,
that would keep us in awe.
Let's scorn the tools bought by a sop,
and every cringing fool.
The man who basely bends's a fop,
a vile insipid tool.

Our country's rights we will defend,
like brave and honest men;
We voted right and there's an end,
and so we'll do again.
We vote all signers out of place
as men who did amiss.
Who sold us by a false address
I'm sure we're right in this.

Exchequer courts, as void by law, 
great grievances we call;
Though great men do assert no flaw
is in them; they shall fall,
And be condemned by every man that's fond of liberty.
Let them withstand it all they can,
our laws we will stand by.

Though pettifogging knaves deny
us rights of Englishmen;
We'll make the scoundrel rascals fly,
and ne'er return again.
Our judges they would chop and change
for those that serve their turn,
And will not surely think it strange
if they for this should mourn.

Come fill a bumper, fill it up,
unto our Aldermen;
For Common Council fill the cup,
and take it o'er again.
While they with us resolve to stand
for liberty and law,
We'll drink their healths with hat in hand
whoraa! whoraa! whoraa!

2. Monday, November, 1733:

The liberty of the press is a subject of the greatest importance, and in which every individual is as much concerned as he is in any other part of liberty: Therefore it will not be improper to communicate to the public the sentiments of a late excellent writer upon this point.  Such is the elegance and perspicuity of his writings, such the inimitable force of his reasoning, that it will be difficult to say anything new that he has not said, or not to say that much worse which he has said.
There are two sorts of monarchies, an absolute and a limited one.  In the first, the liberty of the press can never be maintained, it is inconsistent with it; for what absolute monarch would suffer any subject to animadvert on his actions when it is in his power to declare the crime and to nominate the punishment?  This would make it very dangerous to exercise such a liberty.  Besides the object against which those pens must be directed is their sovereign, the sole supreme magistrate; for there being no law in those monarchies but the will of the prince, it makes it necessary for his ministers to consult his pleasure before anything, can be undertaken: He is therefore properly chargeable with the grievances of his subjects, and what the minister there acts being in obedience to the prince, he ought not to incur the hatred of the people; for it would be hard to impute that to him for a crime which is the fruit of his allegiance, and for refusing which he might incur the penalties of treason.  Besides, in an absolute monarchy, the will of the prince being the law, a liberty of the press to complain of grievances would be complaining against the law and the constitution, to which they have submitted or have been obliged to submit; and therefore, in one sense, may be said to deserve punishment; so that under an absolute monarchy, I say, such a liberty is inconsistent with the constitution, having no proper subject to politics on which it might be exercised, and if exercised would incur a certain penalty.
But in a limited monarchy, as England is, our laws are known, fixed, and established.  They are the straight rule and sure guide to direct the king, the ministers, and other his subjects: And therefore an offense against the laws is such an offense against the constitution as ought to receive a proper adequate punishment; the several constituents of the government, the ministry, and all subordinate magistrates, having their certain, known, and limited sphere in which they move; one part may certainly err, misbehave, and become criminal, without involving the rest or any of them in the crime or punishment.
But some of these may be criminal, yet above punishment, which surely cannot be denied, since most reigns have furnished us with too many instances of powerful and wicked ministers, some of whom by their power have absolutely escaped punishment, and the rest, who met their fate, are likewise instances of this power as much to the purpose; for it was manifest in them that their power had long protected them, their crimes having, often long preceded their much desired and deserved punishment and reward.
That might overcomes right, or which is the same thing, that might preserves and defends men from punishment, is a proverb established and confirmed by time and experience, the surest discoverers of truth and certainty.  It is this therefore which makes the liberty of the press in a limited monarchy and in all its colonies and plantations proper, convenient, and necessary, or indeed it is rather incorporated and interwoven with our very constitution; for if such an overgrown criminal, or an impudent monster in iniquity, cannot immediately be come at by ordinary Justice, let him yet receive the lash of satire, let the glaring truths of his ill administration, if possible, awaken his conscience, and if he has no conscience, rouse his fear by showing him his deserts, sting him with the dread of punishment, cover him with shame, and render his actions odious to all honest minds.  These methods may in time, and by watching and exposing his actions, make him at least more cautious, and perhaps at last bring down the great haughty and secure criminal within the reach and grasp of ordinary justice.  This advantage therefore of exposing the exorbitant crimes of wicked ministers under a limited monarchy makes the liberty of the press not only consistent with, but a necessary part of, the constitution itself.
It is indeed urged that the liberty of the press ought to be restrained because not only the actions of evil ministers may be exposed, but the character of good ones traduced.  Admit it in the strongest light that calumny and lies would prevail and blast the character of a great and good minister; yet that is a less evil than the advantages we reap from the liberty of the press, as it is a curb, a bridle, a terror, a shame, and restraint to evil ministers; and it may be the only punishment, especially for a time.  But when did calumnies and lies ever destroy the character of one good minister?  Their benign influences are known, tasted, and felt by everybody: Or if their characters have been clouded for a time, yet they have generally shined forth in greater luster: Truth will always prevail over falsehood.
  The facts exposed are not to be believed because said or published; but it draws people's attention, directs their view, and fixes the eye in a proper position that everyone may judge for himself whether those facts are true or not.  People will recollect, enquire and search, before they condemn; and therefore very few good ministers can be hurt by falsehood, but many wicked ones by seasonable truth: But however the mischief that a few may possibly, but improbably, suffer by the freedom of the press is not to be put in competition with the danger which the KING and the people may suffer by a shameful, cowardly silence under the tyranny of an insolent, rapacious, infamous minister.

