DREYFUS CASE ("L'Affaire Dreyfus"):(Redirected from DREYFUS, CAPTAIN ALFRED.)
- Origin of the Case.
- CrémieuFoa and Mayer Duels.
- The Intelligence Department.
- The Bordereau.
- Date of Writing and of Delivery.
- The Search for the Handwriting.
- Alfred Dreyfus.
- Appearance and Character.
- Action of Mercier.
- The Experts in Handwriting.
- The Arrest.
- Asseverations of Innocence.
- The Search for Proofs.
- Renewed Examination by Experts.
- The Parisian Press.
- Judicial Inquiry.
- Public Opinion.
- The Trial.
- The Degradation.
- Germany Concerned.
- Resignation of Casimir-Perier.
- Devil's Island.
- Treatment in Prison.
- Matthew Dreyfus.
- Colonel Picquart.
- The "Petit Bleu."
- Major Esterhazy.
- His Career.
- Picquart's Investigations.
- The Secret Dossier.
- Father Du Lac.
- The Castelin Interpellation.
- Henry's Confirmatory Letter.
- Machi-nations Against Picquart.
- Scheurer-Kestner's Inquiries.
- Tactics of the Staff Office.
- The "Speranza" and "Blanche" Telegrams.
- Silence of Scheurer-Kestner.
- Conjunction of Matthew Dreyfus and Scheurer-Kestner.
- Trial of Esterhazy.
- Attitude of the Press.
- The "Lettre du Hulan."
- Ravary's Report.
- The Esterhazy Court Martial.
- Emile Zola's "J'Accuse."
- First Zola Trial.
- Picquart's Evidence.
- The "Thunderbolt" Quoted.
- The Sentence Annulled.
- Political Aspects of the "Affaire."
- Two Favorable Symptoms.
- Second Castelin Interpellation.
- Picquart's Reply to Cavaignac.
- Trial of Esterhazy for Forgery.
- The Henry Forgery.
- Suicide of Henry.
- Zurlinden Succeeds Cavaignac.
- Ministerial Changes.
- Resignation of Brisson's Ministry.
- Trial Before the Court of Cassation.
- Attacks on the Court.
- The Death of Félix Faure.
- The Panizzardi Telegram.
- The Court Martial at Rennes.
- Defeat of Dupuy Ministry.
- Labori Shot.
- The Verdict.
- Pardon and Amnesty.
Memorable trials of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, officer in the French army, in 1894 and 1899, involving political complications and convulsions of the highest importance, rending France into two sections, and attracting the attention of the whole civilized world for nearly two years. As probably the best-known "cause célèbre" of modern times, which involved the fate of ministries, and even of presidents of the French republic, it deserves full treatment in these pages, as the Jewish aspects of the case were from first to last its leading feature.Origin of the Case.
I. The virulence of the passions aroused by the case was indirectly the result of the spread of Anti-Semitism in France, due partly to the failure of the Union Générale—a Catholic banking establishment which aimed at superseding Jewish finance—in 1885, and partly to the publication of Drumont's book "La France Juive" in 1886. But the case itself was more immediately the outcome of the continuous attack made upon the presence of the Jews as officers in the French army by Drumont and others in the journal "La Libre Parole," founded with the help of the Jesuits in 1892.
The articles of the "Libre Parole," which denounced the Jewish officers as intriguers and future traitors, led a Jewish captain of dragoons,
The Marquis de Morès, who had been chief second of Lamase, and was a well-known anti-Semite and famous duelist, held Captain Mayer, chief second of Crémieu-Foa, responsible for the inadvertence. Though totally innocent of any part in the matter, Mayer accepted a challenge from the marquis. The duel was fought on June 23, the Jewish captain being mortally wounded at the first attack; he died a few days after the duel. Owing to the sensation that was caused by this event, the "Libre Parole" thought it wise to stop the campaign against the Jewish officers until further orders. But the desired result had been obtained; anti-Semitism had received its baptism of blood.
II. Among the military services reorganize after the war of 1870 was that of the Intelligence Department (the secret service), which had as one of its principal occupations to watch the German embassy. The ambassador, Count Münster, owing to an affair involving the German military attaché, had promised on his word of honor that for the future his attachés should abstain from bribing the French officers or officials. But it was known at the IntelligenceOffice that the new attaché, Colonel Schwarzkoppen, probably without the knowledge of the ambassador, continued to entertain paid spies, being in direct correspondence with the War Office in Berlin. According to indications furnished by a former Spanish military attaché, Señor Val Carlos, Schwarzkoppen and the Italian military representative, Colonel Panizzardi, had come to an agreement to exchange the results of whatever discoveries they might make; and to keep an eye on this plotting the Intelligence Office succeeded in securing the help of a charwoman employed at the German embassy, a Madame Bastian, who collected carefully all the scraps of paper, torn up or half-burnt, which she found in the waste-paper baskets or in the fireplace of Schwarzkoppen's office, put them all in a paper bag, and once or twice a month took them or had them taken to the "section de statistique." There the pieces were carefully fitted together and gummed.
By this means it was ascertained that since 1892 certain secret information concerning the national defenses had leaked out. Some large plans of the fortress at Nice had been given up by an individual who was alluded to in one of Schwarzkoppen's notes as "that scoundrel D—" (ce canaille de D—). The fragments of another memorandum of Schwarzkoppen conveyed the idea that the German attaché had found an informant who pretended to bring him the documents just as issued from the War Office. There was therefore a wolf in the fold; Val Carlos was certain of it.The Bordereau.
During the summer of 1894 there arrived at the Intelligence Office a document which was far more alarming than any which had preceded it, and which was credited to the German embassy. This was the anonymous letter which has since become celebrated under the name of the "bordereau." This letter, written on so-called "papier pelure" (thin foreign notepaper), ruled in squares and almost transparent, was torn from top to bottom in two places, but was otherwise intact. The writing was upon the two sides of the first page. According to the official version, which was long believed to be the true one, the paper had arrived by the usual means, through Madame Bastian; but the appearance of the document, which was hardly torn, makes this story unlikely. It would appear from other disclosures that the letter was taken intact from the letter-box of Colonel Schwarzkoppen in the porter's lodge at the embassy, and brought to the office by an agent named Brucker, who had formerly acted as a go-between for Madame Bastian and the Intelligence Office. The documents which the letter announced as being sent off did not reach the War Office; and the envelope of the letter has never been produced. Here is the text of this famous document:
"Being without information as to whether you desire to see me, I send you nevertheless, monsieur, some interesting information, viz.:
- "1. A note concerning the hydraulic brake of the 120, and the way this gun has worked.[The reference is to the hydropneumatic brake of the gun called "120 court." It was a heavy field-piece, recently brought into use; the mechanism of the brake which overcame the recoil of the gun was a profound secret.]
- "2. A note upon the 'troupes de couverture' (some modifications will be carried out, according to the new plan).[The troops called to the frontier at the commencement of mobilization are referred to. They were destined to "cover" the concentration of the rest of the army; hence their name. The "new plan" is the plan No. xiii. adopted in 1895.]
- "3. A note concerning a modification in the formations of artillery.[Most likely the "formations de manœuvre," which were just about to be altered by the new regulations.]
- "4. A note relative to Madagascar.[The War Office was preparing an expedition destined to conquer that island.]
- "5. The proposed 'manuel de tir' of field-artillery (March 14, 1894)."This document is exceedingly difficult to get hold of, and I can only have it at my disposal for a very few days. The minister of war has distributed a certain number of copies among the troops, and the corps are held responsible for them."Each officer holding a copy is required to return it after the maneuvers."Therefore if you will glean from it whatever interests you, and let me have it again as soon as possible, I will manage to obtain possession of it. Unless you would prefer that I have it copied in extenso, and send you the copy."I am just starting for the maneuvers."
This communication was clearly written during the month of August, 1894, at the latest. For the "manuel de tir" for field-artillery is the résumé of the methods designed to regulate the actual firing of ordnance on the battle-field; this actual shooting, of course, never takes place during the grand maneuvers in September, but only during the "écoles à feu," which begin in May and finish in August. It is these "écoles à feu" that the writer incorrectly designates as "maneuvers," and it is probable that the word has the same meaning in the last sentence of the letter.The Search for the Handwriting.
It seems evident that the bordereau was handed over to Major Henry, who, with Major Cordier, was then assisting Colonel Sandherr, the head of the Intelligence Office. According to General Mercier, the letter in question arrived at the office with other documents whose dates ranged from Aug. 21 to Sept. 2; it is probable that Henry kept it in his possession a considerable time, which makes it the more surprising that he did not recognize the writing—in no way disguised—of one of his former fellow soldiers, Major Esterhazy. It was not until Sept. 24 that he spoke concerning the document to his fellow workers and to his chief, Colonel Sandherr, who immediately apprised the head of the staff, General de Boisdeffre, and the secretary of war, General Mercier. The feeling was intense. The informant of the German military attaché was a French officer; still further, they concluded from the tone of the letter that he was a staff-officer. Nothing justified this last supposition. On the contrary, the wording of the bordereau, technically and grammatically incorrect; the difficulty which the author had in procuring the "manuel de tir" (which was distributed freely among the staff); the small importance which his correspondent appeared to attach to his disclosures, often leaving him for a considerable time "without information"—everything would have shown to unprejudiced minds how unreasonable it was to attribute the bordereau to a staff-officer. Nevertheless, this fixed idea, this "first falsehood," suggested perhaps by the previous warnings of Val Carlos, wasaccepted without discussion; so that from the very commencement the investigations were started on a false scent. At first no result was obtained from an examination of handwritings in the bureaus of the department. But on Oct. 6 Lieutenant-Colonel d'Aboville suggested to his chief, Colonel Fabre, the idea that the bordereau, dealing as it did with questions which were under the jurisdiction of different departments, must be the work of one of the officers going through their "stage" (i.e., staff-schooling), they being the only men who passed successively through the various branches to complete their military education; moreover, as, out of the five documents mentioned, three had reference to artillery, it was probable that the officer belonged to this branch of the army. The circle thus limited, it only remained to consult the list of the "stage" officers on the staff who had come from the artillery. While looking through it, the two colonels came to a halt before the name of a Jewish officer, Captain Dreyfus. Colonel Fabre, in whose office he had been during the second quarter of 1893, remembered having given him a bad record on the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Roget and Major Bertin-Mourot; Dreyfus had given these gentlemen the impression (upon the most superficial grounds) of being presuming and overbearing, of neglecting the routine of service to go into matters which were kept secret. Fabre and D'Aboville immediately began to search for papers bearing the writing of Dreyfus; by a strange fatality it showed a likeness to the writing of the bordereau; these officers, inexperienced and prejudiced, mistook a vague resemblance for real identity.Alfred Dreyfus.
III. Alfred Dreyfus, born at Mülhausen in Alsace on Oct. 10, 1859, was the third son of a manufacturer, Raphael Dreyfus (native of Rixheim in the Haut-Rhin), who managed an important spinning-factory at Mülhausen. He had three brothers (James, Matthew, and Léon) and three sisters. When France lost Alsace by the treaty of Frankfort, the Dreyfus family, like many others at the same period, divided into two parts. The eldest son, James, remained alone at Mülhausen to manage the factory; the others chose to take up their abode in France, and soon settled in Paris. Alfred entered the Polytechnic School, the training-school of French officers, in 1878. He left there a student-officer of engineers, then passed through the Ecole d'Application at Fontainebleau, and afterward through the garrisons of Le Mans and of Paris, where his reports showed him to be the best lieutenant of his section of field-artillery. Promoted captain (second in command) in 1889, he remained for some months at the School of Pyrotechnics at Bourges; the following year he married Lucy Hadamard, daughter of a wealthy diamond-merchant, and passed with success the difficult examination for the Ecole Supérieure de Guerre, which he entered with the number 67. There he felt his ambition awaken, worked with tremendous ardor, and gained a considerable number of ranks. At the examination on leaving the school (1892) his friends expected to see him rank among the very first, and, consequently, be attached to the general staff. However, one of the members of the jury, General Bonnefond, under the pretext that "Jews were not desired" on the staff, lowered the total of his marks by making a very bad report; he did the same thing for another Jewish candidate, Lieut. E. Picard. Informed of this injustice, the two officers lodged a protest with the director of the school, Gen. Lebelin de Dionne, who expressed his regret for what had occurred, but was powerless to take any steps in the matter. Notwithstanding all drawbacks. Dreyfus graduated ninth, a fact which opened the doors of the general staff to him.Appearance and Character.
From the end of 1892 to September, 1894, Dreyfus went through his "stage" in the Staff Office, receiving excellent reports on all hands, except from Colonel Fabre. From Oct. 1, 1894, he went through a "stage" in a body of troops, the Thirty-ninth Regiment of the line, in Paris. His personal characteristics, little fitting him to command, and his slightly foreign accent, combined to prejudice people against him; he had also a rather haughty demeanor, associated little with his military companions, and appeared rather too self-confident. But his comrades and superiors, without being much attached to him, recognized his keen intelligence, his retentive memory, his remarkable capacity for work; he was known as a well-informed officer, a daring and vigorous horseman, with decided opinions, which he knew how to set forth skilfully and to uphold under discussion. In short, he was a brilliant and correct soldier, and seemed marked out for a glorious future. Added to all this, he possessed a comfortable private fortune (which brought him an income of $5,000 or $6,000 a year) soundly invested in his brothers' business; he was without any expensive vices, if not without failings, and was leading a settled life. It is difficult to imagine what motive could possibly have incited him to the vile traffic of which he was destined to be suspected.
His patriotic sentiments were those of a soldier and an Alsatian emigrant—that is to say, fervent almost to Jingoism. He had also come under the influence of the Boulangist movement, which, for many of his equals, meant revenge on Germany.
Only the most rabid anti-Semitism could have originated the idea that this Alsatian Jingo was a traitor. Even the wording of the bordereau, if read calmly, should have shown the absurdity of this supposition; for no artilleryman could have committed such gross blunders in expression. And how could Dreyfus in August or September, 1894, possibly have written, "I am just starting for the maneuvers," since that year none of the "stage" officers went to the maneuvers, having been officially advised by a circular on May 17 not to do so?Action of Mercier.
Without pausing to consider these conclusive objections, Fabre and D'Aboville hastened to communicate their "discovery" to General Gonse, deputy-chief of the staff, and to Colonel Sandherr, an anti-Semite of long standing, who exclaimed, "I ought to have suspected it!" General de Boisdeffre, informed in his turn, told the story to the secretary of war. General Mercier had held this office since December, 1893. Brought face to face with the bordereau, hismain idea was that whatever there was to be done must be done quickly, because, if the affair came to be known before he had taken any steps in the matter, he would be reproached for having shielded a traitor. This fear, and also the unavowed hope of being able to pose, by the capture of the new "Judas," as the savior of his country, decided his plan of action: once started there was no turning back—he was forced to go on to the bitter end. For the sake of appearances, however, he sought the opinion (Oct. 11) of a small council formed of the president of the cabinet (Charles Dupuy), the minister of foreign affairs (Hanotaux), the keeper of the seais (Guérin), and himself.The Experts in Handwriting.
