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The best understanding of America begins or so it seems to us with the realisation that this nation is young yet but she's still new one unfinished. That even America is man's greatest adventure in time. And space. The University of North Carolina through a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters presents American Adventure a study of mine and the new world a series made possible by the fund for adult education and independent agency established by the Ford Foundation. Written by Johnny Laird directed by John Clayton today's recorded program presents Erwin and the singer trial. There are those who will tell you that the trial of John's anger was a simple matter concerning
freedom of the press. It was no simple matter. Not in its days not when we leave our 20th century vantage point and seek out the people who lived in New York City in 1734 the New York of ten thousand people all of whom seventeen hundred were negro slaves and only one thousand had the franchise. And there was brush just east of the present Broadway where quail were killed in autumn. And it's on an autumn morning we find the man we want walking with a friend on what was called the Broad Street. So when the case came to trial I asked the court whose top was that call in the name looks like a boy running up the street at Xander. See you know my spectacles are no good at this distance Who is it John Singer boys I think. Please tell Xander Mr. Alexander. Now see here you want to run yourself to death and on the Lord's day. They've got my father who's got your father the police. My mother
says that where is your mother at the print shop get on with you then and tell her we're coming but no more yelling do you hear. Yes. Come along Smith quickly now. Looks like the time is coming. And who but an English nobleman would do a thing like this on the Lord's day. And so we headed down Broad Street. I saw Thomas Hunter getting his children out of the House and on the way to Sunday school his wife who helped with the bakery was getting a bowl of milk outside a kitchen door for the cat and the new kitten. Thomas says he doesn't know what we'll do with six kittens but I don't see how I can let one go. It was a quiet morning. We had rain and the weather was just clearing lots of mud holding the sidewalk at Exactly yes. But inside my mind it was a terrible morning. John's anger was a friend a printer who had carried on a bit of criticism of Cosby governor of a
royal province of New York who was I might add no friend of mine either. Get the door. We came as soon as we heard Mr. Singer but jolly well just tell us exactly what happened Mrs. Unger we do all we can we are short of it. You've done enough already. It was you that got my has been in jail Mr. Alexander. You when Mr. Mars when Mr. Mars junior and you Mr. Smith and Mr. code in which your talk of freedom was a singer was just a poor man. You come with your articles to be printed have him start a page I'm afraid you underrate job husband and over that I toss money every month as much against the governor in my husband's papers as he has both written quite enough he goes to prison not you that is a difference the governor may rectify it in a moment and it behooves us what are we to find out where he was from Stan at the times I've been at the door when you and John were in your talking you would say the price of freedom is high John
and you say yes and worth the price. But you never told him it would all lead to this. This isn't going to please some TV. Would you do that. John was never in jail before nor any of his family. If he had only known the law your husband knew the danger of opposing the governor Mrs Inglis it's the same danger here as it was in Europe that is no longer involved. Governor God should be kept as nothing for the law. Don't get her more excited that a good husband wasn't I stood with grand jury indictment. He will not be granted bail. He will be tried in a special court which has no president authorization and by a judge without a legal commission and by a well intimidated jury he'll call that law it isn't a question of law do you understand that hold of your temper Alexander this is one of those cases where we must do what under Hamilton was great at doing before he retired. Argue the law until you've lost that to the decision of the court and then go over and put your foot on the rail of the jury box and talk to them.
I never was able to do that. A Scotsman can't hold his temper in an English court anyway. Smith will pardon me he's not the greatest speaker I ever listened to either and it doesn't mean everything at Xander not even in the case of this guy and they say you're the best in your province Mr. Alexander. Well I'll try. As you know well enough. I'll try desperately. And let's face the simple fact that there is no law to be used to advantage in this case. Those who will interpret the law are on the other side and I was desperate as weak and they also believe they are right just as much as we do. They wouldn't permit Smith or me to see or send word to John. We finally obtained a court order which permitted his wife and sort of insta visiting his bail was set at ten times his value more than was fat and more than John would permit anybody to lend him. So you remained in jail in every way you could. The governor reminded us that
we occupied a dangerous position. A policeman was here at the shop this morning. Which one called himself the attorney general. What did he want the children to testify that the father had printed the news papers. During my all the while I was John printed them. Why must the children testify against the father. I even went so far as to ask him to let me take the stand and I see what he said. According to English law Mrs Ingo wife kept us to buy against her husband and then he went on and there was a way he said this that I didn't like he said but your children. Can you make my children testify against their father unless we admit publication which we may as well do will examine if there is any way at all to pretend here he says and even that we avoid them this time it doesn't mean too much. They will be back. All the King's men and all the king's horses will be heard from before this is over and that is only one way I know that we can strike back to resume printing John's newspaper
printing. Oh no why not. The paper has done enough. You want John free. Well the same paper that put him in jail get him free. I don't know I don't think it will. But if it's one chance do you think John could edit the paper in prison Alexander would make nice copy editorials on freedom written in Cosby's prison. I don't see why not what you're asking if you think this is this is anger. We're just trying to find a way to fight instead of wait. That's all they're going to keep John in the cell until the people have forgotten all about him. Then they will bring him to trial. We can't let his friends forget him. Go to John and ask him what he thinks missing or dead in the best resume publication if he expects to keep the support he has. What if he says no but we should not publish what might worry you more in his anger. As what would happen if he says yes.