Monday, November 19, 1733 (The remainder of the letter concerning the liberty of the press begun in our last [issue].)

Inconveniences are rather to be endured than that we should suffer an entire and total destruction.  Who would not lose a leg to save his neck?  And who would not endanger his hand to guard his heart?  The loss of liberty in general would soon follow the suppression of the liberty of the press; for as it is an essential branch of liberty, so perhaps it is the best preservation of the whole.  Even a restraint of the press would have a fatal influence.  No nation ancient or modern ever lost the liberty of freely speaking, writing, or publishing their sentiments but forthwith lost their liberty in general and became slaves.  LIBERTY and SLAVERY! how amiable is one! how odious and abominable the other!  Liberty is universal redemption, joy, and happiness; but servitude is absolute reprobation and everlasting perdition in politics.
All the venal supporters of wicked ministers are aware of the great use of the liberty of the press in a limited free monarchy: They know how vain it would be to attack it openly, and therefore endeavor to puzzle the case with words, inconsistencies, and -nonsense; but if the opinion of the most numerous, unprejudiced and impartial part of mankind is an argument of truth, the liberty of the press has that as well as reason on its side.  I believe every honest Briton of whatever denomination, who loves his country, if left to his own free and unbiased judgment is a friend to the liberty of the press and an enemy to any restraint upon it.  Surely all the independent whigs, to a man, are of this opinion.  By an Independent Whig,  I mean one whose principles lead him to be firmly attached to the present happy establishment, both in church and state, and whose fidelity to the royal family is so staunch and riveted as not to be called in question, tho' his mind is not overswayed, or rather necessitated, by the extraordinary weight of lucrative posts or pensions.  The dread of infamy hath certainly been of great use to the cause of virtue, and is a stronger curb upon the passions and appetites of some men than any other consideration moral or religious.  Whenever, therefore, the talent of satire is made use of to restrain men by the fear of’ shame from immoral actions, which either do or do not fall under the cognizance of the law, it is properly, and justly, and commendably applied: On the contrary, to condemn all satire is in effect the same thing as countenancing vice by screening it from reproach and the just indignation of mankind.  The use of satire was of great service to the patriot whigs in the reign of King Charles and King James the second, as well as in that of Queen Anne.  They asserted the freedom of writing against wicked ministers; and tho' they knew it would signify nothing to accuse them publicly whilst they were in the zenith of their power, they made use of satire to prepare the way and alarm the people against their designs.  If men in power were always men of integrity, we might venture to trust them with the direction of the press, and there would be no occasion to plead against the restraint of it; but as they have vices like their fellows, so it very often happens that the best intended and the most valuable writings are the objects of their resentment, because opposite to their own tempers or designs.  In short, I think, every man of common sense will judge that he is an enemy to his king and country who pleads for any restraint upon the press; but by the press, when nonsense, inconsistencies, or personal reflections are writ, if despised, they die of course; if truth, solid arguments, and elegant, just sentiments are published, they should meet with applause rather than censure; if sense and nonsense are blended, then, by the free use of the press, which is open to all, the inconsistencies of the writer may be made apparent; but to grant a liberty only for praise, flattery, and panegyric, with a restraint on everything which happens to be offensive and disagreeable to those who are at any time in power, is absurd, servile, and ridiculous; upon which, I beg leave to quote one observation of the ingenious Mr. Gordon, in his excellent discourses upon Tacitus.  "In truth," says he, 
where no liberty is allowed to speak of governors besides that of pralsina them, their praises will be little believed; their tenderness and aversion to have their conduct examined will be apt to prompt people to think their conduct guilty or weak, to suspect their management and designs to be worse perhaps than they are, and to become turbulent and seditious, rather than be forced to be silent.9