The council only authorized him to proceed to a careful inquiry; he ordered an examination by an expert in handwriting. The matter was entrusted to Gobert, an expert of the Bank of France, who had been recommended to him some days previously by the keeper of the seals. With great conscientiousness Gobert pointed out the striking differences between the writing of the bordereau and that of the documents which were given to him for comparison, the "personal folio" of Dreyfus, from which his name had been erased but the dates left, so that it was easy to identify him from the army list; there were some letters which struck the experienced eye at once, such as the open g (made like a y) and the double s made in the form fs, features which were to be found only in the bordereau. Gobert concluded (Oct. 13) "that the anonymous letter might be from a person other than the one suspected." This opinion, too discreetly worded, was pronounced "neutral "; a second inquiry was called for, and this time a functionary was chosen whose qualifications for the task were doubtful—Alphonse Bertillon, head of the "service de l'identité judiciaire" at the Prefecture of Police, whom Gobert had already entrusted with certain photographic enlargements of the bordereau. This improvised graphologist, to whom the guilt of the suspected man was spoken of as certain, as established by other irrefutable signs, sent in his report the same day. His inference was as follows: "If we set aside the idea of a document forged with the greatest care, it is manifestly evident that the same person has written all the papers given for examination, including the incriminating document." Sheltered by this opinion, Mercier no longer hesitated to order the arrest of Dreyfus, of whose guilt he had been persuaded from the first. The arrest was conducted in a melodramatic fashion, according to the plans of Major Du Paty de Clam, who, as an amateur graphologist, had been initiated from the very beginning in all the details of the affair.The Arrest.
Dreyfus was ordered to appear before the minister of war on the morning of Oct. 15, in civil clothes, under pretense of an "inspection of the 'stage' officers." He went without suspicion in answer to this summons. Introduced into the bureau of the head of the staff, he found himself in the presence of Du Paty and of three persons, also in civil dress, whom he did not know at all; they were Gribelin (the archivist of the Intelligence Office), the "chef de la sûreté," Cochefert, and the latter's secretary. While awaiting the general, Du Paty, pretending that he had hurt his finger, asked Dreyfus to write from his dictation a letter which he wished to present for signature. The wording of it was most extraordinary; it was addressed to an unknown person, and asked him to send back the documents which had been lent to him by the writer before "starting for the maneuvers"; then followed the enumeration of these documents, taken word for word from the bordereau. Du Paty had flattered himself that the culprit—and he had no doubt that Dreyfus was the culprit—on hearing this list, which put, so to speak, his crime before his eyes, would burst out with an overwhelming confession; a loaded revolver lay on a table to allow him to execute justice upon himself.Asseverations of Innocence.
Things did not turn out quite as Du Paty had expected. Dreyfus, strange as the missive was, wrote tranquilly on under the major's dictation. There was a moment, however, when Du Paty, who was closely watching him, fancied he saw his hand tremble, and remarked sharply upon it to Dreyfus, who replied, "My fingers are cold." The facsimile of the letter which has since been published shows not the least sign of disturbance of any kind in the writing, hardly even a slight deviation of one line. After having dictated a few more lines, during which, he himself owns, "Dreyfus entirely regained his composure," he ceased the experiment, and placing his hand heavily on the captain's shoulder, he cried with a voice of thunder: "In the name of the law I arrest you; you are accused of the crime of high treason!" Dreyfus, in his stupefaction, hardly found articulate words to protest his innocence. He pushed away indignantly the revolver offered to him. He allowed himself to be searched without resistance, saying: "Take my keys, examine everything in my house; I am innocent." Du Paty and his associates then held a summary examination; without showing him a single document, they were content with assuring him that a "long inquiry" made against him had resulted in "incontestable proofs" which would be communicated to him later on. Then he was given into the hands of Major Henry, who had heard all that had taken place from the next room, and whose mission it was to deliver him over to the military prison of Cherche-Midi. In the cab that took them there, Dreyfus renewed his protestations of innocence, and asserted that he had not even been told what were the documents in question, or to whom he was accused of having given them.
At Cherche-Midi Dreyfus was turned over to the governor of the prison, Major Forzinetti, who had received orders to keep his incarceration a profound secret, even from his chief, General Saussier—an unheard-of measure. Apparently, the minister had still some doubts as to the guilt of Dreyfus, and did not wish to publish his arrest until the inquiry should have furnished some decisive proofs.The Search for Proofs.
IV. The conduct of the inquiry was entrusted to Major Du Paty de Clam. Immediately after the arrest he went to the house of Madame Dreyfus, toldher of it, and ordered her, under the most terrible threats, to keep the matter secret, even from her brothers-in-law. He then devoted himself to a minute search of the rooms, which furnished no incriminating evidence whatever: no suspicious document, not a shred of "papier pelure" (foreign notepaper) was found—nothing but accounts regularly kept and testifying to a mode of life in accordance with the resources of the household. A similar search made in the house of M. Hadamard (Dreyfus' father-in-law) ended in the same failure.
Du Paty repeatedly visited Dreyfus in prison. He made him write standing up, seated, lying down, in gloves—all without obtaining any characteristics identical with those of the bordereau. He showed him loose fragments of a photograph of that document, mixed up with fragments and photographs of Dreyfus' own handwriting. The accused distinguished them with very little trouble. Du Paty questioned him without obtaining any other result than protestations of innocence broken by cries of despair. The suddenness of the catastrophe, and the uncertainty in which he was left as to its cause, reduced the wretched man to such a terrible state of mind that his reason was threatened. For several days he refused to take any food; his nights passed like a frightful nightmare. The governor of the prison, Forzinetti, warned the minister of the alarming state of his prisoner, and declared to General de Boisdeffre that he firmly believed he was innocent.
Not until Oct. 29 did Du Paty show the entire text of the bordereau to Dreyfus, and then he made him copy it.
The prisoner protested more forcibly than ever that it was not his writing, and regaining all the clearness of his intellect when faced by a definite accusation, tried to prove to his interlocutor that out of five documents mentioned in the bordereau, three were absolutely unknown to him.
He asked to see the minister: consent was given only on condition that "he start on the road to a confession!" In the mean time writing-experts had proceeded with further examinations. Bertillon, to whom the name of the prisoner had now been revealed, set to work again. To explain at the same time the resemblances and the differences between the writing of Dreyfus and that of the bordereau, he supposed a most intricate system: Dreyfus, he thought, must have imitated or traced his own handwriting, leaving in it enough of its natural character for his correspondent to recognize it, but introducing into it, for greater safety, alterations borrowed from the hands of his brother Matthew and his sister-in-law Alice, in one of whose letters they had discovered the double s made as in the bordereau! This is the hypothesis of "autoforgery," which he complicated later on by a supposed mechanism of "key-words," of "gabarits," of measurements by the "kutsch," of turns and twists.Renewed Examination by Experts.
Bertillon's provisional report, submitted on Oct. 20, inferred "without any reservation whatever" that Dreyfus was guilty. Mercier, ill-satisfied with this lucubration, had the prefect of police appoint three new experts, Charavay, Pelletier, and Teyssonnières; Bertillon was put at their disposal to furnish them with photographic enlargements.
Pelletier simply studied the bordereau and the documents given for comparison, and concluded that the writing of the bordereau was in no way disguised, and that it was not that of the prisoner.
The two others, influenced by Bertillon, declared themselves, on the contrary, in favor of the theory of identity. Teyssonnières, an expert of no great repute, spoke of feigned writing. Charavay, a distinguished paleographer, judged the prisoner guilty, unless it was a case of "sosie en écritures"—a most extraordinary resemblance of handwriting. He also spoke of simulation to explain away the palpable differences. On Oct. 31 Du Paty finished his inquiry, and handed in his report, which, while bringing charges against Dreyfus, left it to the minister to decide what further steps should be taken in the matter.The Parisian Press.
But at this moment General Mercier was no longer free to decide; the press had come upon the scene. On Oct. 28 Papillaud, a contributor to the "Libre Parole," received a note signed "Henry"—under which pseudonym he recognized without hesitation the major of that name; "Henry" revealed to him the name and address of the arrested officer, adding falsely, "All Israel is astir."
The very next day the "Libre Parole" narrated in carefully veiled words the secret arrest of an individual suspected of espionage. Other newspapers were more precise; on Nov. 1 Drumont's special edition announced in huge type the arrest of "the Jewish officer A. Dreyfus"; there was, it declared, "absolute proof that he had sold our secrets to Germany"; and what was more, he had "made full confession." All this was very awkward for General Mercier; he was in a corner. If ever he had had the idea of dropping the case, it was too late now; he would have hazarded his position as a minister by doing so. He summoned a council of the ministers, and, without revealing any other charge than that concerning the bordereau, declared that the documents mentioned in the memorandum could only have been procured by Dreyfus. The ministers, most of whom now heard the story for the first time, unanimously decided to institute proceedings. The papers were at once made over to the governor of Paris, who gave the order to investigate (Nov. 3).
No sooner had the name of Dreyfus been pronounced than the military attachés of Germany and Italy—to whom it was new—began to wonder if by chance he had been in direct correspondence with the War Office of either country. They made inquiries at Berlin and at Rome, and received answers in the negative. In his impatience, Panizzardi had telegraphed in cipher on Nov. 2: "If Captain Dreyfus has had no intercourse with you, it would be to the purpose to let the ambassador publish an official denial, in order to forestall comments by the press." This telegram, written in cipher, and of course copied at the post-office, was sent to the Foreign Office to be deciphered. The first attempt left the last words uncertain; they were thus translated: "our secretagent is warned." This version, communicated to Colonel Sandherr, seemed to him a new proof against Dreyfus. But a few days later the real interpretation was discovered, of which Sandherr himself established the accuracy by a decisive verification. From that time it became morally impossible to bring home to Captain Dreyfus any document which would infer that the traitor was in communication with Panizzardi.Judicial Inquiry.
The judicial inquiry had been entrusted to Major Bexon d'Ormescheville, judge-advocate of the first court martial of the department of the Seine. He failed to discover a single new fact. The comrades of Dreyfus, feeling that things were going against him, remembered, or thought they remembered, that in his past conduct he had shown certain signs of immoderate curiosity, of "strange action." One officer was sure that he had lent him the "manuel de tir" for several days, but that was in July, whereas the bordereau was now believed to have been written in April! An agent named Guénée, charged by Major Henry with the task of inquiring into the question of his morals, picked up in different bars and cafés a collection of tales which represented Dreyfus as a gambler and a libertine, whose family had been obliged several times to pay his debts. But another inquiry by the Prefecture of Police showed the inanity of these allegations: Dreyfus was unknown in gambling-houses, and Guénée's informants had confused him with one of his numerous Parisian namesakes! The alleged treason was without support; without any visible motive; without precedent of any kind; without psychological or moral probability; the accusation rested solely on a scrap of paper which two experts out of five had refused to recognize as having been written by Dreyfus.Public Opinion.
But public opinion had already condemned him. The press, misinformed, magnified the crime; notwithstanding the semi-official notes that reduced it to an unimportant communication of inoffensive documents, it was understood that Dreyfus had delivered up the secret of mobilization, and thereby exposed the system of national defense. All the treachery that had remained untraced, all the arrests of French agents abroad, were laid at his door. People were indignant that the penalty of death for political crimes (and treason was considered as such) had been abolished by the constitution of 1848; even death seemed too light a punishment for such a wretch. The only excuse that they found for him was but a further insult: it was his race which had predisposed him to commit an act of treason, the "fatalité du type."
The yellow press, which let loose its fury against Dreyfus, in the beginning did not spare the minister of war. It was looked upon as a crime that during a fortnight the arrest had been kept a secret, doubtless in the hope of being able to hush up the affair; he had been in league with "the Jews," he was still negotiating with them! Mercier was not the man to brave these attacks. In the same manner as the arraignment had been imposed upon him by "La Libre Parole," he understood now that the condemnation of Dreyfus was for him simply a question of political life or death; convinced or not, he determined to establish the man's guilt at any cost. On Nov. 28, in defiance of the most elementary usages, he declared in an interview with the "Figaro" that Dreyfus' guilt was "absolutely certain." Then, aware of the defects of D'Ormescheville's "proofs," he ordered that a secret dossier should be prepared by collecting from the drawers of the Intelligence Department whatever documents concerning spies could more or less be ascribed to Dreyfus. This dossier, revised and put into a sealed envelope by Mercier himself, with the cooperation of Boisdeffre and of Sandherr, was to be communicated only to the judges in the room where they held their deliberations, without either the accused or his counsel having been able to take cognizance of it or to inquire into the allegations—a procedure worthy of the Inquisition.
As soon as it had become known that Mercier had decided to go to the bitter end, there was a change in the language of the demagogues regarding him. "He has certainly done something for his country," they said. "One must be for Mercier or for Dreyfus," proclaimed General Riu. And Cassagnac, who, as a personal friend of Dreyfus' lawyer, maintained some doubts as to his guilt, summed up the situation in these words: "If Dreyfus is acquitted, no punishment would be too severe for Mercier!"The Trial.
Thus stated, the question went beyond the intelligence and the courage of the military judges; there could be no doubt about the issue. The report of Major d'Ormescheville, handed in on Dec. 3, was prejudiced and illogical; out of a heap of "possibilities" and numberless insinuations, he vainly tried to deduce a proof of some sort. Edgar Demange, whom the Dreyfus family had chosen as their lawyer, accepted this task only on the condition that the perusal of the papers should convince him of the emptiness of the accusation; he was convinced. His absorbing idea was to obtain a public hearing; he promised on his honor not to raise, in that case, any delicate questions which might lead to a diplomatic contest. The brothers of Dreyfus and certain statesmen made urgent application in the same direction. All was in vain. The private hearing having been decided on in the minister's own mind, as being required by "state policy," he announced this conviction to the president of the court martial; such an announcement was equivalent to an order.
The case began on Dec. 19 at Cherche-Midi, and lasted four days. Seven judges, not one of them an artilleryman, composed the court; the president was Colonel Maurel. From the start the commissary of the government, Major Brisset, demanded a secret trial. The protests of Demange, who endeavored at least to make it known that the accusation was based on a single document, were overruled by the president, and a secret trial was unanimously agreed to. In the court-room there remained, besides the judges, only the accused and his attorney, the prefect of police Lépine, and Major Picquart, entrusted with the duty of giving an account of the proceedings to the head of the staff and to the minister. The case dragged along with hardly any incident worthy of remark. The "colorless" voice of Dreyfus, his unsympathetic appearance, his militarycorrectness bordering on stiffness, weakened the effect of his persistent denials. On the other hand, the "moral proofs" would not bear discussion. Du Paty got entangled in his description of the scene of the dictation; Bertillon brought forward a revised and much enlarged edition of his report, the supposed defense of Dreyfus being represented in the form of a strange fortress, of which each bastion was an argument on hand writing! The only testimony which produced any impression was that of Major Henry. After his first statement he asked to be recalled. Then, in a loud voice, he declared that long before the arrival of the bordereau an honorable person (meaning Val Carlos) had warned the Intelligence Department that an officer of the ministry, an officer of the second bureau, was betraying his country. "And that traitor, there he is!" With his finger he pointed out Dreyfus. And when the president asked him if the "honorable person" had named Dreyfus, Henry, not drawing back even from a false oath, stretched out his hand toward the crucifix and declared," I swear it!"
