One of these orphans was Peter Zenger, who was apprenticed to William Bradford, at that time the only printer in the colony. When he grew up, he became the editor of The Weekly Journal, which made its first appearance on November 5th, 1733. Washington at this time was not yet two years old. Zenger was one of the earliest champions of American liberty.
When the founder of the Mercury, of Philadelphia, died in 1742, his widow, Mrs. Cornelia Bradford, carried it on for many years with great success, just as Mrs. Zenger continued the New York Weekly Journal the second newspaper started in New York for years after the death of her husband. Anna K. Greene established the Maryland Gazette, the first paper in that colony, in 1767.
Each week it was filled with articles assailing Cosby, and all who were in sympathy with him. Very soon Zenger was arrested, charged with publishing libels against the city officials and the King. He was locked up in one of the cells in the City Hall.
The friends of Zenger secretly secured the services of Andrew Hamilton, a distinguished lawyer of Philadelphia, who pleaded his cause to good effect, and showed that Zenger had only spoken as any man had a right to speak, and had pointed out wrongs where wrongs existed.
Justice De Lancey, remembering that his friend the Governor had made him Chief-Justice, told the jury that they must find Zenger guilty. But the jury pronounced him not guilty. Thus the freedom of the press was established, and the jury, by their verdict, had opposed the Governor, his council, the Assembly, and the judge before whom the accused had been tried.
In after years Colden told how his studies and his writings were interrupted by the coming of the new and lively Governor. New-York Gazette, And now it seemed as though there were to be dissensions in the city. There was trouble with the Governor; trouble with Peter Zenger, who wished to print what the king's representatives did not want printed; trouble about who should be Chief Justice.
The names of Jacob Leisler, of the seventeenth century, Peter Zenger of the eighteenth century, Franz Lieber and Karl Schurz of the nineteenth century are indelibly inscribed among the champions of freedom in America. Yet fifty years ago "Dutch" in New York had almost the same evaluation that "Sheeny" and "Dago" have today.
Colden came to be a friend of William Bradford, as he had been of Hunter, and watched his work with deep interest. He often advised Bradford when that first printer of New York published the New York Gazette, in 1725, the first newspaper in the city, and upheld him a few years later when the second newspaper was issued by Bradford's old apprentice boy, Peter Zenger, who had become his rival.
For his championship of the freedom of the press and his successful defense of Zenger he was hailed by Governor Morris as "the day-star of the Revolution." His son James Hamilton, was the first native-born Governor of Pennsylvania and Mayor of Philadelphia. Charles Anderson, another Missionary, probably a graduate of Aberdeen, served in Virginia from 1700 to 1719, was also a supporter of Blair.
The trial of Zenger, the Stamp Act crisis, the Boston Massacre all the great events which were so bitterly discussed in the outer Colonial world had created scarcely a ripple in our isolated chain of frontier settlements.