Alexander, James

Alexander, James

James Alexander, born in 1691 in Scotland, was an eminent lawyer who became famous for his support of Freedom of the Press.

In 1715, Alexander immigrated to America, and began a career of public service to New York and New Jersey. He performed the duties of surveyor general for the Province of New Jersey in 1715, and three years later served as recorder of Perth Amboy.

" …I think it absolutely necessary that some person be here to defend Zenger."
—James Alexander

Alexander participated in the Council of New York from 1721 to 1732 but continued to be active in New Jersey. He was admitted to the New Jersey Provincial bar in 1723, and joined the Council of New Jersey in 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 codefense lawyer at this trial, and 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 died in Albany, New York, on April 12, 1756.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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