The last hearing (Dec. 22) was devoted to the public prosecutor's address and to the pleading of Demange, who strove for three hours to prove that the very contents of the bordereau showed that it could not be the work of Dreyfus. In his reply, Brisset, abandoning the moral proofs, was satisfied with asking the judges to take their "magnifying-glasses." A calm listener, Major Picquart, imagined then that the result was very doubtful unless help came from the secret dossier. This dossier was given up, still sealed, by Major Du Paty (who was ignorant of the exact contents) to Colonel Maurel, and the latter immediately entered the room where the judges were deliberating on the case, and communicated it to his colleagues. The recollections of the military judges being rather vague on the subject, it has not been possible to reconstitute with certainty the substance of the portfolio. It is known, however, that it included at least the document "canaille de D . . ." (a commonplace initial which it was absurd, after Panizzardi's telegram, to attribute to Dreyfus), and a sort of military biography of Dreyfus, based on, but not identical with, a memorandum from Du Paty, who had been told to make the various documents of the secret dossier coincide with one another. This biography represented Dreyfus as a traitor by birth, having commenced his abominable calling on his first entry into the service; at the school at Bourges it would appear that he had delivered up to the Germans the secret of the melinite shell!
Among the other papers of the secret dossier may be mentioned the fragments of Schwarzkoppen's note alluding to an informant who pretended to take his knowledge from the ministry, and, according to Commander Freystaetter, the first and false interpretation of Panizzardi's despatch! After judgment had been pronounced the dossier was given back to Mercier, who had it pulled to pieces, and later on destroyed the biographical notice. But, contrary to instructions, Major Henry reconstituted the secret dossier, added to it Du Paty's explanatory note (which last was destroyed by Mercier in 1897), and locked it in the iron chest where Picquart afterward found it. Allusion has been made several times (since 1894) to a second dossier, "ultra-secret," which was composed of photographs of papers stolen from, and then given up to, the German embassy; namely, seven letters from Dreyfus, and one said to be from the Emperor of Germany to Count Münster, naming Dreyfus. If such a dossier was ever in existence, it certainly contained nothing but a mass of ridiculous forgeries.
The conviction of the judges, already more than half decided by the experts and by Henry, could not withstand this new assault. Dreyfus was unanimously pronounced guilty; the sentence was transportation for life to a fortress, preceded by military degradation. Upon hearing this decision, which was communicated to him by the clerk of the court, the unhappy man, who firmly believed that he would be acquitted, stood as if struck by a thunderbolt. Taken back to prison, he was seized with a fit of despair, and begged for a revolver. Forzinetti, who had not lost faith in his innocence, succeeded with great difficulty in calming him. More than that, the heroic and touching letters from his wife made him accept life as a duty he owed to his own family.
V. The appeal of Dreyfus to the military court of revision—a simple formality—was rejected on Dec. 31. The same day the condemned man received a visit from Du Paty de Clam, who had been sent by the minister of war with the mission to declare to Dreyfus that if he would only begin to make a confession, and reveal exactly the nature of his indiscretions, he might obtain a mitigation of his sentence. Dreyfus answered that he had nothing to confess, nothing to reproach himself with, not even the smallest attempt at holding out a bait; he only asked that the investigations might be continued so as to discover the real criminal. Du Paty, somewhat moved, said to him on going out: "If you are innocent, you are the greatest martyr of all time." Dreyfus wrote an account of this interview to the minister; he finished with these words: "Once I am gone, let them go on searching; it is the only favor I ask."The Degradation.
The military degradation took place on the Champ de Mars on Jan. 5. Dreyfus drank the cup of bitterness to its very dregs. During the parade of "execution" he preserved an attitude wholly military which shocked some of the onlookers. But when General Darras had pronounced the accustomed formula, he cried out in a loud voice: "You are degrading an innocent man! Long live France! Long live the army!" He repeated this cry while the adjutant on duty was tearing off his stripes and breaking his sword, and again while passing before the crowd, which was shrieking that he should be put to death, and before the journalists, who yelled at the new Judas.
If the unanimous verdict of seven judges dissipated the doubts that might have existed among a portion of the public, the reiterated protestations of the condemned man were of a nature to make them spring to life again. The report was then spread about that he had made a confession. While waiting for the parade, locked up with Lebrun Renault, the captain of gendarmerie on service, he was supposedto have said: "The minister knows that I am innocent; and that, if I have given up any documents to Germany, it was only to get more important ones in return; before three years are over the truth will be known." This tale had its origin in the obscure or unintelligent account which Lebrun Renault had rendered of his conversation with Dreyfus; in reality, the latter had merely related his interview with Du Paty and once more protested his innocence. Lebrun Renault himself, in an interview which he granted to some one at a ball at the Moulin Rouge, related, in the words of Dreyfus, the origin of the bordereau, but of confession not a word. However that may be, this idle talk, changing as it passed from lip to lip, greedily welcomed by the newspapers, made the staff uneasy, because it brought into the case the German embassy, which just at this time was showing signs of indignation. In short, General Gonse called on Lebrun Renault and took him successively to General Mercier and to the president of the republic, Casimir-Perier, who severely reprimanded him, and imposed upon him absolute silence for the future.Germany Concerned.
In the mean time serious complications with Germany were expected. The German government, once assured by Schwarzkoppen and by the War Office at Berlin that Dreyfus was utterly unknown to them, had thought it a matter of honor to protest publicly against the statements in the newspapers which persisted in bringing Germany into the case. Several times after the arrest of Dreyfus semi-official notes of protest had been inserted in the different organs of the press; Count Münster, the German ambassador, denied to Hanotaux that Germany had taken any part in the affair. These declarations, politely received, left the French government absolutely skeptical, for it knew from a positive source the origin of the bordereau.
A note from the Havas Agency (Nov. 30) put the foreign embassies out of the case; but the press continued to incriminate Germany, whereupon, at the beginning of December, Münster, by the express order of the German emperor, invited Hanotaux to call at the embassy and repeated his protestations. The report was spread abroad that Germany had demanded and obtained the restoration of the documents which established the traitor's guilt! Provoked by the persistence of these attacks, the German embassy inserted in the "Figaro" of Dec. 26 a fresh notice denying formally that it had had with Dreyfus "the least intercourse, either direct or indirect." And as this notice also seemed to have little or no effect, the emperor telegraphed to Münster on Jan. 5 to go personally to Casimir-Perier and say, "If it be proved that the German embassy has never been implicated in the Dreyfus case, I hope the government will not hesitate to declare the fact." Otherwise, it was given to be understood that the ambassador would leave Paris. This despatch, communicated by Münster to Dupuy, who was then temporarily engaged at the Foreign Office, had the appearance of an ultimatum. The president of the republic up to this time had known very little of the details of the case, and had been kept by Hanotaux in complete ignorance of Münster's previous communications; but now he had the contents of the legal documents shown to him. After having read them, he granted to Münster the audience which had been requested. Then, considering honesty to be the best policy, he asserted very frankly that the criminal letter had been takenfrom the German embassy, but that it was not an important document and that nothing proved that it had been "solicited."Resignation of Casimir-Perier.
After having referred the matter to Berlin, Münster consented to the drawing up of a note by the Havas Agency which once more put all the embassies out of the case, and terminated the incident (Jan. 9, 1895). Mercier did not long enjoy his triumph. On Jan. 15, under pretext of a ministerial crisis, in which his friends abandoned him, Casimir-Perier handed in his resignation as president of the republic; the mysteries and the unpleasantnesses of the Dreyfus affair had not a little to do with hastening this determination. At the congress called together to elect a new president, printed ballots were passed about in favor of General Mercier; one handbill even set him down as the savior of the republic for having had the traitor Dreyfus condemned in spite of all difficulties. He obtained three votes! Ribot, entrusted by the new president (Félix Faure) with forming a cabinet, did not appeal to an assistant so compromising as Mercier; the office of minister of war was given to General Zurlinden.
Two days later, during the night of Jan. 17, in bitterly cold weather, Dreyfus, dragged from the prison of La Santé, was transferred by rail to La Rochelle, thence to the island of Ré, into a military reformatory. The populace, recognizing him, followed him thirsting for his blood; an officer struck him; stoical, he forgave his tormentors, whose indignation against such a traitor as he was supposed to be he understood and shared.
At Ré, as at La Santé, he was authorized to receive a few visits from his wife, but the authorities managed, by the most minute precautions, to make them as short and as painful as possible.
A law passed ad hoc had just instituted as the place of transportation for political crimes the Iles du Salut off French Guiana, instead of the peninsula of Ducos (New Caledonia), where, it was said, supervision was difficult; it has been suggested that in reality vengeance was being taken upon Dreyfus for his obstinate refusal to confess his crime. The notice drawn up by the War Office for the use of his guardians denounced him as "a hardened malefactor, quite unworthy of pity." This word to the wise was to be only too well understood and carried out. On the evening of Feb. 21 the unhappy man, taken hurriedly from his cell, was embarked on the "Ville de St. Nazaire," which was to carry him across the Atlantic to a place of exile.Devil's Island.
VI. The Iles du Salut, where Dreyfus was landed on March 15, compose a small archipelago situated twenty-seven miles off Cayenne, opposite the mouth of the River Kuru. Notwithstanding its name ("salus," health) it is a most unhealthy region. Incessant heat, continuous rain for five months of the year, the effluvia arising from the marshy land are sufficient to undermine the strongest constitution. The smallest island of the group, Devil's Island, which had until Dreyfus' arrival been occupied by a leper hospital, was destined to be his abode. On the summit of a desolate rock, far from the few palm-trees on the shore, a small hut of four cubic yards was built for him; night and day an inspector stood guard at the door, with strict orders not to address a word to him. In the daytime the prisoner was permitted to exercise until sunset in a small rectangular space of about two hundred yards, near his hut.Treatment in Prison.
Madame Dreyfus had asked permission to follow her husband to his place of exile; the wording of the law seemed to point to it as her right; nevertheless, the ministry refused her even this favor, alleging" that the rules to which the condemned man was subject were incompatible with it. Dreyfus had therefore no company except that of his jailers. The governor of the islands, although distrustful, showed at least some humanity; but the head warder Lebars, who had received instructions from the minister to enforce harsh measures, went even beyond his orders. Badly fed, especially at the beginning of his term of exile, obliged to do all sorts of dirty work, living by day among vermin and filth, and by night in a state of perpetual hallucination, Dreyfus, as was to be expected, soon fell a prey to fever. The doctor interfered and obtained an amelioration of the rules. Dreyfus himself, clearly convinced that it was his duty to live, fought energetically against the lethargy which forced itself upon him. To keep up his physical strength he compelled himself to take regular exercise; to prevent his intellect from getting dulled he had books sent to him which he read and reread, wrote out résumés, learned English, took up his mathematical studies again; to employ the long hours of leisure that still remained he kept a diary. He could correspond with only his own family, and even to them might refer only to domestic matters. His letters, examined by the administration, were one long cry for justice. Sometimes he begged his wife to go, leading her children by the hand, to entreat for justice from the president of the republic. He wrote himself to the president, to Du Paty, to General Boisdeffre, without receiving any replies. Little by little the horrible climate did its work. Fever consumed him; from never employing it he almost lost the power of speech; even his brain wasted away. On May 5, 1896, he wrote in his diary: "I have no longer anything to say; everything is alike in its horrible cruelty." His gentleness, his resignation, his exact observance of all rules had not been without making an impression on his jailers; several of them believed him innocent; no punishment for rebellion against discipline was inflicted on him. Early in Sept., 1896, the false report of his escape was set afloat by an English paper. This rumor was really circulated by Matthew Dreyfus in the hope of shaking up the sluggishness of public opinion and to prepare the way for the pamphlet of Bernard Lazare demanding a fresh hearing of the case of 1894. Although contradicted at once, the rumor roused public opinion. Rochefort and Drumont proclaimed the existence of a syndicate to free him, published some false information about the rules that the condemned man had to obey, affirmed that with a little money it was the easiest thing imaginable to accomplish his rescue. The colonial secretary, André Lebon, took fright. Itdid not matter that these tales were absolutely without foundation, that the prisoner was of irreproachable conduct; to make assurance doubly sure, he cabled instructions to the governor of Guiana to surround the outer boundary of Dreyfus' exercising-ground with a solid fence, and in addition to the sentinel at the door to post one outside. Until this work was finished, the prisoner was to be secured day and night in his hut, and at night, until further orders, he was to be subjected to the penalty of the "double buckle": gyves in which the prisoner's feet were shackled, and which were then firmly fixed to his bedstead, so that he was condemned either to absolute immobility or to dreadful torture. This order, barbarous and, moreover, illegal, was strictly carried out, to the equal astonishment of Dreyfus and of his warders. For twenty-four sultry nights the wretched man was upon the rack; for two months he was not allowed to stir out of his disgusting and suffocating hovel. When the cabin was opened once again it was encircled by a wall which hid even the sky; behind this wall his exercising-ground, hemmed in by a wooden fence over six feet high, was no more than a sort of narrow passage from which he could no longer see the sea.
The poor victim was now utterly depressed. On Sept. 10, 1896, he stopped keeping his diary, writing that he could not foresee on what day his brain would burst! His family was no longer allowed to send him books. The letters of his wife were forwarded to him no longer in the original hand, but in copies only. On June 6, 1897, a sail having been sighted during the night, alarm-guns were fired, and Dreyfus, startled in his sleep, saw his keepers with loaded rifles ready to shoot him down if he made one suspicious movement. In August the authorities ascertained that the heat and moisture in his stifling hut were really unbearable, and had the man transferred to a new cabin, larger than the first, but quite as dismal. A signal-tower was erected close by mounted with a Hotchkiss gun. Happily for Dreyfus his moral fortitude, after a temporary eclipse, had recovered its strength; and from Jan., 1898, the letters of his wife, although containing no particulars, roused his hopes by a tone of confidence which could not be mistaken. Eventful incidents had taken place during those three awful years.Matthew Dreyfus.
VII. The family of Dreyfus, faithful to the charge he had left them when he went away, had not ceased their efforts to discover the real culprit. Matthew Dreyfus undertook the direction of these researches; he worked with an untiring devotion, an affecting zeal, and a fruitful imagination that was not always seconded by sound judgment. The primary elements of a thorough inquiry were lacking; the Staff Office, far from seconding his efforts, had him jealously watched; intriguers set traps for him; he felt that he was spied upon; at his first false step the new law of espionage—a very strict and extremely elastic one—would find an excuse for getting him out of the way. As for the politicians whom he tried to interest in his cause, the greater part refused to enter into the question, or, intimidated by the minister of war, gave up the search after the very first investigation. The only threads he had to guide him were some of his brother's notes and a copy of the indictment that had been deposited abroad. He knew, further, from Dr. Gibert of Havre, to whom Félix Faure had confided the matter, that Dreyfus had been condemned on the evidence of a secret document, which had not been shown to the counsel for the defense. This information was corroborated by some remarks made by certain of the judges of 1894. One of them spoke of the case to an old lawyer named Salles, who repeated the conversation (on Oct. 29, 1896) to Demange. Before that Hanotaux had confided to Trarieux, and Trarieux to Demange, that the conclusive document contained the initial of Dreyfus' name (meaning the paper "canaille de D . . . "). Matthew Dreyfus started with the idea, plausible but false, that this document really had reference to the author of the bordereau, and that the initial was not fictitious; and from that idea arose his persistent search for an officer the initial letter of whose name was "D." He followed up several clues, none of which bore any result. The light was to come from an altogether different quarter.Colonel Picquart.
