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Lecture 1

MC 2000 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Jury Nullification, John Peter Zenger, Excessive Bail Clause

Mass Communication
Course Code
MC 2000

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Creating the First Amendment: Origins and Philosophy
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the
people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for
a redress of grievances.
Our legal system is based on the British legal system,
because we were a British colony.
The British system had kings, and one of the biggest crimes
in 15th, 16th, and 17th century London was saying something
bad about the king. The Star Chamber was located in
Parliament, and it was a court chamber. You were pretty
much going to be found guilty. It was a one-sided deal.
William Prynne wery religious, and he thought that acting
(plays, drama) was immoral. Wrote The Player’s Scourge.
The queen at the time came from Spain, and she set up
an acting troupe in the royal court.
So he’s arrested for insulting the queen, but he never
directly said anything to her, but it was deemed to be
insulting the queen, and therefore, the king.
o Someone becomes king through divine right (God),
so in addition to insulting the king, you were
also insulting God.
Cut off his ears and put him in the tower of London
for 10 years. He was pretty defiant because he
continued his writings, and he continued to be
After the Puritan revolution, he became a government
minister after the king was ousted and ran the Tower
of London.
William Blackstone 4 Commentaries on the Laws of England
It is immaterial with respect to the essence of a
libel, whether the matter of it be true or false;
since the provocation, and not the falsity, is the
thing to be punished criminally”
R. v. Zenger, 17 St. Tr. 678 (N.Y. 1735)
New York City was small, the population was 20,000,
and it was pretty much confined to lower Manhattan
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