I shall conclude with a citation from Tacitus, pat to the purpose:

Socordiam eorum inridere libet, qui praesenti potentia credunt extingui posse etiam sequentia aevi memoriam: Nam contra punitis ingeniis gliscit auctoritas, neque aliud externi reges, aut qui eadem saevitia usi sunt, nisi dedecus sibi, atque illis gloriam peperere.

3. Monday, December 17, 1733:

It is agreed on all hands that a fool may ask more questions than a wise man can answer, or perhaps will answer if he could; but notwithstanding that, I would be glad to be satisfied in the following points of speculation that the above affidavits afford.  And it will be no great puzzle to a wise man to answer with a yea, or a nay, which is the most that will be required in most of those questions.
Q. 1. Is it prudent in the French governors not to suffer a Englishman to view their fortifications, sound their harbors, tarry their country to discover their strength?
Q. 2. Is it prudent in an English governor to suffer a Frenchman to view our fortifications, sound our harbors, etc.?
Q. 3. If the above affidavits be true, had the French a bad harvest in Canada?  Or do they want provisions?
Q. 4. Was the letter from the Governor of Louisburgh to our Governor true?
Q. 5. Might not our Governor as easily have discovered the falsehood of it as anybody else, if he would?
Q. 6. Ought he not to have endeavored to do it?
Q. 7. Did our Governor endeavor to do it?
Q. 8. Was it not known to the greatest part of the town, before the sloop Le Caesar left New York, that the French in the sloop Le Caesar had sounded and taken the landmarks from without Sandy Hook up to New York?  Had taken the view of the town?  Had been in the Fort?
Q. 9. Might not the Governor have known the same thing, if he would?
Q. 10. Is there not great probability that he did know it?
Q. 11.  Was it for our benefit or that of the French these soundings
and landmarks were taken, and views made?
Q. 12. Could we not, by seizing their papers and confining their persons, have prevented them in great measure from making use of the discoveries they made?
Q. 13. Ought they not to have been so prevented?
Q. 14. Was it prudent to suffer them to pass through Hellgate, and also to discover that way of access to us?
Q. I5. If a French governor had suffered an English sloop and company to do what a French sloop and company has done here would he not have deserved to be - -?
Q. i6. Since it appears by the affidavits there was no such scarcity of provisions as by the letter from the Governor of Louisburgh to our Governor is set forth, since the conduct of the French to the English that happen to go to Canada shows they think it necessary to keep us ignorant of their state and condition as much as they can.  Since the sounding our harbors, viewing our fortifications, and the honorable treatment they have received here (the reverse of what we receive in Canada) has let them into a perfect knowledge of our state and condition.  And since their voyage must appear to any man of the least penetration to have been made with an intent to make that discovery, and only with that intent.  Whether it would not be reasonable in us to provide as well and as soon as we can for our defense?
Q. 17. Whether that can be done any way so well and effectually as by calling the Assembly very soon together?
Q. 18. If this be not done, and any dangerous consequences follow after so full warning, who is blamable?

4. Monday, October 7th, 1734:

I have received a copy of a letter of thanks from the people of Goshen to their representative, who lives in that neighborhood, which I think deserves to be made public, with an account of true circumstances that rarely attend addresses of this nature.  I am told that only one man refused, and that all the freeholders have signed who were not absent at the time of signing.  You will see by the list of names that about 78 have signed, which proves that very few were absent, I am told not above 3 or 4. This address came from those persons who had opposed Col. Mathews’ election, and who can be least suspected to have done it from private views to serve him; on the contrary, everyone (with the former single exception) laid aside their private resentments to show their public gratitude: When this is compared with what has happened in other parts of this province it will be seen how justly the people are said to be fickle and changeable, and whether the people have deserted their patriots, or their patriots have deserted them; for to me the people seem steadily to pursue the same maxims of liberty.