That was the message John's anger sent resume publication. We all became print boys after that. So put in the New York weekly journal was not the difficult problem to say and what not to say was the matter of concern for one month two months three four five months. We kept the name and cause of John's anger before the people of New York. And on the 16th of April 1735 the governor struck back through history chief justice Don said. Oh I know you expected to gain public approval of your team you were challenging of this court Mr. Alexander. But you know I have entered an exception as to your commission your honor. And if that commission is an order you have forced us into a position when we must sacrifice
the court or your service to the court. And so when Mr. deprived that opportunity to plead before the king's justice what is the king's justice. Is it hear what counsel for the defense is just bought of because comes out of being the cause of the defendant. Are we to come in America to the start of the chamber but held in England and will notify that he is with that I appoint young minister to defend him at request of defendant. Man on Xander I've been expecting you. I thought I would find you here. Hanging up your wig in your law books in their proper order taking off your robe. Then you'll go home won't you delight in seeing
your wife and say well it was a pleasant day today but I had the pleasure of disbarring two lawyers both of whom have devoted their lives to the law. No pleasure at all Alexander. I respect both you and Smith. You show in a poor way to show it on an exam. Perhaps I can explain explain your reasons for opposing the people you've taken no stand against the people. A man has no right under the law to criticize legal government as a man the right to fair of you to defense to come to a federal trial they have perhaps taken drastic action in this case but for a reason he's challenge to authority is a real danger to law and order and if I have set aside some of the legal rights it is because I must admit I've made to disgust you have a kind think you would like to rule. You think a king can come out of a woman's womb and cry like a prince. And so do no wrong and do as he wishes. And what if the people have
won some of the rights and privileges. Let them have their rights until it's time to deprive them of them. Well God save such kings and kings men I say every post civil tongue in your head. I will just as you keep the law in your court and while I'm talkin let me tell you this. Before that was government there would have people believe that of course. I believe the people who made the government government did not breathe into people one spark of life or one breath of coverage. People came from out of state and the question before us is if the people have the right to criticize government officials who exercise the people's power in the people's service and supposedly for the people's benefit. I see tell me to whom is Governor Bill our sponsor King. Should God Save the King. He's busy this afternoon.