Not long after the condemnation of Dreyfus the Intelligence Office had changed its chief. Sandherr, incapacitated by general paralysis, had resigned his post simultaneously with his assistant, Cordier (July 1, 1895); Major Henry, who aspired to the position although he did not speak a single foreign language, was not appointed Sandherr's successor; but in his stead Major Picquart, who had been ordered to report the debates in the Dreyfus case in order to send an account of the proceedings to the minister and to the chief of the staff, received the appointment. He was a young and brilliant officer, of Alsatian origin, hard-working, well-informed, with a clear intellect, a ready speech, and who, moreover, appeared to share all the prejudices of his surroundings; he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel on April 6, 1896, and was the youngest officer of that grade in the army. Immediately upon his arrival at the office he reorganized the service, which the prolonged illness of Sandherr had caused to be neglected. He required in particular that the paper bags in which Madame Bastian continued to collect the waste papers from the German embassy, and which she brought to Major Henry, should pass through his hands before being confided to Captain Lauth, whose work it was to piece and paste them together. These bags, however, never brought anything of importance to light, though they showed that the leakage of secret information had not ceased since the condemnation of Dreyfus.
The chief of the staff, Boisdeffre, on transferring the service into Picquart's hands, had declared to him that in his opinion the Dreyfus affair was not definitely settled. They must be on the lookout for a counter-attack from the Jews. In 1894 they had not been able to discover a motive for the treason; there was therefore every reason for continuing the researches to "strengthen the dossier."The "Petit Bleu."
In the month of March, 1896, Henry, much occupied by the state of his mother's health and by different matters he had to attend to in the country, made only short and infrequent visits to Paris.One day he sent Madame Bastian's paper bag—particularly bulky on this occasion—to Picquart without even having had time to glance at it. Picquart, likewise without inspecting it, passed it on to Lauth. Some hours afterward the latter came back much affected, bringing to his chief a pneumatic-tube telegram (commonly known as a "petit bleu"), the fragments of which he had found in the bag; pasted together, they contained the following words:
To Major Esterhazy, 27 Rue de la Bienfaisance,
Sir: I am awaiting first of all a more detailed explanation [than] that which you gave me the other day on the subject in question. Consequently I beg you to send it to me in writing that I may judge whether I can continue my relations with the firm R. or not. C.
The writing of this note was disguised, but the place it came from left no room for doubting that it emanated from Colonel Schwarzkoppen; the office possessed another document, known to have been written by him, and signed with the same initial "C." The "petit bleu" had not been sent by mail; apparently, after having written or dictated it, Schwarzkoppen reconsidered his determination and had thrown the note into the waste-paper basket, taking care to tear it up into very small pieces—there were more than fifty of them; he had foreseen neither the tricks of Madame Bastian nor the patient industry of the Intelligence Department.
"It is fearful," said Captain Lauth on delivering it. "Can there possibly be another one?"—meaning another traitor among the officers. Picquart could share only the same impression; but determined upon avoiding the indiscretions and the blunders which had been committed in 1894, he resolved to undertake personally a secret inquiry before spreading abroad the news of his discovery. He put the "petit bleu" away in his strong-box, and shortly afterward had photographs of it taken by Lauth, in which he strove to remove the traces of the rents.
The object of this precaution, which was afterward laid to Picquart's charge as a crime, was both to render the reading of the photograph more easy and to prevent the officers (necessarily numerous) who would handle these photographs later on, from guessing immediately the origin of the document.Major Esterhazy.
VIII. Picquart began by getting information about the personality of Major Esterhazy, to whom the "petit bleu" was addressed. To this end he applied to his friend Major Curé, one of Esterhazy's fellow soldiers. The details he gathered through this source were not creditable to Esterhazy.
Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, born in Paris on Dec. 16, 1847, belonged to an illustrious Hungarian family, a branch of which had established itself in France at the end of the seventeenth century, and the head of which had organized there a regiment of hussars. His great-grandmother had an illegitimate son, who was brought up under the name of Walsin, but who, after she had acknowledged him during the Revolution, took the name of Esterhazy and settled as a merchant at Nimes. Two of the sons of this man followed a military career with distinction, and both became generals of division during the Crimean war. One of these two (Ferdinand) was the father of Major Esterhazy. Left an orphan at an early age, after some schooling at the Lycée Bonaparte in Paris, Ferdinand Esterhazy disappeared in 1865. In 1869 he was found engaged in the Roman legion, in the service of the pope; in 1870, in the foreign legion, which his uncle's influence enabled him to enter with the rank of ensign; he then assumed the title of count, to which it is claimed he was not entitled. At this time came the war with Germany. There being a dearth of officers after the catastrophe of Sedan, Esterhazy was able to pass muster as a French lieutenant, then as a captain, and went through the campaigns of the Loire and of the Jura. Though set back after peace was declared, he still remained in the army. In 1876 he was employed to translate German at the Intelligence Office; then, under various pretexts, at the War Office. He never appeared in his regiment at Beauvais, and for about five years led a life of dissipation in Paris, as a result of which his small fortune was soon squandered. In 1881 he was attached to the expedition sent to Tunis, and did nothing whatever to distinguish himself in it; employed later in the Intelligence Department, then in the native affairs of the regency, on his own authority he inserted in the official records a citation of his "exploits in war," the falseness of which was recognized later. Returning to France in 1885, he remained in garrison at Marseilles for a long time. Having come to the end of his resources, he married in 1886; but he soon spent his wife's dowry, and in 1888 she was forced to demand a separation. In 1892, through the influence of General Saussier, Esterhazy succeeded in getting a nomination as garrison-major in the Seventy-fourth Regiment of the line at Rouen. Being thus in the neighborhood of Paris, he plunged afresh into a life of speculation and excess, which soon completed his ruin.His Career.
His inheritance squandered, Esterhazy had tried to retrieve his fortune in gambling-houses and on the stock-exchange; hard pressed by his creditors, he had recourse to the most desperate measures. Having seconded Crémieu-Foa in his duel with Drumont in 1892, he pretended that this chivalrous rôle had made his family, as well as his chiefs, quarrel with him; he produced false letters to support his words, threatened to kill both himself and his children, and thus obtained, through the medium of Zadoc Kahn, chief rabbi of France, assistance from the Rothschilds (June, 1894); this did not prevent him from being on the best of terms with the editors of "La Libre Parole," even to the extent of supplying them with information.
For an officer who had come from the ranks Esterhazy's military advancement had been unusually rapid: lieutenant in 1874, captain in 1880, decorated in 1882, major in 1892, his reports were generally excellent. Nevertheless, he considered himself wronged. In his letters he continually launched into recrimination and abuse against his chiefs; he went still further, bespattering with mud the whole French army, and even France herself, for which he predicted and hoped that new disasters were in store. Such a man, a regular landsknechtof yore, without a single spark of patriotism, was destined to become the prey of treason. Fate decreed that he should sink to the degradation of a paid spy; he sank. In Tunis he was judged to have become too intimate with the German military attaché; in 1892 he was the object of an accusation made to the head of the staff, General Brault; in 1893 he entered Schwarzkoppen's service.
According to later disclosures he received from the German attaché a monthly pension of 2,000 marks ($480). He furnished him in the first place with some interesting information about the artillery; he pretended that he got his information from Major Henry, who had been his comrade in the Intelligence Office in 1876. But Henry, limited to a very special branch of the service, was hardly in a position to furnish details on technical questions; Esterhazy must have had other informants, who were not necessarily his accomplices—for example, his intimate friend Maurice Weil, district orderly officer to General Saussier, and a distinguished military writer and a regular news-hunter. The information furnished by Esterhazy soon became of so little importance that Panizzardi (to whom Schwarzkoppen communicated it without divulging the name of his informant) began to doubt his qualifications as an officer; to convince the attaché it was necessary for Esterhazy to show himself one day in uniform, galloping behind a well-known general! The garrison-major, being entrusted with the duties of mobilization, is always well informed in regard to the details of this subject; but as far as the artillery is concerned (the improvements in which department especially interested the German officials), the difficulties which Esterhazy experienced in getting information were very apparent in the text of the bordereau, and in the attempt which he made (in Aug., 1894) to borrow the "manuel de tir" from Lieutenant Bernheim (of Le Mans), whose acquaintance he had made by chance.
Picquart did not at once fathom all the details of Esterhazy's relations with the German attaché, of which the "petit bleu" had given him but a glimpse. Picquart did know, however, all the corruptions and scandals of Esterhazy's private life, the suspicions of malversation (in Tunis) and of espionage which had tainted his character; he learned further—a characteristic detail—that Major Esterhazy, a neglectful officer, constantly absent from his garrison, showed himself, nevertheless, extremely fond of getting information on confidential military questions, particularly those concerning mobilization and artillery. He diligently frequented artillery tests, and when he could not succeed in being ordered to attend the "écoles à feu," went there at his own expense. This is what he had done notably in 1894, the year of the bordereau. He also borrowed books and documents, and had them copied by his secretaries.Picquart's Investigations.
IX. At first Picquart did not establish any connection in his own mind between the "petit bleu" and the bordereau; he simply thought he was on the track of a fresh traitor, and hoped to catch him in the act. Different circumstances prevented him from pursuing his investigations. Besides, Esterhazy had been warned, and not only was it impossible to surprise him in any compromising visit, but he showed himself openly at the German embassy, to which he went to ask for a passport for his colonel. He even carried his audacity to the point of insisting that he be allowed to return to the War Office, in preference to the Intelligence Department, and was able to urge his request through the highest parliamentary and military influence. However, a fresh incident occurred to strengthen Picquart's suspicions. The French military attaché at Berlin, Foucault, informed him of a curious conversation he had had with one Richard Cuers, a spy who wavered between France and Germany. Cuers told Foucault that Germany had never employed Dreyfus—that the only French officer who was in Germany's pay was a major of infantry who had furnished some sheets from lectures held at the "école de tir" at Châlons.The Secret Dossier.
Picquart acquainted General de Boisdeffre with his discovery, and upon the order of the general and of the minister of war, General Billot, he was directed to continue his inquiry as quietly as possible; still, Boisdeffre seemed from that time little disposed to recommend judicial proceedings. If Esterhazy were really a traitor, he would be dismissed from the army quietly; another Dreyfus affair was to be avoided. Picquart now set to work in earnest to get samples of Esterhazy's handwriting, and he succeeded in obtaining two letters which the major had written to the chiefs of Billot's cabinet. On looking at them Picquart was startled; the writing was identical with that of the bordereau attributed to Dreyfus. He wished to make sure of his impression, so he showed some photographs of these letters (from which he had removed the proper names) to Du Paty and Bertillon. Du Paty declared: "They are from Matthew Dreyfus"; Bertillon said: "It is the writing of the bordereau." And when Picquart assured him that these letters were of recent date, he declared:" The Jews have, for the past year, been training some one to imitate the writing; he has succeded in making a perfect reproduction." The connection between the letters and the bordereau flashed across the mind of the colonel in all its terrible certainty. If Esterhazy, as the handwriting seemed to indicate, were the author of the latter, Dreyfus must be the victim of a judicial error. For a moment he clung to the idea that he must have further proofs of Esterhazy's guilt; where could they be if not in the secret dossier, communicated to the judges in 1894, and in which he had also placed blind confidence, without the least knowledge of its contents? This dossier, notwithstanding Mercier's orders, had not been destroyed; it was still in Henry's safe. During the latter's absence Picquart had the dossier brought to him by Gribelin, the keeper of the records; he turned it over in feverish haste, but this masterpiece of the "bureau" contained absolutely nothing that applied, or could be made to apply, to Dreyfus. Of the only two papers that were of any importance, one, the document "canaille de D . . . ," did not in any way concern any officer, but only a poor scribbler who had assumed the name of Dubois, while the other, the memorandumof Schwarzkoppen, almost certainly pointed to Esterhazy. As to Du Paty's commentary, this was a mass of wild suppositions. Later this commentary was claimed by General Mercier as his private property and quietly destroyed by him.
Much concerned, but still confident of the honesty of his chiefs, Picquart immediately drew up a report and brought it to Boisdeffre, who ordered Picquart to go and relate his story to the deputy-chief of the staff, General Gonse. The general received the colonel, listened without flinching to his revelations, and concluded that they must "separate the two affairs," that of Dreyfus and that of Esterhazy. These instructions, confirmed by Boisdeffre, seemed absurd to Picquart, since the bordereau established an indissoluble bond between the two cases; he should have understood from that moment that his superiors had determined not to permit at any cost the reopening of the Dreyfus affair.Father Du Lac.
Boisdeffre had for spiritual adviser Father Du Lac, an influential Jesuit, who appears to have played an important though secret part in all this story. Perhaps the officers would not admit even among themselves that under their pompous formulas was hidden, above everything, the fear of seeing their positions in the military world melt away if they publicly confessed the part they had taken in the error and illegal act of 1894; for the innocence of Dreyfus once established, the communication of the secret dossier would appear to everybody what it was in reality—an odious crime. As to General Billot, to whom Picquart, following Boisdeffre's orders, made a complete report of the case, he appeared deeply moved. He had not the same reasons as his companions to defend the judgment of 1894 at any cost, for he had had nothing to do with it, and learned for the first time the story of the secret dossier. But this soldier-politician lived in terror of his surroundings; he did not dare to see the affair clearly, and took for his motto the words of the comedy: "Je suis leur chef; il faut que je les suive" (I am their leader; I am bound to follow them).
Against the young chief of the Intelligence Office there was from this time forward on the part of his superiors secret strife which was bound to end in rupture, but of which Picquart was for a long time unconscious. He did not perceive that in his own office he was jealously spied upon, opposed, and deceived by his fellow workers, Henry, Lauth, and Gribelin. One of them, Henry, had some mysterious motives besides the desire to please his superiors. Since 1876, when they had served together at the Intelligence Office, he had been the comrade, the friend, and even the debtor of Esterhazy, although he pretended to know very little about him. Between these two men there existed a bond the exact nature of which has remained unknown, but which must have been very powerful to involve Henry in the falsehood, deceit, and forgeries which were unveiled later. If it is not certain that Henry was Esterhazy's accomplice, it seems very probable that from the end of 1894 he knew him to be the author of the bordereau, and knew also that the traitor had him in his power.The Castelin Interpellation.
X. In Sept., 1896, the rumor of the prisoner's escape brought the case abruptly back to public notice. The anti-Jewish press inveighed against the accomplices, the protectors of the traitor; a member of the Chamber, Castelin, announced that at the opening of the next session he would interpellate the ministry on this subject. Moreover, it was known at the Staff Office that the Dreyfus family was pursuing an inquiry and was getting ready to publish a pamphlet demanding the revision of the case.
Picquart, now that his eyes had been opened, was much preoccupied with all these plots. He believed Castelin to be working for the Dreyfus family. He had also been affected by a strange forgery, quite inexplicable to him, which had come into his hands early in September: a letter in a feigned handwriting, and in the style of a German, pretending to be addressed to Dreyfus by a friend, Weiss or Weill, and referring to imaginary "interesting documents" written in sympathetic ink, easily legible to expert eyes. This was probably the beginning of the plot to discredit Picquart, who insisted to Gonse that the initiative should come from the Staff Office. Gonse answered by vaguely advising him to act with prudence, and was opposed to the "expertises" in handwriting that the colonel demanded. In the mean time the bombshell burst. On Sept. 14 "L'Eclair" published under the title "The Traitor" a retrospective article which pretended to bring to light the real motives for the judgment of 1894. The article revealed for the first time the fact of the communication to the judges of a secret document, but this document—the letter "canaille de D . . ."—now became a "letter in cipher" in which the following phrase was found: "This creature Dreyfus is becoming decidedly too exacting." This article had been brought to "L'Eclair" by a contributor to the "Petit Journal," where Henry had some acquaintances; nothing further is known concerning it. Picquart attributed it to the Dreyfus family, and desired to take proceedings, which his chiefs would not authorize. This only caused him to insist more firmly that immediate steps should be taken. Then took place between General Gonse and Picquart this memorable dialogue:
"What can it matter to you," said the general, "whether this Jew remains at Devil's Island or not?"
