In Andrew Hamilton’s summation of his precedent-setting trial on Free speech, he stated that the press has “a liberty both of exposing and opposing tyrannical power by speaking and writing truth.” This was forty years before the American Revolution, and shock waves reverberated across the nation to London.
By the time Hamilton agreed to defend newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger in 1735 pro bono, he had already been Attorney General in Pennsylvania, and served in the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly for two decades. Hamilton’s victory in the Zenger Trial gave rise to the expression “Philadelphia lawyer.”
Hamilton was one of the state’s most successful lawyers, among his clients were the descendants of William Penn, sons Thomas and Richard, and grandsons Governor John Penn, Richard, Jr., and John Penn).
Although his portrait adorns the walls of law firms across the nation, much of Scottish-born Andrew Hamilton’s personal history, his political acumen, and his other seminal contributions to the formation of America’s legal system have gone virtually unnoticed for the past 275 years.
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