And to whom is the king of responsibility not to this German printer I assure you of that. Why isn't the king of responsible in anyway to the people who gave him as part of my gift. You know either case the people have a grounds to demand an accounting for their use of it and that's what John has demanded and that's why he's in jail and it's because the whole structure of your authority is at stake in this matter that you're so much afraid that even you will set aside law unfairness and get a conscience. Isn't that good enough of your Scotch talk Alexander. Do you know why I came over to this country to say that the King had a great dislike for you. That's But half the reason. And what composer rest of it. I had a great dislike for him and now but damn you out of London to bring the start of chamber over here see America is mom's big chance there is a wide wide ocean between us and the old way. I wonder what I'm going to take this new start of clover do you hear this is the
people side of the Atlantic. The people are going to government. And so when have people known what is best for them. Since when have kings cared what is best for them. People decide a question on its merits or will they take the easy way out it will do both. But they all have their own best interests more to Todd than the King's governors and this is a first step towards this remarkable government you advocate freedom for man who presses to print as they will if they were to print the truth necessary that these printers be made of breeding of education maybe have criminal records. Will it become to them a rich lush business this legal blackmail of public officials are to be shot at. There will be editors who will sell themselves for 30 pieces of silver paid in pairs on a street corner. Just as there are governors who will do the same. They want to begin to charge for the service and in the palace. But eventually the people will decide between one edited and another
between truth and half truth between honesty and deceit and what possible background have the people from making such decision why they have as good a background Follet as somebody who was made a ruler because his POV of the head of father who had a father who had a father who knew or was ought to kill the king. I have heard of faith in the people who are not examined. But I have never been I do I with blind faith in your posts come over to the window and I give you my reasons for opposing you then John. What are the people that are in the streets of New York. Dutch German Belgians French English Irish Scotch talian Spaniards negro slaves preachers grocers illiterates
cowards idiots soldiers rich men paupers prostitutes the Quakers Jews Lutherans and down on the waterfront you'll find a murder a 2 I expect any number of people here can be bought for less than the proverbial pieces of steel that you might start with half a crown. These are my facts out there. These people are my arguments. Some of them good some bad some likable some unlikable. But I have passed that adolescent stage when I laureate in the words of your Andrew Hamilton and a few other Scotch lawyers. I have come to face the reality that bases the street outside my office. We to give the new world over to them. I accept God by faith or to ask. Proof is absurd by definition but I do not have to take the people by faith I see them I know them and I tell you I
do not have faith in them as a body to govern wisely or where. And so you will sacrifice John to save the people from themselves. If I must Yes I will sacrifice my own life. Tis a noble motivation and I'm pleased to say I would be around to see your feelings plead in my courtroom Alexander. No but the people will have a jury there. Good afternoon. I'll see you at the trial. One moment Alexander. What is your answer to my arguments. Why do you avoid debating with me on this goal. I'm not concerned with changing your views. I can see that that is a task to require more than an afternoon may take a lifetime. There are honest men who hold your view just as honest men hold mine and so
that always will be an honest man on either side of this question on any issue that is always. It is not your opinion that bothers me but your tactics my friend. And God help you anybody in America who would deprive a citizen of his rights. You are. As I walked home from the lunch his office I realized that my whole body was trembling. My energy and confidence were spent. Now as the people passed me my mind was confused. The launch is what made this whole business of believing in
people. It has its moments of doubt. Mrs. Hunt what in the row do you want with those cats. Mr. Alexander I don't know but eight months ago when they were kittens you remember how playful they were and I couldn't bring myself to part with one of them. So now I've got seven cats that's more than enough I should say. Yes and the worst part of it is there are others on the way. Would you like to have a grown door Mr. Anatole and or Mrs. Hunt thank you. But my wife has has a cat. Oh how wonderful. Tell me is it. Is it a female. I took great care to obtain a male how smart you were Mr. Alexander how very smart you were. James says that the bakery is hardly taking enough for all those cats and us too. But still. Are you sure you wouldn't want a cat. Or if you excuse me Mrs. Hunt I'll be getting along oh of course. Oh by the way Mr. Alexander how is Mr. Singer then due to the poor food I understand but well enough.
I'm worried about him and so is James. James said last night that he might get put on the jury and then it might all be lost. What would be lost in the bakery. You see all the rich people buy cakes and pies and bread. Poor people bake their own. And if my husband gets on the jury and the jury finds Mr. Sanger innocent. Well what do you know what the governor's friends think about Mr. Sangar. I suppose I understand what you're sayin but the jury is selected by chance and I have nothing to do with it. Would you excuse me but I haven't told you about last night. What about it. We have our family prayers at night you know. James and the children myself. We pray each of us in our turn. And last night when it came to me I mentioned Mr. Singer to the Lord and I said Lord help. John's anger and if it be thy will put James on the jury. But only if it be thy will Lord. In Jesus name. And it's the custom at the prayers when a person finishes for the