"But he is innocent."
"That is an affair that can not be reopened; General Mercier and General Saussier are involved in it."
"Still, what would be our position if the family ever found out the real culprit?"
"If you say nothing, nobody will ever know it."
"What you have just said is abominable, general. I do not know yet what course I shall take, but in any case I will not carry this secret with me to the grave."
From that day Picquart's removal was decided. He was authorized for the sake of appearances to continue his investigations concerning Esterhazy, but he was forbidden to take any decisive step, or, above all, to have the man arrested. With an adversary so cunning, ordinary measures—secret searches in his rooms, opening of his correspondence, examination of his desks—were of no avail, and never would be. For Esterhazy had been warned. He went to Drumont some time before the appearance of Lazare'spamphlet, and said that they desired to reopen the Dreyfus affair, and to involve him in it in order to retard his promotion ("La Libre Parole," Dec. 3, 1902).Henry's Confirmatory Letter.
Meanwhile, Henry insinuated to General Gonse that it would be well to put the secret dossier (of the Dreyfus case) out of the way, for indiscretions might arise—perhaps had already arisen—because of it (an allusion to the article in "L'Eclair," which he wished to be attributed to Picquart). Gonse did not need to be told twice, and removed the dossier (Oct. 30). A very few days later Henry triumphantly brought him a letter from Panizzardi, in blue pencil, which, he said, he had just found among some scraps in Madame Bastian's paper bag (Oct. 31). It was thus worded:
My dear friend: I have read that a deputy is going to ask several questions on the Dreyfus affair. If they request any new explanations at Rome, I shall say that I never had any dealings with this Jew. That is understood. If they question you make the same reply, for nobody must ever know what has happened to him. Alexandrine
The writing was apparently Panizzardi's, and in order to compare it Henry produced an earlier letter, supposed to have been taken from the waste of the secret dossier, written with the same pencil, on the same sort of paper ruled in squares, and containing the same signature. In reality, the letter brought for comparison contained fraudulent additions hinting at a Jewish traitor, while the new document was a forgery from beginning to end, executed by one of Henry's customary forgers, probably Leeman, called Lemercier-Picard, who later admitted to Count Tornielli that he had written it. Gonse and Boisdeffre believed or pretended to believe in its authenticity, and likewise convinced General Billot thereof. When Colonel Picquart expressed his doubts to Gonse the latter answered: "When a minister tells me anything I always believe it."
On Nov. 6 the memoir which had been prepared by the Dreyfus family, and which had been written by Bernard Lazare, appeared at Brussels. He laid bare the inconclusive character of the incriminating document (without, however, publishing it), confirmed the communication of the secret document, but affirmed, in opposition to "L'Eclair," that it bore only the initial "D" and not the name of "Dreyfus" in full. The pamphlet, distributed to the members of the Chamber, received from the press a cold welcome. But a few days later (Nov. 10) "Le Matin" published the facsimile of the famous bordereau attributed to Dreyfus. It became known later that it had been obtained from the expert Teyssonnières, who alone had kept the photograph of the bordereau confided to all the writing-experts in 1894. The publicity given to this facsimile would allow writing-experts all the world over to prove the differences that existed between the writing of the bordereau and that of Dreyfus; it might also meet the eyes of people who would recognize the writing of the true culprit, and that is exactly what happened. Esterhazy's handwriting was recognized particularly by Schwarzkoppen (who only then understood the drama of 1894), by Maurice Weil, and by a solicitor's clerk, the son of the chief rabbi Zadoc Kahn. The confusion at the Staff Office was now great; it grew worse confounded when Maurice Weil, one of Esterhazy's intimate friends, sent to the minister of war an anonymous letter which he had just received and which warned him that Castelin intended to denounce Esterhazy and Weil as accomplices of Dreyfus. The Staff Office pretended to recognize Picquart's hand in all these incidents, or at any rate to regard them as the result of his alleged indiscretions. His immediate departure was resolved upon. He had already been told that he would be sent to inspect the intelligence service in the east of France. Boisdeffre went with him to the minister, who rebuked Picquart soundly for having let information leak out and for having seized Esterhazy's correspondence without authorization. In recognition of his services in the past, he was not disgraced, but was ordered to set out immediately, and to resign his position to General Gonse. He did not protest, but started on Nov. 16. Two days later Castelin's interpellation, which had become a decided bugbear to the Staff Office, was made, but it failed of its purpose. Castelin demanded that proceedings should be instituted against the accomplices of the traitor, among whom he named Dreyfus' father-in-law Hadamard, the naval officer Emile Weyl, and Bernard Lazare. General Billot, who had addressed the Chamber before Castelin, affirmed the perfect regularity of the action of 1894, and made an appeal to the patriotism of the assembly to terminate a "dangerous debate." After a short and confused argument the Chamber voted an "ordre du jour" of confidence, inviting the government to inquire into the matter and to take proceedings if there were cause. A petition from Madame Dreyfus, invoking, with the support of the article in "L'Eclair," the communication of the secret document, was put aside by the judicial committee for want of sufficient proof.Machi-nations Against Picquart.
XI. Meanwhile, under a pretext, Picquart was hurried off from Nancy to Marseilles, and later on to Tunis; and, to avoid notice, he was attached to the Fourth Regiment of sharpshooters in garrison at Susa. During the whole time General Gonse wrote to him upon the question of money, as if to suggest purchasing his silence. Picquart recorded in a codicil to his will the history of his discovery, which he intended for the president of the republic; in this way he was sure "not to take his secret with him to the grave."Scheurer-Kestner's Inquiries.
Henry, though under the nominal direction of Gonse, had become the real head of the Intelligence Office, where he quietly prepared a whole series of forgeries, designed, when the opportunity presented itself, to crush Picquart if he ever attempted to cause trouble. After having put at rest the mistrust of his former chief by pretended protestations of devotion, in June, 1897, he suddenly flung off his mask. Picquart, irritated at continually receiving missives from the agents of his former service, wrote a rather hasty note to Henry, in which he denounced "the lies and the mysteries" with which his pretended mission had been surrounded during the past six months. Henry, after having consulted his superiors, answered, declaring that as far as "mysteries" were concerned he knew only that the following facts had been established against Picquartby an "inquiry": (1) The opening of correspondence unconnected with the service. (2) A proposal to two officers to testify, should such action be necessary, that a paper, registered as belonging to the service, and emanating from a well-known person, had been seized in the mails—a reference to a remark made by Lauth to Picquart, that the "petit bleu" addressed to Esterhazy was deficient of the regular stamp of the post-office. (3) The opening of a secret dossier, followed by disclosures. This letter, to which Picquart replied by a brief protest, opened his eyes; he understood the plot that was being hatched against him, the dangers which threatened him for having been too discerning. He asked for leave, went to Paris, and disclosed his affair to his old friend and comrade Leblois, a lawyer. Without revealing to Leblois any secret document, even the "petit bleu," he told him that he had discovered Esterhazy's crime and the innocence of Dreyfus; he authorized him, in case of necessity, to inform the government, but absolutely forbade him to apprise either the brother or the lawyer of Dreyfus. Leblois did not long remain the only recipient of the secret. A few days later chance brought him in contact with one of the few statesmen who had shown any sympathy with the researches of Matthew Dreyfus—the Alsatian Scheurer-Kestner, former member of the Chamber of Deputies for Alsace and coworker with Gambetta, and now vice-president of the Senate and one of the most justly esteemed men of the Republican party. Since 1895 Scheurer-Kestner, induced by the deputy Ranc and by Matthew Dreyfus, had made some inquiries. In 1897 the friends of Dreyfus returned to the charge. Scheurer-Kestner was surprised to find that all the so-called moral proofs, the tales that were brought forward to explain the crime of Dreyfus, did not bear investigation. The expert Teyssonnières, sent to him by his friend and colleague Trarieux, former minister of justice, did not succeed in convincing him that the bordereau was in the writing of Dreyfus. In great distress, he went to tell his old comrade Billot of his suspicions; the general reassured him: a secret document discovered since the condemnation, at the moment of Castelin's interpellation, had removed all doubts; Billot related the substance of it to him without letting him see it. This "crushing blow," which he kept in reserve for the partizans of Dreyfus, was Major Henry's forgery.
Scheurer-Kestner was at this point of his inquiry when Leblois, who had met him at dinner one evening, conceived the idea of having recourse to him as the medium by which to save Dreyfus and, through Dreyfus, Picquart. Going to Scheurer-Kestner's house, Leblois told all he knew, and showed him Gonse's letters. Scheurer-Kestner was finally convinced, and swore to devote himself to the defense of the innocent (July 13, 1897). But he was much puzzled as to what course to pursue. Leblois had forbidden him to mention Picquart's name, and Picquart had forbidden that the Dreyfus family should be told. In this perplexity, born of the initial mistake of Picquart, Scheurer-Kestner pursued the most unlucky tactics imaginable; instead of quietly gathering together all his documents and uniting his forces with those of Matthew Dreyfus, he allowed the rumor of his convictions to be spread abroad, and thus put the Staff Office on the alert, gave them time to prepare themselves, and allowed the hostile press to bring discredit upon him and to weaken beforehand by premature and mutilated revelations the force of his arguments.Tactics of the Staff Office.
Billot soon began to feel uneasy; he conjured his "old friend" to do nothing without having seen him; that is to say, until the end of the parliamentary recess. Scheurer-Kestner, without suspecting anything, gave him his word, leaving a clear field to Esterhazy's protectors. In the mean while this personage had been quietly dismissed from active service. Billot, who it is claimed looked upon him as "a scoundrel, a vagabond," perhaps even as the accomplice of Dreyfus, had indignantly opposed his readmission into the War Office. On Aug. 17 Esterhazy was put on the retired list "for temporary infirmities"; but, that done, there remained the prevention of his being "substituted" for Dreyfus. That it was Scheurer-Kestner's plan to demand this substitution, the Staff Office did not doubt for a moment, for Henry's secret police had followed Picquart to Leblois' house, and then Leblois to Scheurer-Kestner's. It was even fancied that Scheurer-Kestner was much more fully informed than was really the case. Toward the middle of October a meeting was held at the War Office, in anticipation of Scheurer-Kestner's impending campaign. Gonse, Henry, Lauth, Du Paty de Clam, were all present; the last, although having nothing to do with the Intelligence Office, had been summoned to it as the principal worker in the condemnation of Dreyfus, and as interested therefore more than any one in maintaining it. Gonse set forth the plot "of the Jews" to substitute for Dreyfus Esterhazy, an officer of doubtful character, but whom a minute inquiry had cleared of all suspicion of treachery: who was, however, a nervous man, and who, under the blow of a sudden denunciation, might lose his head and take flight or even kill himself; and that would mean catastrophe, war, and disaster. Esterhazy must then be warned, to prevent him from going quite mad. But how was it to be done? It was decided to send him an anonymous letter in order that he might take courage. Billot objected to this proceeding; it seems, however, that somebody disregarded the objection, for Esterhazy received (or pretended to have received) a letter signed Espérance, warning him that the Dreffus family, informed by a certain Colonel Picart, intended to accuse him of treason. One fact is certain—that he settled in Paris, went to see Schwarzkoppen, and told him that all was lost if he (Schwarzkoppen) did not go and declare to Madame Dreyfus that her husband was guilty; on the indignant refusal of Schwarz-koppen he threatened to blow his brains out. At the Staff Office Henry and Du Paty, understanding at once the wishes of Boisdeffre and of Gonse, resolved to join forces with Esterhazy. The keeper of the records, Gribelin, went in disguise to take a letter to Esterhazy fixing a rendezvous in the park of Montsouris. There, while Henry (fearing, as he said,recognition by his former comrade) kept watch, Du Paty, who was also disguised, told Esterhazy that he was known to be innocent, and that he would be defended on condition that he conformed rigorously to the instructions that would be given to him. After this interview Esterhazy went to Schwarz-koppen quite cheered up, and told him that the staff was entering into a campaign for his defense. A week later Schwarzkoppen had himself recalled to Berlin; it was the discreet but significant avowal that "his man was taken." Meanwhile Esterhazy, as agreed upon, was receiving his daily instructions from the Staff Office. Every evening from this time on Gribelin brought to him at the Military Club the program for the next day; Du Paty and Henry, whose connection with the affair Esterhazy soon knew, saw him several times, sometimes at the Montmartre cemetery, sometimes on the Pont d'Alexandre III. Later on, when these meetings were considered too dangerous, they corresponded with him through the medium of his mistress, of his lawyer, or of his cousin Christian.
Following instructions, Esterhazy wrote to Billot, ending his letter with the threat that if he were not defended he would apply to the German emperor. He wrote in the same strain to the president of the republic, claiming that a lady—afterward mysteriously referred to as the "veiled lady"—had given him a photograph of a very important document which Picquart had acquired from an embassy and which seriously compromised persons of high diplomatic rank. This braggadocio was taken so seriously that General Leclerc received an order at Tunis to question Picquart on having given to an outsider—the "veiled lady"—the "document of deliverance." Receiving no answer, Esterhazy, in his third letter (Nov. 5), virtually held the knife at the president's throat: the stolen document proved the rascality of Dreyfus; if he should publish it, it would be war or humiliation for France. This time they made up their minds to listen to him. General Saussier was charged with interrogating Esterhazy in regard to the "document of deliverance"; he obtained no details from him, but made him promise to send back the document to the minister. On Nov. 15 (the day when Matthew Dreyfus wrote his denunciation) it was "restored" to Saussier in a triple envelope, sealed with Esterhazy's arms: the "document of deliverance," as Esterhazy called it, was a photograph of the document "canaille de D . . ." There is nothing to prove that Esterhazy had ever had it in his hands. Billot acknowledged the receipt by the hand of his "chef de cabinet," General Torcy. By these barefaced stratagems Esterhazy and his defenders on the staff made certain of the complicity of the minister and of the president of the republic, while they compromised Picquart more deeply.The "Speranza" and "Blanche" Telegrams.
With the latter they proceeded to further measures. At the end of October Boisdeffre had ordered General Leclerc, commanding the corps of occupation in Tunis, to send Picquart to reconnoiter on the frontier of Tripoli, from which quarter pretended gatherings of the local tribes were reported. It was a dangerous region, where Morès had met his death; General Leclerc was astonished at the order, and, having heard from Picquart the cause of his disgrace, forbade him to go farther than Gabes. Some days later Picquart had to clear himself of the accusation of allowing a woman to purloin the "document of deliverance" of Esterhazy. Then, on Nov. 11 and 12, he received one after the other two telegrams worded: (1) "Arrest the demigod; all is discovered; very serious affair. Speranza." (2) "It has been proved that the 'bleu' was forged by Georges. Blanche." The obscure allusions and the names in these forgeries were derived from Picquart's private correspondence, which had been looked through, and were intended to produce the impression that Picquart was in some plot to release Dreyfus; the "demigod," it was pretended, referred to Scheurer-Kestner. The two telegrams, copied before they left Paris, had convinced the Sûreté Générale that Picquart was the moving spirit in the plot. On receiving them, and afterward an anonymous letter in the same style, Picquart sent a complaint to General Billot, and asked that inquiries be made regarding the author of these forgeries.
