EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Did you know that a historic Mount Vernon landmark that once stood in the boundaries of Eastchester is considered the birthplace of the Bill of Rights?
In 1733, more than 40 years before America would take to the battlefield to defends its liberty against the Red Coats in the Revolutionary War, John Peter Zenger was a reporter and publisher at the New York Journal.
While covering an account of an election that was held at St. Paul’s Church - then in Eastchester, now a Mount Vernon fixture – Zenger was arrested by the Royal Governor, William Cosby, and tried for seditious libel after criticizing the governor’s candor during the election.
Zenger’s lawyer – Andrew Hamilton – successfully argued that simply publishing the information did not constitute libel, but the falsehood of the accusations needed to be proved, thus providing the groundwork for what would eventually become “freedom of the press” which would help form the groundwork for the Bill of Rights.
St. Paul’s Church would later become a hospital ground during the Battle of Pell’s Point, and currently houses more than 100 Hessian soldiers that were buried in the churchyard. Congress designated St. Paul’s as the national shrine of the Bill of Rights in 1953.
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