Croswell case (krôzˈwəl, krôsˈwĕl) [key], U.S. court case involving freedom of the press. In 1803, Harry Croswell, the editor of the Wasp of Hudson, N.Y., was convicted of libeling President Thomas Jefferson in his newspaper. In his appeal of the conviction to the New York supreme court, Croswell was defended by Alexander Hamilton. In a famous brief, Hamilton argued that freedom of the press consisted in the right to print the truth, if with good motives and for justifiable ends, even if this truth reflected on "the government, magistracy or individuals." Although the court sustained the conviction, the legislature of New York incorporated Hamilton's position into law in 1805. It was the law of libel until 1964, when New York Times Company v. Sullivan expanded the protection of the press.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.