During this time Scheurer-Kestner was being deceived by his "old friend" Billot. On Oct. 30 he had a long conference with Billot, at which he accused Esterhazy. Billot declared that in spite of persistent investigations nobody had been able to find any proofs against Esterhazy, but that there were positive proofs against Dreyfus. Scheurer-Kestner implored him to distrust suspicious documents, and finally gave him a fortnight in which to make an honest and thorough investigation, promising that he himself would not speak during that time.Silence of Scheurer-Kestner.
He kept his word; Billot did not. During the fortnight not only was the collusion between the staff and the traitor fully organized, but the press, furnished with more or less news by the War Office, spoke openly of Scheurer-Kestner's futile visit to Billot and launched a veritable tempest against the "Jewish syndicate," which had bought a "man of straw" as a substitute for Dreyfus in order to dishonor the army. Scheurer-Kestner, patient but much distressed by the tempest, persisted in his fixed idea of acting only through the government. He saw Méline, the president of the council, several times, but Méline would have nothing to do with his dossier, and advised him to address to the minister of justice a direct petition for revision. This was not bad advice. According to the new law of 1895, a petition for revision founded on a new fact (discovered after the sentence) could only be submitted to the Court of Cassation by the keeper of the seals, after the latter had taken the advice of a special commission. The disposition of the minister (Darlan) was not unfavorable to the adoption of this course; and it is worthy of note that the new facts which were allowed later by the court were at that moment easy to establish; namely, the resemblance between Esterhazy's writing and that of the bordereau and the communication of the secret dossier to the judges.Conjunction of Matthew Dreyfus and Scheurer-Kestner.
The pursuit of such a course would also have had the advantage of taking the matter out of the hands of military justice and of placing it in those of the civil judges, who were less prejudiced. However,Scheurer-Kestner did not dare to pursue this course; he thought his documents not sufficiently complete. Official notes from the ministry (Nov. 6 and 9) stated the attitude which the government was resolved to take—it determined to respect the "chose jugée" (the matter adjudicated). As for the legal proceedings to secure revision, the notice added that Captain Dreyfus had been "regularly and justly" condemned—a formula which soon became the burden of General Billot's song. Matters might still have dragged on had it not been for chance. At the instance of the Dreyfus family, Bernard Lazare had prepared a second and more detailed pamphlet, in which had been gathered the opinions of a large number of French and foreign experts upon the writing of the bordereau as compared with that of Dreyfus. The unanimous conclusion of these experts was that the handwritings were not identical; but while some of them maintained that the writing of the bordereau was natural, others saw in it a forgery. At the same time that this brochure was published, Matthew Dreyfus ordered handbills reproducing in facsimile the bordereau and a letter of his brother's, which were offered for sale. One of these handbills fell into the hands of a stockbroker, Castro, who had had business relations with Esterhazy; he immediately recognized the bordereau as the writing of his former client, and informed Matthew Dreyfus of the fact. The latter hastened to Scheurer-Kestner and asked him: "Is that the same name?" "Yes," the latter replied (Nov. 11).
For four days they hesitated as to the course to pursue, Scheurer-Kestner still persisting in keeping the fortnight's silence promised to Billot on Oct. 31. In the interim, by means of the press the public mind had been influenced by indications as to the real traitor and by counter-declarations by Esterhazy in "La Libre Parole" concerning the conspiracy of the Jews and of "X. Y." (Picquart).
On the night of Nov. 15, in a letter to the minister of war which was published at once, Matthew Dreyfus denounced "Count" Walsin Esterhazy as the writer of the bordereau and as the author of the treason for which his brother had been condemned.Trial of Esterhazy.
XII. The hasty denunciation of Esterhazy by Matthew Dreyfus was a tactical though perhaps an unavoidable blunder. To accuse Esterhazy formally of the treason imputed to Dreyfus—and not simply of having written the bordereau (perhaps as a hoax or a swindle)—was to subject the revision of the case of 1894 to the preliminary condemnation of Esterhazy. With the staff and the War Office fully enlisted against Dreyfus, the court martial which Esterhazy himself at once demanded was of necessity a veritable comedy. Not only was the accused allowed his liberty until the last day but one, not only did his protectors in the Staff Office continue to communicate indirectly with him and to dictate the answers he should make, but the general entrusted with the preliminary as well as with the judicial inquiry, M. de Pellieux, showed him an unchanging friendliness and accepted without examination all his inventions.
Convinced of the guilt of Dreyfus through the assurances of the staff, and before long by Henry's forged documents, Pellieux refused at the outset to examine the bordereau, on the subject of which there was "chose jugée." Even after the formal order to prosecute, an interpellation of Scheurer-Kestner to the Senate (Dec. 7) was necessary to induce General Billot to promise that all the documents, including the famous bordereau, should be produced for examination. On this occasion also, as he had done some days before in the Chamber of Deputies (Dec. 4), the minister did not fail to proclaim on his soul and conscience the guilt of Dreyfus, thus bringing to bear the whole weight of his high office on the verdict of the future judges of Esterhazy. Premier Méline, on his part, gained applause for declaring "that there was no Dreyfus affair," and the Chamber in its "ordre du jour" stigmatized "the ringleaders of the odious campaign which troubled the public conscience."Attitude of the Press.
Against this "odious campaign" was set in motion a whole band of newspapers connected with the Staff Office, and which received from it either subsidies or communications. Among the most violent are to be noted "La Libre Parole" (Drumont), "L'Intransigeant" (Rochefort), "L'Echo de Paris" (Lepelletier), "Le Jour" (Vervoort), "La Patrie" (Millevoye), "Le Petit Journal" (Judet), "L'Eclair" (Alphonse Humbert). Two Jews, Arthur Meyer in "Le Gaulois" and G. Pollonnais in "Le Soir," also took part in this concert. Boisdeffre's orderly officer, Pauffin de St. Morel, was even caught one day bearing the "staff gospel" to Henry Rochefort (Nov. 16); nobody was deceived by the punishment for breach of discipline which he had to undergo for the sake of appearances.
An extraordinary piece of information—which was immediately contradicted—was printed by "L'Intransigeant" (Dec. 12-14); it was attributed to the confidences of Pauffin, and it dealt with the "ultra-secret" dossier (the photographs of letters from and to Emperor William about Dreyfus).
The Revisionist press, reduced to a small number of organs which were accused of being in the service of a syndicate, did not remain inactive. It consisted of "Le Siècle" (Yves Guyot, Joseph Reinach), "L'Aurore" (Vaughan, Clémenceau, Pressensé), and "Le Rappel," to which were joined later "La Petite République" (Jaurès) and "Les Droits de l'Homme" (Ajalbert). The "Figaro," losing most of its subscribers, changed its politics on Dec. 18, but became once more "Dreyfusard" after the discovery of Henry's forgery. "L'Autorité" (Cassagnac) and "Le Solcil" (Hervé de Kerohant) were the only newspapers among the reactionary press which were more or less in favor of revision. Some of the revisionists, falling into the trap laid for them, widened the scope of the debate and gave it the character of an insulting campaign against the chiefs of the army, which hurt the feelings of many sincere patriots and drove them over to the other side. Public opinion was deeply moved by two publications: one, that of the indictment of Dreyfus (in "Le Siècle," Jan. 6, 1898), which was absolutely remarkable for its lack of proof; the other ("Figaro."Nov. 28, 1897), that of letters written twelve years before by Esterhazy to his mistress, Madame de Boulancy, in which he launched furious invectives against his "cowardly and ignorant" chiefs, against "the fine army of France," against the entire French nation. One of these letters especially, which soon became famous under the name of the "lettre du Hulan" (Uhlan), surpassed in its unpatriotic violence anything that can be imagined.The "Lettre du Hulan."
"If some one came to me this evening," it ran, "and told me that I should be killed to-morrow as captain of Uhlans, while hewing down Frenchmen, I should be perfectly happy. . . . What a sad figure these people would make under a blood-red sun over the battle-field, Paris taken by storm and given up to the pillage of a hundred thousand drunken soldiers! That is the fête that I long for!"
Esterhazy hastened to deny the authorship of the letter, which was submitted to examination by experts. While silence was imposed on the officers of Esterhazy's regiment, suspicions were thrown on the defenders of Dreyfus. The director of the prison of Cherche-Midi, Forzinetti, who persisted in proclaiming his prisoner's innocence, was dismissed. But, above all, the Staff Office struggled to bring Picquart into disrepute. Scheurer-Kestner insisted on having his evidence; they were forced to bring him back from Tunis. The day before his arrival a search was instituted among his belongings, which was as fruitless as it was unusual; an officer escorted him from Marscilles to Paris (Nov. 25). General de Pellieux, who had been made to believe by a series of forgeries that Picquart had for some time been the moving spirit of the "syndicate," treated him more as the accused than as a witness; it was understood that he would soon be behind bolts and bars.Ravary's Report.
The general entrusted with the investigation concluded that there was no evidence against Esterhazy. However, Esterhazy was instructed to write a letter asking as a favor to be brought up for trial, the rough copy of which was corrected by Pellieux himself. Accordingly General Saussier, governor of Paris, instituted a regular inquiry (Dec. 4). But the officer empowered to conduct it, Major Ravary, did so in the same spirit as Pellieux. Esterhazy's system of defense was a mixture of audacious avowals and ridiculous inventions. He acknowledged his relations with Schwarzkoppen, but gave to them a purely social character. The "petit bleu" was, according to him, an absurd forgery, highly improbable, and most likely the work of Picquart himself. He did not deny the striking resemblance between his writing and that of the bordereau, but explained it by alleging that Dreyfus must have fraudulently obtained one of his letters to imitate his handwriting and so incriminate him. As for the documents enumerated in the bordereau, Esterhazy denied that he could possibly have known them, especially at the time to which they now had agreed to assign the bordereau (April, 1894). He certainly had borrowed the "manuel de tir" from Lieutenant Bernheim of Le Mans, whom he had met at Rouen, but in the month of September; later on, he retracted and said, in agreement with Bernheim, that it was not the real manual, but a similar regulation already available in the bookstores.
This mass of deceptions, to which was added the romance of the "veiled lady"—supposed to be a mistress of Picquart—was taken seriously by Ravary. Three experts were found (Couard, Belhomme, Varinard) who swore that the bordereau was not in Esterhazy's hand, though apparently traced in part over his writing (Dec. 26). These men had to be coached by the staff. Du Paty writes to Esterhazy: "The experts have been appointed. You will have their names to-morrow. They shall be spoken to; be quiet!" Thereupon Ravary wrote out, or signed, a long report in which, after having given an exact summary of the charges set forth against Esterhazy, he concluded by saying that, while the private life of the major was not a model to be recommended "to our young officers," there was nothing to prove that he was guilty of treason. The bordereau was not in his writing; the "petit bleu" was not genuine. He stigmatized Picquart as the instigator of the whole campaign, and denounced his subterfuges and indiscretions to his superiors.The Esterhazy Court Martial.
Ravary concluded that the case should be dismissed at once (Jan. 1). However, Saussier ordered the affair to be thoroughly cleared up before a court martial presided over by General Luxer. The hearing took place at the Cherche-Midi on Jan. 10 and 11, 1898. From the commencement the Dreyfus family, who had appointed two lawyers (Fernand Labori and Demange), were refused the right of being represented in court. The reading of the indictment, the superficial examination of Esterhazy (who contradicted himself several times), the testimony of the civil witnesses (Matthew Dreyfus, Scheurer-Kestner, etc.), were conducted in public; then a hearing behind closed doors was ordered, doubtless to stifle Colonel Picquart's evidence. The public knew nothing of Picquart's deposition, or of that of the other military witnesses, of Leblois, or of the experts, and nothing of the Revisionists' case in general. General de Pellieux, seated behind the judges, interfered more than once in the debates, and whispered to the president. Picquart was so harshly treated that one judge exclaimed: "I see that the real accused is Colonel Picquart!"
Finally, as everybody knew beforehand would be the case, Esterhazy was acquitted unanimously and acclaimed with frenzy by the "patriots" outside. Pellieux wrote to the "dear major" to stigmatize the "abominable campaign" of which he had been the victim, and to authorize him to prosecute those who dared to attribute the "Uhlan" letter to him. As to Picquart, he was, to begin with, punished with sixty days' imprisonment, being confined on Mont Valérien; it was understood that he would be arraigned before a council of inquiry (Jan. 13).Emile Zola's "J'Accuse."
XIII. Esterhazy's acquittal closed the door on revision for the time being; but the Revisionists did not consider themselves defeated. For two months their ranks had been increased by a large number of literary men, professors, and scholars who had been convinced by the evidence given; it was one of these "intellectuels," the novelist Emile Zola, who took up the gauntlet. Almostfrom the first he had enlisted among the advocates of revision. He had written in the "Figaro" brilliant articles against the anti-Semites and in favor of Scheurer-Kestner, whom he termed "a soul of crystal." "Truth is afoot," he said; "nothing will stop her." On Jan. 13 he published in "L'Aurore," under the title "J'Accuse," an open letter to the president of the republic, an eloquent philippic against the enemies "of truth and justice." Gathering together with the prophetic imagination of the novelist all the details of a story of which up to then the outlines had hardly been discerned, he threw into relief, not without a good deal of exaggeration, the "diabolical rôle" of Colonel Du Paty. He charged the generals with a "crime of high treason against humanity," Pellieux and Ravary with "villainous inquiry," the experts with "lying and fraudulent reports." The acquittal of Esterhazy was "a supreme blow ["soufflet"] to all truth, to all justice"; the court of justice which had pronounced it was "necessarily criminal"; and he finished the long recital of his accusations with these words:
"I accuse the first court martial of having violated the law in condemning the accused upon the evidence of a document which remained secret. And I accuse the second court martial of having screened this illegality by order, committing in its turn the judicial crime of wilfully and knowingly acquitting a guilty person."
Zola's audacious action created a tremendous stir. It was, he owned himself, a revolutionary deed destined to provoke proceedings which would hasten "an outburst of truth and justice," and in that respect he was not deceived. His philippic raised such an outcry in the press and in the Chamber of Deputies that the War Office was forced to enter upon proceedings. A complaint was lodged against the defamatory phrases with regard to the court martial which had acquitted Esterhazy. The case was tried before the jury of the Seine, and lasted from Feb. 7 to 23, 1898.First Zola Trial.
The "patriots" in the cafés, the "camelots" selling songs and broadsides, the professional anti-Semites who were masters of the streets under the friendly eye of the police, threatened and hooted all the "enemies of the army," applauded the generals and even the most insignificant officers in uniform, not excepting Major Esterhazy, to whom Prince Henry of Orleans asked to be presented. Scuffles took place between the anti-Revisionists and the handful of "Dreyfusards" who served as a body-guard to Zola. Even in the audience-chamber, "arranged" with care by the staff and its friends at the bar, officers in civil dress caused a stir and gave vent to noisy manifestations. There was fighting in the lobbies. Cries of "Death to the Jews!" were uttered on all sides.
Zola's lawyers, Fernand Labori and Albert Clémenceau, had summoned a large number of witnesses. The greater number of the military witnesses declined at first to reply to the summons, but the court did not admit their power to refuse, and they were obliged to submit. However, in order that the "chose jugée" should receive due respect, the court decided not to allow any document, any evidence which bore upon facts foreign to the accusation, to be produced.
