John Zenger and Andrew Hamilton Weep as some thing never change.

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John Zenger and Andrew Hamilton Weep as some thing never change.

I must insist at the same Time, that what my Client is charged with, is not a Libel ; and I observed just now, that Mr. Attor­ney in defin­ing a Libel, made use of the words scan­dalous, sedi­tious and, and tend to dis­quiet the Peo­ple ; but (whether with Design or not I will not say) he omit­ted the Word false

Atty Andrew Hamil­ton at the trial of John Peter Zenger 1734

Gan­dalf: Always remem­ber Frodo, the Ring is try­ing to get back to its mas­ter. It wants to be found.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fel­low­ship of the Ring 2001

I’ve been indulging myself lately at work read­ing a recently acquired copy of d Albert Bush­nell Harts spec­tac­u­lar His­tory: Amer­i­can His­tory Told by Con­tem­po­raries Vol 2 16891783.

The book is from 1901 and is not likely in use any­where these days which is a shame as not only great read­ing due to a plethora of inter­est­ing entries (for exam­ple a piece by John Adams circa 1775 explain­ing why New Eng­land is supe­rior because of its insti­tu­tions, hege­mony and laws con­cern­ing moral­ity [item 24] fol­lowed imme­di­ately [item 25] by Gabriel Thomas in 1699 call­ing Penn­syl­va­nia the poor man’s par­adise for exactly the oppo­site rea­sons) but it’s more impor­tantly full of 1st hand source mate­r­ial for those actu­ally inter­ested in his­tory as it is or was rather than as they would wish it to be…which come to think of it is likely what it’s not in use any­where these days.

Well yes­ter­day I came across the pas­sage quoted above (Entry 72 Page 192) from 1738 where John Peter Zenger relates the story of his pros­e­cu­tion where it was charged he “did fal­sly, sedi­tiously and scan­dalously print and pub­lish, and cause to be printed a, a cer­tain false, mali­cious, sedi­tious, scan­dalous Libel” (all spelling and style in orig­i­nal) and what struck me about it was how per­ti­nent it was to the cur­rent busi­ness of Twit­ter and oth­ers cen­sor­ing folks for dar­ing to say that absent extremely rare abnor­mal­i­ties men are men and women are women regard­less of how much surgery, if any, one has to con­vince one­self otherwise.

I’m par­tic­u­larly drawn to a part of this speech by Attor­ney Hamil­ton to the jury:

And were you to find a Ver­dict against my Client, you must take upon you to say, the Papers referred to in the Infor­ma­tion, and which we acknowl­edge we printed and pub­lished , are false scan­dalous and sedi­tious ; but of this I can have no Appre­hen­sion. You are Cit­i­zens of New-​York; you are really what the Law sup­poses you to be, hon­est and law­ful Men and, accord­ing to my Brief, the Facts which we offer to prove were not com­mit­ted in a cor­ner; they are noto­ri­ously known to be true; and there­fore in your Jus­tice lies our Safety. And as we are denied the Lib­erty of giv­ing Evi­dence, to prove the Truth of what we have pub­lished, I will be Leave to lay it down as a stand­ing rule in such Cases, That the sup­press­ing of Evi­dence ought always to be taken for the strongest Evi­dence; and I hope it will have that Weight with you…

…it is true in Times past it was a Crime to speak Truth, and in that ter­ri­ble Court of the Star-​Chamber, many wor­thy and brave Men suf­fered for so doing.

This is sig­nif­i­cant because while we might use the words “Star Cham­ber” as a phrase this was an actual court that was barely if at all in liv­ing mem­ory tales of it would have been told and repeated by the fathers and grand­fa­thers of those hear­ing his words.

To them arbi­trary pun­ish­ment for speak­ing truth aloud was not an abstract it was one of the real­i­ties that drove them to the shores of Amer­ica, after all the Habeas cor­pus act was less than a cen­tury old. But we in Amer­ica do not have the expe­ri­ence of these things and hav­ing ban­ished the Albert Bush­nell Harts of the exhaus­tive ref­er­ences and use of 1st hand sources in his­tory school and replaced it with the Howard Zinns of the who needs ref­er­ences in His­tory any­ways? school of teach­ing it’s unlikely that peo­ple real­ize the beast they are unleash­ing when they extol a lie and sup­press fact and truth and will, like Meghan Mur­phy, not fig­ure it out until the mod­ern Star Cham­ber comes for them.