family to say amen. But there was a long pause and then it was low but I heard it and the Lord must've heard it too. For James he said Amen. Then the children said Amen. And it was done and the Lord knows we're willing. I thought you'd like to know too Mr. Alexander. Yes yes Mrs. Halm I'd like to know. Well the story of Don's anger is well known. What it's taught in schools which would have pleased him if he'd known. But for those of you who didn't care too much about school I would tell you how the trial turned out. We had a time finding a lawyer who was willing to defend
John's anger. You know they had families and ambitions or they were busier you know. So we went to Philadelphia Smith and I for I was a lawyer. We picked perhaps the best in the whole country the retired Andrew Hamilton. And man them bothered with the element of age but but willing to return to practice for this president said in case they were Scotsmen you was my brief. I'm happy to say but it did little good for justice. He insisted on the rulings of the Stata chamber. So finally Hamilton hobbled over to the jury box and began talking to the jury. See grew extremely angry at your evidence Mr. Hamilton and leave the interpretation of the law to the jury to the colt. If I may your honor but I also know that I may not choose to do so for the jury is not to accept anyone's interpretation of the law but may
interpret both law and evidence if they choose. They are not bound by old laws or old well it's and I'm sure of none would be happy over on the court if this jury would set us free from both. If they could at any rate by English custom and by English law they are free to do as they see fit in this matter and without any retribution or punishment whatsoever. And now suppose gentlemen of the jury we talk about what's at stake in this case just the 13 of us. Let's decide how we in America want to interpret the laws about libel. And the jury had been out for some time I sneaked over and sat down beside Mrs. Huntley. Mike Good afternoon Mr. Alexander. You know this time. Looks like your prayer was heard. So it was. Well if it was the Lord's will then it will be the Lord that will take care
of us and I do think John's anger has a good chance of being found innocent after that fine speech in his favor. It's going to be a difficult decision for a jury to make. They will be criticized perhaps chastised if they find that innocent and the judges already if they are Mr. Alexander I mean it took them a long time enough to come to terms didn't it not so long. Your husband's at the front. He's the chaplain you know looks so good standing there doesn't he. Yes yes I suppose so. I always said James was the best looking one of the hundred boys only one that took after his father in law looks better businessmen than either of his brothers to except maybe for today. And so John Singleton rose and faced his jury the moment seemed to stop expectantly Delancey leaned forward. The attorney general ceased gathering up the notes of his case and drew Hamilton waited tensely.
But experience gives little definite clue to the decision of the jodis. John's angle appeared to become. But I noticed that his hands were clenched. His wife was crying. The jurymen were looking straight ahead to him on the edge and Irish. An Englishman who with a twelve good men and true. The people in the court room were absolutely silent and outside the court room. People were weak and people throughout the province. People even in England were waiting some in hope some in fear jury find the defendant. You know not guilty. You see. Just so you know and so with these weapons it became
possible for an American to criticize his government and the baker had lost his bacon. You're. That afternoon there was just rejoicing in New York City. The guns in the harbor gave Andrew Hamilton a salute and he and our party went to the Black Horse Tavern the favorite spot in New York at the time. Even Mrs Ingleton John and the children where they are and we praised Hamilton and we praised each other and then we ask for the toast from John Dingell himself. John rose slowly from his chair. The governor says I'm a man of too many words was I. I am a man of one word and she is freedom from nine months and prison. I give you freedom from my
years of life on this earth in the old country and my years here I give you my goddess and I take you on ahead. And she will reward you as she has me. Honor her not. And she would leave you. And guard her how she would be stove and. Worship her. Where she would be taken from you. And then you would say I want freedom back again and you will go to find her. She is easily lost. And she is easily saw. But it is not easy to find her by friends of America. I give you freedom. Low. American Adventure is written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton produced by the
communications center of the University of North Carolina. American adventurer is a study of and in the New World. His values and his characteristics who he is what he believes. The series is made possible by the National Association of educational broadcasters and the fun for I don't education and independent agency established by the Ford Foundation. And the single child Alexander was played by Earl when Mrs. anger by Gail E. Smith by Charles co-wrote the English judge de Lancey by Johnny Lee Mrs Hunt by Joe Grushecky and John's anger by Jon Benet's. Carl Kasell speaking American Adventure is produced and recorded by the University of North Carolina on the campus at Chapel Hill. This is the n AB network.
American adventure
Zenger trial
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The landmark trial of John Zenger is dramatized. The Zenger Trial helped to establish freedom of the press in the American colonies, affirming that truth is a defense against charges of libel.
Series Description
This series studies the values and characteristics of notable figures from America's early years. It is written by John M. Ehle and directed by John S. Clayton.
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Social Issues
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Actor: Kuralt, Charles, 1934-1997
Actor: Ehle, Gail
Director: Clayton, John S.
Host: Kasell, Carl.
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Writer: Ehle, John, 1925-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-12-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:20
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Chicago: “American adventure; Zenger trial,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “American adventure; Zenger trial.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: American adventure; Zenger trial. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from