The president, Delegorgue, in applying this principle, observed a subtle, almost absurd, distinction; he admitted all that could prove Esterhazy's guilt but not Dreyfus' innocence or the irregularity of his condemnation; his formula, "The question will not be admitted," soon became proverbial. In reality, it was exceedingly difficult to trace a dividing-line between the two classes of facts; and the line was constantly overstepped, now under the pretext of establishing the "good faith" of the accused, now to justify the incriminating phrase that the second court martial had covered by order the illegality committed by the first. It was thus that Demange was able to bring out, in a rapid sentence, the fact of the communication of the secret document, which fact he learned from his fellow advocate, Salles.Picquart's Evidence.
Concerning the Dreyfus affair, the most important testimony was that of Colonel Picquart, who appeared for the first time in public, and gained numerous sympathizers by his calm, dignified, and reserved attitude. Without letting himself be either intimidated or flattered, he related clearly and sincerely, but avoiding all unnecessary disclosures, the story of his discovery. His adversaries, Gonse, Henry, Lauth, Gribelin, did not leave a stone unturned to weaken the force of his evidence and to assert that from the very commencement he had been haunted by the idea of substituting Esterhazy for Dreyfus. There was a long dispute over his supposed plan of having the "petit bleu" stamped during the suspicious visits that Leblois had paid him at the ministry. Gribelin pretended that he had seen them seated at a table with two secret dossiers in front of them, one concerning carrier-pigeons, the other concerning the Dreyfus affair. Henry (appointed lieutenant-colonel for the occasion) declared that he had seen, in the presence of Leblois, the document" canaille de D . . ." taken from its envelope. Picquart denied the truth of this statement, which the dates contradicted; Henry thereupon replied: "Colonel Picquart has told a lie." Picquart kept his temper, but at the end of the trial sent his seconds to Henry, and fought a duel with him, in which Henry was slightly wounded. As to Esterhazy, who also tried to pick a quarrel with him, Picquart refused to grant him the honor of a meeting. "That man," said he, "belongs to the justice of his country." In this trial the important part played by Henry began to appear; till then he had purposely kept in the background, and concealed a deep cunning beneath the blunt appearance of a peasant-soldier. One day (Feb. 13), as if to warn his chiefs that he had the upper hand of them, he revealed the formation of the secret dossier; he also spoke, but vaguely, of a supposed ultra-secret dossier, two letters which (he pretended) had been shown him by Colonel Sandherr. These were apparently two of the forged letters attributed to the German emperor, which were whispered about sub rosa in order to convince refractory opinions.
Among the civil witnesses, the experts in handwriting occupied the longest time before the court. Besides the professional experts, savants such as Paul Meyer, A. Giry, Louis Havet, and Auguste Molinier, affirmed and proved that the writing and thestyle of the bordereau were those of Esterhazy. Their adversaries refused to admit this evidence on the ground of the supposed difference between the original and the published facsimiles, of which many, according to Pellieux, resembled forgeries. The lawyers then asked that the original bordereau might be produced, but the court refused to give the order.The "Thunderbolt" Quoted.
General de Pellieux had established himself counsel for the Staff Office. An elegant officer, gifted with an easy and biting eloquence, he addressed the court at almost every hearing, sometimes congratulating himself with having contributed to Esterhazy's acquittal, sometimes warning the jurymen that if they overthrew the confidence of the country in the chiefs of the army, their sons would be brought "to butchery." Like Henry, but with less mental reservation, he ended one day by divulging a secret. On Feb. 17 he had a prolonged discussion with Picquart as to whether Esterhazy could possibly have been acquainted with the documents of the bordereau, the real date of which was now acknowledged (Aug. or Sept. and not April, 1894). Suddenly, as if unnerved, he declared that, setting the bordereau aside, there was a proof, subsequent in date but positive, of the guilt of Dreyfus, and this proof he had had before his eyes; it was a paper in which the attaché "A" wrote to the attaché "B": "Never mention the dealings we have had with this Jew." General Gonse immediately confirmed this sensational evidence. This was the first time that the document forged by Henry—the "thunderbolt" of Billot—had been publicly produced. The impression this admission created was intense. Labori protested against this garbled quotation, and demanded that the document should either be brought before the court or should not be used at all. Then Pellieux, turning toward an orderly officer, cried: "Take a cab, and go and fetch General de Boisdeffre." While waiting for the head of the staff the hearing was adjourned; it was arranged not to resume it that day, for in the interval the government, informed of the incident, had opposed the production of a document which brought the foreign embassies into the case, and of which Hanotaux, the minister for foreign affairs, warned by the Italian ambassador, Tornielli, suspected the genuineness. At the next day's hearing Boisdeffre was content with confirming the deposition of Pellieux on every point as "accurate and authentic," and boldly put the question of confidence to the jury. The president declared the incident closed. In vain did Picquart, questioned by the lawyers, declare that he considered the document a forgery. Pellieux was content with styling him scornfully "a gentleman who still bore the uniform of the French army and who dared charge three generals with a forgery!" From that moment the debates were curtailed. The jury, deliberating under fear of physical violence, declared the defendants guilty without extenuating circumstances. In consequence Zola was condemned to the maximum punishment—one year's imprisonment and a fine of 3,000 francs. The publisher of "L'Aurore"—defended by George Clémenceau—was sentenced to four months' imprisonment and a similar fine (Feb. 23, 1898). The prisoners appealed to the Court of Cassation for annulment of the judgment. Contrary to their expectation and to that of the public the Criminal Court admitted the plea on the formal ground that the complaint should have been lodged by the court martial which had been slandered, and not by the minister of war.The Sentence Annulled.
The sentence was therefore annulled (April 2). Chambaraud, the judge-advocate, as well as Manau, the attorney-general, let it be understood that it would be better not to resume proceedings, at the same time allowing a discreet sympathy for the cause of revision to appear. But the War Office, urged on by the deputies, had gone too far to draw back. The court martial, immediately assembled, decided to lodge a civil complaint. This time only three lines from the article were retained as count of the indictment, and the case was deferred to the Court of Assizes of Seine and Oise at Versailles. Zola protested against the competence of this court, but the Court of Cassation overruled him. The case was not called until July 18, under a new ministry. At the last moment Zola declared he would not appear, and fled to England to avoid hearing the sentence, which would then become final. The court condemned him without debate to the maximum punishment, the same as had already been pronounced by the jury of the Seine. His name was also struck from the list of the Legion of Honor. The experts, on their part, slandered by him, brought an action against him which ended in his being condemned to pay 30,000 francs ($6,000) damages.Political Aspects of the "Affaire."
XIV. The excitement which accompanied the Zola case had been echoed in the Chamber of Deputies. The different parties began to make the most of the "affaire" for their political ends. A very small phalanx of Socialists grouped round Jaurès, whose generous nature proved more clear-sighted than the shrewdness of his colleagues, and accused the government of delivering the republic up to the generals. A more numerous group of Radicals with "Nationalist" tendencies reproached them, on the contrary, with not having done what was necessary to defend the honor of the army and to nip in the bud a dangerous agitation. The chief spokesman of this group was the "austere intriguer" Godfrey Cavaignac, descended from a former candidate for the presidency of the republic, and himself suspected of a similar ambition. Between these two shoals the premier Méline steered his course, holding fast to the principle of "respect for the judgment pronounced." Prudently refusing to enter into the discussion of the proofs of Dreyfus' guilt, he gave satisfaction to the anti-Revisionists by energetically denouncing the Revisionists. Thus it was that on Jan. 15 and 22, Cavaignac having called upon the government to publish a document "both decisive and without danger"—the alleged report of Gonse upon the supposed avowals of Dreyfus to Lebrun-Renault—Méline flatly declined to follow this track, which he called "la revision à la tribune." After a stormy debate, during which blows were exchanged on the platform, the Chamber decided in Méline's favor (Jan. 24). Again, on Feb. 12, in responseto a question concerning "his dealings with the Dreyfus family," General Billot declared that if the revision took place he would not remain a moment longer at the War Office.
On Feb. 24 the ministry were challenged as to the attitude which certain generals had assumed during the Zola trial. Méline, without approving of the errors of speech, explained them as the natural result of the exasperation caused by such an incessant campaign of invective and outrage. But this campaign was about to end: "It must absolutely cease!" he cried, with the applause of the Chamber, and he gave it to be understood that the mad obstinacy of the "intellectuels"—as the advocates of revision were contemptuously called—would only end in bringing about a religious persecution. At the same time he made known a whole series of disciplinary measures demanded by circumstances. By the end of January a council of inquiry had declared for Colonel Picquart's retirement on account of his professional indiscretions in connection with Leblois. The ministerial decision had been left in suspense—it is easy to understand in whose interest—during the Zola trial; now it was put into execution, and Picquart's name was struck off the army list. His "accomplice" Leblois was dismissed from his duties as "maire adjoint," and suspended for six months from the practise of his profession as a lawyer.Two Favorable Symptoms.
During the four months which followed the first verdict against Zola the cause of the Revisionists was at the lowest ebb. The only effect that their campaign seemed to have had was to divide French society. On the one side were the army, nearly all the leading classes, and the "social forces," without considering the rabble; on the other, a handful of intellectual men and of Socialists. Nationalism, another form of Boulangism, resumed its sway, associated with anti-Semitism, whose exploits resulted in filling the streets of Algiers with blood. The battle continued in the press, and the League of the Rights of Man (president, Senator Trarieux) concentrated the partizans of revision. But from a judicial point of view all the avenues seemed hence-forward barred. Apart from the epilogue of the Zola trial only two cases, which received scant notice, maintained a feeble spark of hope despite the darkness. On the one hand, Colonel Picquart, after having vainly knocked at all the doors of military justice, had decided to lay a complaint before a civil court against the unknown authors of the forged "Speranza" letter and of the forged telegrams which he had received in Tunis. On the other hand, a cousin of Major Esterhazy, Christian Esterhazy, lodged a complaint against his relative, who, under pretense of investing their money "with his friend Rothschild," had swindled Christian and his mother out of a considerable part of their small fortune. The same examining magistrate, Bertulus, was entrusted with the two cases; each one threw light upon the other. Christian had been one of the intermediate agents in the collusion between Esterhazy and his protectors in the Staff Office, and he divulged some edifying details on this subject.
In the month of May the elections took place. The new Chamber was as mixed in its representation as had been its predecessor, with the addition of a few more Nationalists and anti-Semites. It did not include a single open Dreyfusard: some (Jaurès, J. Reinach) had not been returned; others had not even faced the struggle. Besides, during the electoral period the recognized attitude of all parties had been to keep silent on the "affaire" and to exaggerate the formulas of enthusiasm for the army; later on, a few provincial councils called for strong measures against the agitators.
At its first meeting with the Chamber Méline's ministry was put in the minority, and a Radical cabinet was formed (June 30). It had for president Henry Brisson, who had just failed as candidate for the presidency of the Chamber. Brisson had remained, and persisted in remaining, completely unacquainted with the "affaire"; but he took as minister of war Godfrey Cavaignac, who would be of use to him as a security with regard to the Nationalists, and leave him full power on this delicate question.Second Castelin Interpellation.
The leader of the Patriots' League, Déroulède, congratulated Brisson on having taken in partnership a man "who would know how to make the honor of the army respected." Indeed, Cavaignac, true to his promises as a deputy, announced his intention of "muzzling" the impenitent Dreyfusards. But first of all he meant to be sure that he had the cooperation of the Chamber. On July 7 he was challenged by the deputy Castelin, who demanded fresh proceedings against Picquart, Zola, and the "syndicate." Cavaignac addressed the Chamber. His speech, very different from Méline's prudent reserve and Billot's empty formulas, constituted, as he thought, a demonstration in due form of the guilt of Dreyfus, founded principally on the new proofs which had been revealed since his condemnation. Of course, Cavaignac laid stress upon the "confessions" of Dreyfus, established by Gonse's report—antedated—and by a loose leaf (sic!) from Lebrun-Renault's note-book, afterward destroyed by him—a very suspicious act. Cavaignac laid before the Chamber a whole dossier of secret papers: (1) The document "canaille de D . . .". (2) A document of March, 1894, in which one of the military attachés wrote "D. has brought me several interesting things." (It was discovered later that the letter "D" covered something which had been erased, and one could see the traces of one or several different letters.) (3) The document which had fallen from the skies in 1896, and which Pellieux had referred to in the discussion at Zola's trial. Cavaignac, whom Hanotaux and Méline had not thought fit to acquaint with Count Tornielli's protest, gave the entire text of this document for the first time, all except one sentence which he omitted on the ground of diplomatic propriety. He maintained that he had weighed its "material and moral authenticity." Cavaignac's demonstration, apparently mathematically exact, and made with angry conviction, reassured and won over the Chamber, which voted unanimously that his speech should be posted up in every commune throughout France. It was remarked that Méline was amongthe few who did not vote. The "Figaro" proclaimed the Dreyfus case a "buried matter." But the next day Picquart threw cold water on all this enthusiasm.Picquart's Reply to Cavaignac.
He wrote a public letter to Brisson, offering to prove before any competent jurisdiction that the documents of 1894, quoted by Cavaignac, did not apply to Dreyfus, and that the document of 1896 "had every appearance of being a forgery." The answer to this audacious manifestation was not long in coming. In the Chamber Cavaignac treated with contempt a man who dared to argue that "a document which he had never seen" could be a forgery. At the same time he wrote to the keeper of the seals to lodge a complaint against Picquart and Leblois, by virtue of the law on espionage (July 12). This was the accusation against Picquart already brought by Henry, Lauth, and Gribelin during Zola's trial, for having (1) examined with Leblois the dossier of a spy named Beulot, and a secret dossier respecting carrier-pigeons, and (2) communicated to Leblois the secret dossiers of the actions against Dreyfus and Esterhazy. Picquart denied that he had shown Leblois any document either secret or concerning the national defense. Moreover, some of these "facts" had been denounced at the council of inquiry which had ordered his dismissal from the army. Therefore the principle "Non bis in idem" should have made fresh proceedings impossible; but the minister, bitterly resenting the doubt cast on his sincerity, did not stop to take these considerations into account. Picquart was arrested and incarcerated in the civil prison of La Santé (July 13). The inquiry, entrusted to the judge Albert Fabre, soon took a turn favorable to the prisoner, whose adversaries became confused by perpetually contradicting facts and dates.Trial of Esterhazy for Forgery.
On the same day as this arrest the examining magistrate Bertulus, disregarding the threats and entreaties of which he had been the object, on his own initiative (as an official note put it) sent Major Esterhazy and his mistress, Marguerite Pays, to prison, accused of the crime of forgery and of using forgeries; he had in fact become convinced that the "Speranza" telegram was the work of Madame Pays, and that they were not altogether innocent of the sending of the "Blanche" telegram. Then, when Bertulus had decided to send Esterhazy and his mistress before the Assize Court, the Chambre des Mises en Accusation interfered and gave them the benefit of insufficient evidence (Aug. 12), and also declared the complicity of Du Paty insufficiently proved.
After the decision pronounced in his favor, Esterhazy had been set at liberty; but he did not come out of this troublesome adventure unscathed. Already, in his speech of July 7, Cavaignac had announced that this officer would be "smitten with the disciplinary punishments that he had deserved," and he gave him into the hands of a council of inquiry. Before this council, presided over by General de St. Germain, Esterhazy, to avenge himself, made revelations which were most compromising for himself as well as for his protectors. He told of his collusion with the staff, and of his threatening letters to the president of the republic. Nevertheless, the council declined to find him guilty of having failed either in discipline or in matters of honor; they sustained only (and by a majority of one) the charge of "habitual misconduct." Notwithstanding a letter from General Zurlinden, military governor of Paris, recommending indulgent measures, Esterhazy's name was struck off the army lists by the minister of war (Aug. 31).The Henry Forgery.