The real les­son here is that the human race is full of Gov William Cos­bys and Chief jus­tice James DeLan­ceies look­ing to pun­ish those who might speak truths that they find uncom­fort­able and always has been. It’s only by our found­ing fathers rec­og­niz­ing these facts and build­ing a sys­tem to checks these abuses that this has not be a plague on our house for cen­turies. If we do not stand up and fight back and Hamil­ton and Zenger did we will be doomed to the fate that the jury saved him from.

And if we fail to make the fight out of fear then we will deserve the oppro­brium that the jury of his­tory will rightly bestow upon us for doing so.

I must insist at the same Time, that what my Client is charged with, is not a Libel ; and I observed just now, that Mr. Attorney in defining a Libel, made use of the words scandalous, seditious and, and tend to disquiet the People ; but (whether with Design or not I will not say) he omitted the Word false

Atty Andrew Hamilton at the trial of John Peter Zenger 1734

Gandalf: Always remember Frodo, the Ring is trying to get back to its master. It wants to be found.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001

I’ve been indulging myself lately at work reading a recently acquired copy of d Albert Bushnell Harts spectacular History: American History Told by Contemporaries Vol 2 1689-1783.

The book is from 1901 and is not likely in use anywhere these days which is a shame as not only great reading due to a plethora of interesting entries (for example a piece by John Adams circa 1775 explaining why New England is superior because of its institutions, hegemony and laws concerning morality [item 24] followed immediately [item 25] by Gabriel Thomas in 1699 calling Pennsylvania the poor man’s paradise for exactly the opposite reasons) but it’s more importantly full of 1st hand source material for those actually interested in history as it is or was rather than as they would wish it to be…which come to think of it is likely what it’s not in use anywhere these days.

Well yesterday I came across the passage quoted above (Entry 72 Page 192) from 1738 where John Peter Zenger relates the story of his prosecution where it was charged he “did falsly, seditiously and scandalously print and publish, and cause to be printed a, a certain false, malicious, seditious, scandalous Libel” (all spelling and style in original) and what struck me about it was how pertinent it was to the current business of Twitter and others censoring folks for daring to say that absent extremely rare abnormalities men are men and women are women regardless of how much surgery, if any, one has to convince oneself otherwise.

I’m particularly drawn to a part of this speech by Attorney Hamilton to the jury:

And were you to find a Verdict against my Client, you must take upon you to say, the Papers referred to in the Information, and which we acknowledge we printed and published , are false scandalous and seditious ; but of this I can have no Apprehension. You are Citizens of New-York; you are really what the Law supposes you to be, honest and lawful Men and, according to my Brief, the Facts which we offer to prove were not committed in a corner; they are notoriously known to be true; and therefore in your Justice lies our Safety. And as we are denied the Liberty of giving Evidence, to prove the Truth of what we have published, I will be Leave to lay it down as a standing rule in such Cases, That the suppressing of Evidence ought always to be taken for the strongest Evidence; and I hope it will have that Weight with you…

…it is true in Times past it was a Crime to speak Truth, and in that terrible Court of the Star-Chamber, many worthy and brave Men suffered for so doing.

This is significant because while we might use the words “Star Chamber” as a phrase this was an actual court that was barely if at all in living memory tales of it would have been told and repeated by the fathers and grandfathers of those hearing his words.

To them arbitrary punishment for speaking truth aloud was not an abstract it was one of the realities that drove them to the shores of America, after all the Habeas corpus act was less than a century old. But we in America do not have the experience of these things and having banished the Albert Bushnell Harts of the exhaustive references and use of 1st hand sources in history school and replaced it with the Howard Zinns of the who needs references in History anyways? school of teaching it’s unlikely that people realize the beast they are unleashing when they extol a lie and suppress fact and truth and will, like Meghan Murphy, not figure it out until the modern Star Chamber comes for them.

The real lesson here is that the human race is full of Gov William Cosbys and Chief justice James DeLanceies looking to punish those who might speak truths that they find uncomfortable and always has been.  It’s only by our founding fathers recognizing these facts and building a system to checks these abuses that this has not be a plague on our house for centuries.  If we do not stand up and fight back and Hamilton and Zenger did we will be doomed to the fate that the jury saved him from.

And if we fail to make the fight out of fear then we will deserve the opprobrium that the jury of history will rightly bestow upon us for doing so.