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John Peter Zenger was born in the Palatine region of Germany. At age 13, he emigrated with his family to the American colonies (now USA), settling in New York City, where he was apprenticed to printer and newspaper publisher William Bradford. In 1726, he opened his own printing business and in 1733, started his own newspaper, The New York Weekly Journal. The Journal was highly critical of colonial Governor William Cosby. Zenger was arrested and imprisoned in 1734 for seditious libel. After 10 months in prison, he was finally brought to trial. His case was so contentious that an attorney from another state had to be found to defend him. In a now-famous trial that took only two days in August 1735, he was acquitted on the grounds that the charges made in the paper were true. It was the first important case to establish freedom of the press in North America. Zenger's account of his prosecution and trial, and his letters written from jail, were widely circulated and helped fuel the American colonists' resistance to British rule. His case also was influential in the creation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
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