Tag Archives: Alien and Sedition Acts

ITPL Ep 034 featured image

Episode 034 The Zenger Trial and the Birth of the Free Press in America


With the mainstream news media under siege these days, and with some people – including one particularly powerful and influential person – denouncing it as so-called “fake news,” this seems like a good time to explore the history of a free press. Just consider how central the free press has been to American history. So many key moments in American history have derived from, or somehow involved, the freedom of the press.
* The abolitionist press and the eventual end of slavery.
* Muckrakers at the turn of the 20th century and the exposure of abuses by big business.
* The Pentagon Papers and the withdrawal of the US military from Vietnam.
* The Watergate investigation and the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

These are just a few examples of the vital role a free press has played in American history. And they raise the question: How did this idea of a free press get enshrined in the First Amendment? And how did it come to be seen as a fundamental principle of American democracy?

It’s a long and fascinating story, but it began with the arrest and prosecution of a little known New York newspaper publisher named Peter Zenger in 1735. And that’s the story we’ll focus on in this episode of In The Past Lane, the podcast about history and why it matters.
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Among the many things we’ll discuss:

How the British defied “seditious libel” in the 18th century – and how American colonists began to develop a very different understanding of it.

The biography of Peter Zenger, the unknown printer at the center of the famous 1735 trial that bears his name.

How the 1735 trial of Peter Zenger popularized the idea of freedom of the press.

How the legacy and memory of the Zenger Trial led to the inclusion of freedom of the press in the 1st Amendment.

How Americans came to see a free press as essential to maintaining a healthy democracy.

Further Reading

Paul Finkelman, ed., A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger: with Related Documents (Bedford, 2010)

Gail Jarrow, The Printer’s Trial: The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press (2006)

Richard Kluger, Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America’s Free Press (2016)

Lyrissa Lidsky and Robert G. Wright, Freedom of the Press: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution (2004)

Website: Federal Hall National Monument, New York (NPS) – permanent exhibition on the Zenger Trial.

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Ketsa, “I Will Be There” (Free Music Archive)

Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017

 

ITPL Ep 028 featured image

Episode 028 The Crises of the 1790s and the Making of US National Identity


In this episode, we dive into the tumultuous and critically important years of the 1790s, a time when the very fate of the new republic hung in the balance.

subscribe-buttonFirst, I’ll do a short set-up segment on the really perilous political scene in the United States in the 1790s. It’s a lively period when many of the key Founders like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson clashed bitterly over foreign and domestic policy, so much so that many people feared civil war was imminent.

Second, I’ll sit down with historian Carol Berkin to talk about her new book, A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism. She focuses on four major crises that threatened the young nation: the Whiskey Rebellion, the Genet Affair, the XYZ Affair, and the Alien and Sedition Acts. Historians have long discussed these controversies as crises that ultimately doomed the Federalist Party. But the real story of the crises of the 1790s, says Berkin, is the way that these four crises all contributed to the formation of American national identity. The US at this time was a new and fragile nation, made up of people who more often than not, identified with their states rather than their nation. So while these crises were divisive and controversial, they also led more and more Americans to see themselves as Americans, and to defend national institutions like the Presidency and the Constitution. My conversation with Carol is fun and deeply interesting and I think you’re going to love it.

Among the things Carol Berkin discusses:ITPL Ep 028 Berkin book cover
* How the crises of the 1790s helped forge U.S. national identity.
* How Americans in the fractious 1790s came to respect not just Washington, but the office of the president.
* How the Whiskey Rebellion threatened the legitimacy of the federal government and how George Washington used a combination of firmness and leniency to defuse it.
* How the Genet Affair threatened US sovereignty in the 1790s.
* How John Adams bungled the XYZ Affair but ultimately benefitted from the nationalist outrage it produced.
* Why the Alien and Sedition Acts were not very repressive in practice.
* How the Federalists deserve credit for guiding the fragile American republic through the tumultuous 1790s.
* How the brutal partisan media and fake news shaped the politics of the 1790s.
* What we in 2017 can learn from the fractious politics of the 1790s.

About Carol Berkin website

Further Reading

Carol Berkin, A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism (Basic Books, 2017)

Ronald Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (2004)

Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2000)

Joseph J. Ellis, The Quartet: Orchestrating The Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 (2015)

William Hogeland, The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America’s Newfound Sovereignty (Simon & Schuster, 2006)

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

The Womb, “I Hope It Hurts” (Free Music Archive)

Scott Holmes, “The Light Between Us” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Associate Producer: Devyn McHugh

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017