    Goshen, August 21, 1734-

To Col.  Vincent Mathews.
  We the subscribing freeholders, inhabitants of the precinct of Goshen and Minisink, in the County of Orange, take this opportunity of returning you our hearty thanks for your conduct in the last sessions of the Assembly, while matters of the greatest consequence for the security of our lives, liberty, and property were under your consideration: But we are surprised those things could have admitted so much debate among the representatives of a free people, that they could not be brought to a conclusion before you parted.  For supposing the arguments on both sides of the question were otherwise of equal force, can the lovers of liberty hesitate in determining in favor of liberty, and in opposition to what may be introductory of arbitrary power?  The laws themselves being a dead letter, which can do neither good nor hurt, but as they have life and force given them from those who are entrusted with the execution of them; it seems to us essential to our freedom that the authority by which our laws receive their life do not depend upon the will and pleasure of any man, or upon a mere opinion of the judges, who are only entrusted to execute the laws, or any other than the plain and positive authority of those who make them.
  The accounts we have of your conduct, so conformable to the sentiments of the people you represent, and of your zeal to remove from all trust in the execution of justice such persons whose characters and actions have laid them under the just suspicion of the people of this province, has endeared you to your constituents.  The love and esteem of your neighbors will give more real satisfaction and pleasure than the favor of any man however great, and we hope you will find it a greater security.  Governors often smile one day and frown the next; nay, they may make a sacrifice of those that have lost all others' friendship by courting theirs; and at best they are here today and gone tomorrow: But you we hope will remain long with us, and your posterity with ours.  Your interest is the same with that of the people amongst whom you live, and therefore the most certain security to preserve what you have and transmit it to your latest posterity is got by preserving and increasing the love, virtue, and freedom of the people where you live.-As we doubt not that you will continue in a dutiful execution of the trust reposed in you, so we assure you that you may depend on all the kind and grateful returns that can be expected from a people sensible of your many services.

5. Monday, January 28, 1733:


To the authors of the letter to Mr. Bradford, in his Gazette of January 11, 1734


Your appearance in print at last gives a pleasure to many, tho' most wish that you had come fairly into the open field and not appeared behind retrenchments made of the supposed laws against libeling and of what other men have said and done before: These retrenchments, gentlemen, may soon be shown to you and all men to be weak, and have neither law nor reason for their foundation, so cannot long stand you in stead.  Therefore you had much better as yet leave them, and come to what THE PEOPLE of this city and province think are the points in question, to wit:
They think, as matters now stand, that their LIBERTIES and PROPERTIES are precarious, and that SLAVERY is like to be entailed on them and their posterity, if some past things be not amended.  And this they collect from many past proceedings.
You gentlemen think that things past are right, and that things may go on in the same way without such consequence.
These points, gentlemen, highly concern the PEOPLE of this province, and you as well as the rest; it is your interest as well as theirs to have them fairly searched into by enquiry into facts, and by plain and fair arguments upon them without passion.  If you are right in your thoughts, then there will be no harm by or from the fair and thorough enquiry: But should you be wrong, and the consequence dreaded follow for want of a timely enquiry and remedy, your posterity as well as ours will be sufferers; nay, you have most reason to fear that your posterity will be the first that will fall by establishing UNBRIDLED POWER.
As the liberty of the press is now struck at, which is the safeguard of all our other liberties: This starts another point worth discussing, which by many was thought would never have needed to have been handled here more than it has been: And undoubtedly it is one of the first things that ought to be examined into fairly before the world.
What other men have said and done (unless right) can be no justification for following their example; these men ought, and we believe soon will, severally justify what they have said and done, or confess wherein they have erred, and make all reasonable satisfaction for their errors.
If anything has been too stinging in what has been printed here, it is believed your delaying so long in coming to the press in order to a fair enquiry was the cause, and will excuse it.
These are the sentiments of many of this city and province, and it is hoped that passions of neither side will draw the disputants off from the points in question.

