Alexander Hamilton, American British colonies, attorney general, Bill of Rights, Council of New Jersey, Council of New York, free press, freedom of the press, James Alexander, John Peter Zenger, Journalist, libel, New Jersey, New Jersey Provincial bar, New York, Scotland, William Cosby
The Complaint of James Alexander and William…
James Alexander (1691-1756)
New York: Printed for John Peter Zenger, 1735
“It is with utmost Regret, that we attend this Committee in the Quality of Complaints; but the Matter of it too neatly affects us and the Liberties of this Country, to be buried in Silence. Had our personal Interest been solely concerned, we might have rested in a patient Expectation of a personal Remedy in some other Way: But when the Liberties of a Country are at Stake, and the Civil Enjoyments of a People sap’d at the very Foundation of them, it behoves every Man that loves his Country to cry out and give publick Warning of the Danger.”
James Alexander, born in Scotland, was an attorney. In 1715, Alexander immigrated to the American British colonies and acted as surveyor general for the Province of New Jersey. Alexander participated in the Council of New York, although he continued his public service to New Jersey. He was admitted to the New Jersey Provincial bar in 1723 and joined the Council of New Jersey that same year, serving until 1735. From 1723 to 1727 Alexander performed the duties of New Jersey attorney general. In 1735, journalist John Peter Zenger was on trial, accused of libelous attacks on the administration of New York Governor William Cosby. Alexander served as co-defense lawyer at this trial. Alexander Hamilton pleaded the case. Zenger was acquitted, and the success of this defense was a triumph for the principles of a free press. Alexander’s Complaint helped lay the foundation for the struggle for freedom of the press in the colonies. The case was instrumental in the Bill of Rights determination that juries rather than judges should decide guilt or innocence.