John Pater Zenger (1E97-1746)

Freedom of the press owes its origins, in part, to German immigrant John Peter Zenger. In 1733 Zenger agreed Lo prinL the Now York Wcc.kly Journal, founded to expose New York's corrupL royal governor. William Cosby. Zenger, who had come to America at age 13, knew the risks. No government at the time, including Britain, granted newspapers such freedom.

Stories in the Journal infuriated Cosby, who ordered copies of the paper publicly burned. Cosby charged Zenger with libel and threw him irrto jail. Unahle to meet the high bail, Zenger sat in a cell for eight months, while his wife Anna kept the paper alive.

When the case went lo trial in 1735. Cosby tried to hand pick the jurors but failed. Zenger's lawyer. Andrew Hamilton of Philadelphia, told jurors. "'Nature and the laws of our country have given us a right Lo liber Ly ... by speaking and writing the truth." Had Zenger printed the truth? Jurors thought so. It took them just 10 minutes Lo reach a verdict: iNol guilty."

include moral rules about how people should behave toward one another. Ideals of the Commandments, such as "thou shalt not steal" and "thou shalt not kill/' are reflected in our laws today.

Roman law

The Romans made a science of the law, which they callcd jurisprudence, a word we use today to mean the study of law. The first code of Roman law was published in 450 B.c. As in the Code of Hammurabi,

Roman penalties for offenses were drastic by later standards: "If any person has sung or composed against another person a song such as was causing slander or insult to another," said one of the laws, "he shall be clubbcd to death."

Over several centuries the Roman senate adopted a great many laws* and Roman judges wTotc commentaries on diem, which often became part of the law. loiter Roman emperors created law by issuing edicts commands chat were equivalent to laws. As the Roman Empire grew, these laws spread to Europe> Africa> and Asia. In A.D. 533 Emperor Justinian I, ruler of chc Byzantine, or Eastern Roman, Empire, boiled down the confusing mass of Roman law into an orderly body of rules callcd the Code of Justinian. This code became the basis of law for the Byzantine Empire. Roman law also became part of the laws of the Roman Catholic Church» known as canon law.

More than twelve hundred years later, the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte updated the Justinian Code and called it the Napoleonic Code. Napoleon went on to conquer much of Europe in the early nineteenth century, bringing his code with him. In turn, European colonists carried it to Asia and Africa later in the century. As a result, much of the world now lives under some form of Roman law as interpreted by the Napoleonic Code. Even the state of Louisiana, which was French-held territory that Napoleon sold to the United States in 1803, has a system of laws, unlike those of the other 49 states, based on the Napoleonic Code.

English Law

The most important source of American laws is English law. Perhaps the greatest con-tribution is the English system of common law-, or law based on court decisions rather than on a legal code. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066» English kings sent

Chapter 15 Legal Rights and Responsibilities

judges into the countryside to administer justice. Over time, these judges began to compare the facts and rulings from earlier eases to new cases. When judges dccidcd a new case, they looked in the books for a similar case and followed che earlier ruling, or precedent. Precedents are legal opinions that bccamc part of the common lawT.

English judges were familiar with Roman law and canon law, and they blended these into the body of common law. The law came to include basic principles of citizens' rights such as crial by jury and the concept that people are considered innocent until proven guilty. Common law became the basis for the legal systems of many English colonics, including the lands that later became Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

By the seventeenth century, as the English legislature, called Parliament, be came stronger in relation to the monarchy, acts of Parliament—written statutes— came to dominate the English legal system. Still, common law continued to have a strong influence in legal matters. When English settlers came to the North American colonies in the 1600s and 1700s, they brought with them their traditions of

English Law By tradition, English lawyers, called barristers, wear wigs in court. Patricia Scotland, shown here, was Britain's first black female barrister. What two principles of American law come from English law?

common law and citizens" rights. Today these ideas arc an important part of our legal system. The common law tradition of following precedents still survives in the interpretation of statutes by courts.

Concluding Why was the Code of Hammurabi an important development?


Checking for Understanding

1. Key Terms Define the following Lerms and use them in sentences related to lav»' and legal systems: jurisprudence, common law, precedent, statute.

Reviewing Main Ideas

2. Explain What did John Adams mean when he said Ihal Massachusetts should have "a government of laws, not of men"?

3. Identify What throe systems of law were baaed on Roman law?

Critical Thinking

4. Drawing Conclusions Why do you Ihink common law pre da Led statute lav»' in the English system of lav/?

5. Making Comparisons Using a graphic organiser like Ihe one below, compare early systems ot law.

Earlv Systems of Lav/

Analyzing Visuals

6. Interpret Road tho tirno lino on page 345. The Juslinian Code was written about how many yoars after tho Code of Hammurabi was wiillen?


7. Interview Invile a lawyer Lo your class to discuss how the system of laws in tho United States dif fera from those of other nalions.

Chapter 15 Legal Rights and Responsibilities 347


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