Zenger’s fight for a free press, one that can be critical of the government without fear of retribution, is an important event in American history. The results of the Zenger trial have implications that are as applicable in modern society as they were in 1735. Freedom of the press is one of the United States’ founding principles, and it allowed the American Revolution to take place. Galt firmly believes in the cause of Zenger and stresses that this is a freedom that should not and cannot be taken for granted. The book argues that the fight for a free press was a hard one, won only through the hard work and labor of people such as Zenger. One of the book’s main values is that it easily explains this important issue.
Galt’s sympathies are with Zenger and those people who believed that the press should be free and that the people should have the right to know what their leaders and government are doing. Characters can be placed into one of two categories—heroes or villains. Zenger and his lawyers and backers are the heroes of the book and the fight for a free press, while Cosby, Bradford, and others are clearly the villains. The side of the hero is adequately explored, but the motivations of Cosby, Bradford, and the others remain a mystery, although Bradford is shown in a slightly more sympathetic light than some of the other figures. Galt obviously respects and applauds the stand taken by Zenger and his colleagues and despises the actions of Cosby and his conspirators.
The book gives much coverage to the trial and to the...
(The entire section is 636 words.)
Galt clearly wrote Peter Zenger because freedom of the press has been an important social issue for many years. The American climate of the 1950’s, when the book was written, was a time of good or bad, with no in-between. There was a wave of hysteria over some political views when those persons who refused to declare loyalty to the American government were publicly condemned and blacklisted. Many people lost their careers and their lives by standing up for a different view, and the Cold War was taking shape. Yet the 1950’s was also a time of great patriotism in the United States. Young people were coming into their own, and their literature was attempting to shape their values—hence, the good-versus-evil theme in Peter Zenger. Zenger, although he lived in the 1700’s, could have lived in the American heartland in the 1950’s. He stood up for what he thought was right and was willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of freedom, as the United States was doing in the Korean War.
Zenger set the precedent for the free press that the United States enjoys, although at the time he had no way of realizing that his legacy would last for hundreds of years. Thus, a valuable history lesson is given in Peter Zenger: He was an individual who became only a passing footnote in history texts, but his struggle, fight, and sacrifices serve all Americans in their daily lives when they pick up a newspaper or watch a news report.