6. Monday, April 8th, 1734:

Mr. Zenger;
I was at a public house some days since in company with some persons that came from New York: Most of them complained of the deadness of trade: Some of them laid it to the account of the repeal of the Tonnage Act, which they said was done to gratify the resentment of some in New York in order to distress Governor Burnet; but which has been almost the ruin of that town, by paying the Bermudians about 12,000 a year to export those commodities which might be carried in their own bottoms, and the money arising by the freight spent in New York.  They said that the Bermudians were an industrious frugal people who bought no one thing in New York, but lodged the whole freight money in their own island, by which means, since the repeal of that Act, there has been taken from New York above 90,000 and all this to gratify pique and resentment.  But this is not all; this money being carried away which would otherwise have circulated in this province and city, and have been paid to the baker, the brewer, the smith, the carpenter, the shipwright, the boatman, the farmer, the shopkeeper, etc., has deadened our trade in all its branches, and forced our industrious poor to seek other habitations; so that within these three years there has been above 300 persons have left New York; the houses stand empty, and there is as many houses as would make one whole street with bills upon their doors: And this has been as great a hurt as the carrying away the money, and is occasioned by it, and all degrees of men feel it, from the merchant down to the carman.  And (adds he) it is the industrious poor is the support of any country, and the discouraging the poor tradesmen is the means of ruining any country.  Another replies, it is the excessive high wages you tradesmen take prevents your being employed: Learn to be contented with less wages, we shall be able to build, and then no need to employ Bermudians.  Very fine, replied the first, now the money is gone you bid us take less wages, when you have nothing to give us, and there is nothing to do.  Says another, I know nobody gets estates with us but the lawyers; we are almost come to that pass that an acre of land can't be conveyed under half an acre of parchment.  The fees are not settled by our legislature, and everybody takes what they please; and we find it better to bear the disease than to apply for a remedy that's worse: I hope (said he) our Assembly will take this matter into consideration; especially since our late judge hath proved no fees are lawful but what are settled by them." I own a small vessel, and there is a fee for a let-pass, 35 which I am told is taken by the Cannon Law, and by no other.-One of our neighbors being in company, observing the strangers full of complaints, endeavored to persuade them to remove into Jersey.  To which it was replied, that would be leaping out of the frying pan into the fire; for, says he, we both are under the same Governor, and your Assembly have shown with a witness what is to be expected from them.  One that was then moving to Pennsylvania (to which place it is reported several considerable men are removing) expressed in terms very moving much concern for the circumstances of New York. seemed to think them very much owing to the influence that some men (whom he called tools) had in the administration; said he was now going from them, and was not to be hurt by any measures they should take; but could not help having some concern for the welfare of his countrymen, and should be glad to hear that the Assembly would exert themselves as became them, by showing that they have the interest of their country more at heart than the gratification of any private view of any of their members, or being at all affected by the smiles or frowns of a governor; both which ought equally to be despised when the interest of their country is at stake.  You, says he, complain of the lawyers, but I think the law itself is at an end: We see men's deeds destroyed, judges arbitrarily displaced, new courts erected without consent of the legislature, by which it seems to me trials by juries are taken away when a governor pleases; men of known estates denied their votes contrary to the received practice, the best expositor of any law: Who is then in that province that call anything his own, or enjoy any liberty longer than those in the administration will condescend to let him do it? For which reason I have left it, as I believe more will.  One of the company replied; if these are illegal impositions, why don't your Assembly impeach the authors of them.  Impeach! says a Gentleman (once an officer of the Customs) would you have the mob and canaiIle impeach gentlemen?  American assemblies, that have only the power to make little paltry bylaws, pretend to the power of a British Parliament!  But besides should they be mad enough to impeach, that impeachment cannot be tried.--How! not tried! (replied the Gentleman) that's strange indeed!  I know this is a way of talking you courtiers have among you, to prevent being dealt with as some of you very well deserve.  Give me leave to tell you, Sir, you talk indecently of those that differ from you: There are many among them of equal if riot superior knowledge to any of your party, and more of superior estates; and our assemblies are very far from deserving the name of canaille or dregs of the people, as some of you, who (bating your commissions, which you would never have had in any other place) much better deserve, are fond of using to them: And should they use their authority as they might, would make the proudest of you tremble.  Pray (in order to clear this matter up) let me ask a few questions.
Is there any British subject can commit a crime with impunity, and is (if guilty of it) too big to be accused?
He answered, No.
Is the law and the administration of Justice so weak and defective in the plantations that any British subject cannot be tried for any crime, and condemned or acquitted according to the merits of his cause?
He answered, It is not.
Does not a Grand Jury (tho' chose by the Sheriff) represent the county?
Answ.  They do.
Cannot a Grand jury indict (that is accuse) any man a subject within their county (how great soever) of any crime?
Answ.  They may.
Does not an Assembly represent the whole province, as much as a Grand Jury does a particular county?
Answ.  Yes.
Is it unlawful for an Assembly to impeach (that is accuse) any person of any crime?
Answ.  No.
Is the administration so weak as not to be able to try the supposed criminal on the Assembly's accusation; tho' you have allowed they can that of a Grand jury?
I don't suppose it is, answered the Courtier.
Then they can be tried, replied the Gentleman.
Courtier.  But will they try?
Gent.  I don't suppose they will or dare deny common justice.

Zenger Trial Homepage