Philadelphia Lawyer

   During the eighteenth century a popular belief held that a Philadelphia lawyer was an awesome legal adversary. The reputation of a Philadelphia lawyer carried with it a picture of great talent and the ability to expose the weaknesses of opposition witnesses under cross-examination. The first recorded use of the phrase Philadelphia lawyer was in 1788 in the form "it would puzzle a Philadelphia Lawyer," but it was first heard at the trial of John Peter Zenger, the publisher of the New York Weekly Journal (it was what today would be called an "underground" newspaper), who printed a series of articles attacking the provincial government for abuses committed against the people and charging the government with personal corruption. Zenger was arrested in 1734 and indicted for seditious libel. He hired Andrew Hamilton, a distinguished Philadelphia lawyer, to come to his defense. Hamilton traveled to New York by a horse-drawn taxicab and, charging no fee, did come to Zenger's defense, devastating the prosecution. He brilliantly defended the beleaguered publisher and obtained a "not guilty" verdict. During the trial, the term Philadelphia Lawyer was used both as praise and opprobrium. The trial, according to one authority, "was instrumental in establishing a precedent for freedom of the press in American law."

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Philadelphia lawyer — is a term to describe a lawyer who knows the most detailed and minute points of law. Its first usage dates back to 1788. [ [http://www.merriam webster.com/dictionary/Philadelphia%20lawyer Philadelphia lawyer] . Definition at Merriam… …   Wikipedia

  • Philadelphia lawyer — A colloquial term that was initially a compliment to the legal expertise and competence of an attorney due to the outstanding reputation of the Philadelphia bar during colonial times. More recently the term has become a disparaging label for an… …   Law dictionary

  • Philadelphia lawyer — ☆ Philadelphia lawyer n. [so named in reference to Andrew Hamilton, of Philadelphia, who obtained acquittal (1735) of J. P. Zenger from libel charges] Informal a clever, shrewd, or tricky lawyer, esp. one skilled in taking advantage of legal… …   English World dictionary

  • Philadelphia lawyer — Lawyer Law yer, n. [From {Law}, like bowyer, fr. bow.] 1. One versed in the laws, or a practitioner of law; one whose profession is to conduct lawsuits for clients, or to advise as to prosecution or defence of lawsuits, or as to legal rights and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • philadelphia lawyer — noun Usage: usually capitalized P : an exceptionally competent lawyer language that … cannot be correctly and definitely interpreted even by a Philadelphia lawyer Journal of Accountancy especially : a shrewd lawyer versed in the intricacies of… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Philadelphia lawyer — noun Etymology: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Date: 1788 a lawyer knowledgeable in even the most minute aspects of the law …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Philadelphia Lawyer — Andrew Hamilton, Philadelphia attorney who in 1734 and 1735 successfully defended New York printer Peter Zenger whose newspaper criticized British colonial policy in America Zenger had been unsuccessful in getting a New York lawyer to take his… …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Philadelphia lawyer — a lawyer of outstanding ability at exploiting legal fine points and technicalities. [1780 90, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

  • Philadelphia lawyer — Synonyms and related words: Artful Dodger, Yankee horse trader, ambulance chaser, apologist, arguer, argufier, casuist, charmer, controversialist, crafty rascal, debater, disceptator, disputant, dodger, fox, glib tongue, guardhouse lawyer, horse… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • Philadelphia lawyer — Philadel′phia law′yer n. lawg a lawyer of outstanding ability at exploiting legal fine points and technicalities • Etymology: 1780–90, amer …   From formal English to slang

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