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The Beginning of a Free Press

After apprenticing with printer William Bradford at the New-York Gazette, German-born J. Peter Zenger (1697–1746) launched a second newspaper in New York, the New-York Weekly Journal, on November 5, 1733. The independent political newspaper was founded largely to challenge the authority of William Cosby, the governor of New York. After unsuccessful attempts by Cosby to shut the paper down and a declaration that four issues of the Journal be publicly burned, a bench warrant was issued that led to Zenger’s arrest for seditious libel on November 17, 1734. As a result of Zenger’s imprisonment, the November 18 issue was not published. Although he remained in prison for eight months, this was the only break in publishing in the paper’s history. In the November 25 edition of the Journal, shown here, Zenger offers an “apology” for the skipped newspaper. Zenger won his widely-publicized case, which planted a seed for freedom of the press.

New-York Weekly Journal (New York), November 25, 1734.
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