But just at this time an incident of far greater importance occurred to change the aspect of affairs. Cavaignac, in spite of his assurance, had none the less been agitated by the doubts expressed on all sides as to the authenticity of certain documents in his dossier. In order to ease his mind he ordered a general revision and a reclassification of the secret dossier. In the course of this operation Major Cuignet, working by lamplight, noticed an alarming peculiarity in the "document Henry": the lines of the paper—which was ruled in squares—were not of the same color at the top and at the bottom as they were in the middle. When he looked at the document produced by Henry himself for comparison—an invitation to dinner (falsified) dating from 1894—he ascertained, by comparing the ruled squares, that the heading and the lower part of the latter document belonged in reality to the "document Henry," and vice versa. If the two papers had been contemporary, this inversion might have been attributed to a pardonable error in gumming them together; but such was not the case: one was supposed to have been put together in 1894, the other in 1896; therefore the documents had evidently been tampered with at this latter date. Much concerned by his discovery, Cuignet apprised the chief of the cabinet (General Roget) and the minister, who recognized the accuracy of it. Their conviction, which the nonsense and the improbability of the "Vercingétorix document"—as Esterhazy had called it—had not been able to shake, gave way before the divergence of the squares ruled on the paper. Cavaignac, for motives still unknown, kept the matter secret for a fortnight. Then, as Henry was passing through Paris, he summoned him to the War Office, and questioned him in the presence of Generals de Boisdeffre, Gonse, and Roget. Henry commenced by swearing that the document was authentic, then got entangled in confused explanations, then admitted that he had completed certain parts of it "from oral information" he had received; in the end, conquered by the evidence against him, he owned that he had invented the whole thing. But they knew well why and for whom; and he threw an anxious glance on Generals Boisdeffre and Gonse, who in 1896 had accepted this timely forgery without question; these generals kept frigid silence. Abandoned by the chiefs who had tacitly driven him to the crime, Henry gave way entirely.Suicide of Henry.
By order of the minister he was immediately put under arrest and confined in Mont Valérien. The next day he cut his throat with a razor left in his possession, taking with him to the grave his secret and that of a great part of the "affaire" (Aug. 31, 1898). On the same day Esterhazy prudently disappeared from Paris; it wasknown that he had taken refuge in Brussels, and then in London. Colonel Henry's avowal gravely affected General Boisdeffre's position, for he had publicly proclaimed and affirmed to the minister the authenticity of the document. He immediately tendered his resignation as head of the staff, and, despite Cavaignac's entreaties, insisted on its acceptance.
This double "coup de théâtre," at once made public, created a tremendous sensation at first. The enemies of revision were overwhelmed; it was several days before they had sufficiently recovered to rally round the theory of the "patriotic forgery" imagined by a contributor to the "Gazette de France," Charles Maurras. According to him, Henry had forged this document as a sort of résumé for the public, because the "real proofs" could not be revealed without danger. This absurd theory (for if ever a document were intended exclusively for "internal use," as Pressensé put it, it was that one!) was generally accepted by the Nationalists.
But public opinion had changed considerably, or was at least shaken. The revision of the Dreyfus case thenceforward seemed inevitable; the council of ministers investigated the matter. It was evident that if Colonel Henry had been obliged to forge a false proof of the guilt of Dreyfus in 1896, the dossier did not contain a single one that could be considered as decisive. Cavaignac refused to draw this inference—too honest to hush up Henry's forgery, he was too obstinate to retract his speech of July 7. He declared that he was more convinced than ever of Dreyfus' guilt, and tendered his resignation, led to this decision by Brisson's firmly expressed determination to take steps toward revision (Sept. 4).Zurlinden Succeeds Cavaignac.
General Zurlinden, governor of Paris, accepted the vacant post in the War Office at the personal request of the president of the republic. He was an honest soldier, but narrow-minded; the press of the staff loaded him with insults, which did not fail to affect him. The revision founded upon the discovery of a "new fact" could only be demanded by the keeper of the seals. As early as Sept. 3 Madame Dreyfus had laid before him a request to take this initiative. She alleged two "new facts": (1) the expert's examination of the bordereau, which she was informed had not given the same results as in 1894; (2) the confession of Henry's crime, which consequently annulled his all-important evidence in the action against her husband. As a result of this claim the keeper of the seals, Sarrien, demanded that the secretary of war should communicate the Dreyfus dossier. To the general surprise, Zurlinden sent it to him with a long notice unfavorable to revision.Ministerial Changes.
However, after a prolonged discussion, the ministry decided to proceed and to lay the matter before the judicial commission, which they were bound to consult in such a case. Thereupon Zurlinden tendered his resignation, and was followed in his retirement by the minister of public works, Tillaye (Sept. 17). Zurlinden was reinstated as governor of Paris; General Chanoine inherited his position in the War Office, as well as the insults of the anti-Revisionist press. During his short term of office Zurlinden, with an impartiality that showed more uprightness than discretion, had smitten two of the principal actors of the drama. It resulted from Esterhazy's declarations before his council of discipline, and from an inquiry opened in consequence, that Colonel Du Paty de Clam had sided with Esterhazy before and during his action. Du Paty took upon himself all the responsibility for his conduct, and asserted that he had acted without reference to his chiefs; this was chivalrous, but only half true. However that may be, the assistance thus given to Esterhazy was judged "reprehensible from a military point of view": Du Paty was retired and put on half-pay for punishment (Sept. 12). After Du Paty came Picquart. Zurlinden, having become acquainted with his dossier, proposed to the council of ministers to arraign Picquart before a court martial on the charge, already drawn up by Esterhazy, of having fabricated the "petit bleu." The only possible basis for such an accusation consisted in certain signs of erasure in the document which had not existed in the photographs taken of it in 1896. The council appeared little in favor of these proceedings, but Zurlinden, acting as governor of Paris, almost immediately after tendering his resignation, presented to his successor a warrant of inquiry, which the latter signed without paying much attention to it. The reason of this haste was that the keeper of seals had asked Picquart for a "mémoir" on the fitness of revision; the military party was therefore eager to discredit his testimony by a charge of forgery. On Sept. 21, the day on which the case of Picquart and Leblois was brought before the "tribunal correctionnel," the government attorney demanded the adjournment of the affair, first, on account of the Dreyfus revision, which might modify the aspect of the deeds with which Picquart was charged; and secondly, on account of the new and serious accusation which had been brought against the latter. Picquart then rose and warned his judges and the public, saying: "To-night perhaps I shall go to the Cherche-Midi, and this is probably the last time that I will be able to speak in public. I would have the world know that if there be found in my cell the rope of Lemercier-Picard or the razor of Henry, I shall have been assassinated. No man like myself can for a moment think of suicide." Lemercier-Picard was one of Henry's agents, whose real name was Leeman, and who had probably been concerned in the forgery of 1896; he had afterward hanged himself under mysterious circumstances from the window-fastening of a furnished house. The next day Picquart was taken from the civil prison of La Santé and enrolled on the register at the Cherche-Midi, where he was put into the strictest solitary confinement.
Some days after, the vote of the commission charged with giving a preliminary opinion upon the demand for a revision was made known: opinion was equally divided. This division legally inferred rejection; but the minister of war was not bound to accept the opinion of the commission. He wished, however, to shield himself behind a vote of the council of ministers. After four hours of deliberation it was decided, at the instance of Brisson, seconded by Bourgeois, that the keeper of the seals should lay the affair before the Court of Cassation.Thus the proceedings for revision were definitely inaugurated (Sept. 27).Resignation of Brisson's Ministry.
XV. Now that, thanks to the manly resolution of Brisson, the obstinate defenders of the work of 1894 had been deprived of support, their only remaining hope lay in the revolutionary action of the army, of the people, or of the Chamber of Deputies. It will be seen how they used successively each of these three means. They found help, on the one hand, in the thoughtless violence of certain apostles of revision who persisted in including the whole army in the fault committed by some of its chiefs. The most extreme of these was Urbain Gohier, who was prosecuted (under Dupuy's ministry) for his collection of articles, "The Army Against the Nation," and acquitted by a jury of the Seine. On the other hand, the anti-Revisionists were encouraged by the strange inactivity of the president of the republic. The day before the reopening of the Chamber of Deputies, sudden and suspicious strikes, noisy public meetings, struggles in the streets, reports of a military conspiracy, all contributed to overexcite the temper of the public. The very day of the reopening of the Chamber of Deputies (Oct. 25) Brisson's ministry was defeated on a motion which virtually accused the government of permitting the attacks upon the army, and it resigned forthwith.Trial Before the Court of Cassation.
It was replaced on Nov. 3 by a cabinet of "republican union" presided over by Charles Dupuy, with Freycinet at the War Office and Lebret keeper of the seals. The Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation, having the demand for a revision laid before it, held public audience on Oct. 27 and 28 to express its opinion upon the admissibility of the demand. The attorney-general Manau and the councilor Bard, the latter in a very remarkable report, both pronounced themselves in favor of the claim. They adopted the two motives for the request presented by Madame Dreyfus. The avowed forgery of Colonel Henry covered his evidence of 1894, and even the origin of the bordereau which had been through his hands, with justifiable suspicion; the report of the experts of 1897, the purport of which was revealed on this occasion, tended to establish the belief that the bordereau was not in Dreyfus' handwriting, as had been claimed in 1894, but was "a tracing of the writing of Esterhazy." The attorney-general, an old republican, was in favor of immediately annulling the sentence of 1894 and suspending the punishment of Dreyfus; the councilor Bard, taking into consideration the resistance of military authority, whose motives were enumerated in Zurlinden's letter, proposed simply that the Criminal Chamber should declare the claim "formally admissible" and should proceed to an inquiry which would throw further light on the matter and set people's minds at rest. It was this last expedient that commended itself to the Criminal Chamber (Oct. 29); and it was further decided (Nov. 3) that instead of appointing a special commission, the court as a whole should hold this supplementary examination. They began at once and heard, in greatest secrecy, a long series of witnesses, not excepting Esterhazy, who, having been threatened with an action for swindling his cousin Christian, obtained a safe-conduct to come to Paris without fear of being arrested. On Nov. 15 the Criminal Chamber decided that Dreyfus should be informed of the commencement of proceedings for the revision, and invited to present his means of defense. This was the first news that the unhappy man had heard of the campaign begun in his behalf.
Before the Court of Cassation, as in the actions against both Esterhazy and Zola, the principal witness for the revision was to be Colonel Picquart. To weaken the importance of his evidence and to retaliate for the revision, the military party wished to force the colonel's condemnation beforehand. The inquiry into his case, entrusted to Captain Tavernier, was quickly ended. On Nov. 24 General Zurlinden, governor of Paris, signed the order demanding his trial before the court martial; he was charged with forging the "petit bleu," with using other forgeries, and with communicating secret documents concerning national defense. Numerous petitions from "intellectuels" protested against these hasty measures, and demanded that the judgment of Picquart should be delayed until the result of the inquiry in the Court of Cassation should have put in its true light the part he had played in all this affair. The same opinion was expressed in the Chamber of Deputies by the deputies Bos, Milleraud, and Poincaré, one of the ministers of 1894, who took advantage of this opportunity to "unburden his conscience."
Freycinet and Dupuy refused to postpone the court martial, but were willing to hamper it by allowing the Court of Cassation to claim the Picquart dossier. Finally, after a fruitless attempt by Waldeck-Rousseau to pass a law allowing the Supreme Court to suspend the case of Picquart, the colonel, who was awaiting trial before both the "tribunal correctionnel" and the court martial, applied to the Court of Cassation to rule the case. The court ordered that the two dossiers should be communicated to it, thus indefinitely postponing the meeting of the court martial. (After the close of the inquiry, on March 3, 1899, the court decided that the Civil Court alone was concerned with the chief accusations against Picquart, and he was transferred from the military prison at Cherche-Midi to the civil prison of La Santé.)
After having almost terminated the hearing of the witnesses, the Criminal Chamber insisted upon having the secret dossier, withheld by military authority, communicated to it. This request met with strenuous opposition; the matter was even taken before the Chamber of Deputies (Dec. 19). The government, however, before deciding, required guaranties of such a nature as to insure it from indiscreet publication; these guaranties, accepted by the Court of Cassation (Dec. 27), consisted in an officer of the War Office being charged to carry the dossier every day to the court and to bring it back to the War Office in the evening.Attacks on the Court.
While the Criminal Court was proceeding with its inquiry, notwithstanding the secrecy with which all its movements were surrounded, the report was spread abroad that the decision would be favorable to the claim for revision. To avoid this catastropheat any price, the enemies of revision commenced a violent campaign in the newspapers, defaming the magistrates of the Criminal Chamber, who were represented as having been required to sell themselves to the cause of Dreyfus. The Ligue de la Patrie Française, founded in Jan., 1899, under the auspices of the academicians François Coppée and Jules Lemaitre, energetically seconded this campaign and demanded that these "disqualified" judges should be discharged from the cognizance of the case. The president of the Civil Chamber of the court, Quesnay de Beaurepaire, was found ready to lend the support of his high dignity to these calumnies; he tendered his resignation as a judge (Jan. 8, 1899), and began in "L'Echo de Paris" a series of articles against his colleagues. His most serious charge was that President Loew, at the end of a long and tiring sitting, had sent Picquart a glass of hot grog.
The astonishment of the public was intensified when on Jan. 30 the government presented a bill demanding that the affair should be judged by the united sections of the whole Court of Cassation! Dupuy asserted that the bill was a measure of pacification; it was necessary that the decision—and why did the Revisionists fear that the whole Court of Cassation would disavow the Criminal Chamber?—should have such force that nobody but "fools or rebels" would be found to contest it. These arguments, and above all the fear of provoking a ministerial crisis, triumphed over the resistance of a part of the republicans. The "loi de dessaisissement" was passed by the Chamber of Deputies (Feb. 10), and a little later by the Senate (Feb. 28).The Death of Félix Faure.
In the interval between the taking of these two votes an important event had occurred—the sudden death of the president, Félix Faure (Feb. 16). The congress which immediately assembled set aside the candidateship of all those who had been to a greater or less degree involved in the Dreyfus affair (Méline, Brisson, Dupuy), and fixed its choice on the president of the Senate, Emile Loubet, who had preserved up to that time, and who continued to preserve, a consistently neutral attitude. Nevertheless, as he was the choice of the Senate and of the Revisionists in the Chamber, his nomination awakened the fury of the Nationalists, anti-Semites, and reactionists. On different sides conspirators tried to take advantage of the general disorder and attempted a decisive stroke. The Orleanist pretender advanced closer to the frontier. At Félix Faure's funeral (Feb. 23) the leaders of the League of Patriots, Déroulède and Marcel Habert, tried to induce General Roget's brigade to proceed to the Elysée. The two agitators were arrested, brought before the jury of the Seine for "misdemeanor in the press," and acquitted (May 31).
The Criminal Chamber had terminated its inquiry on Feb. 9; immediately after the vote for the "loi de dessaisissement" the whole proceeding was turned over to the Court of Cassation. This latter accepted without question the results obtained, heard several new witnesses, and had the secret dossiers, both military and diplomatic, laid before it. It was still engaged in studying them when the "Figaro" succeeded in obtaining, and published, beginning with March 31, the complete reports of the proceedings of the inquiry which had been put in print for the private use of the councilors. The effect of this publication was wide-spread. For the first time the general public had all the factors of the case before its eyes and could reason out an opinion for itself. The characteristic result of the inquiry was the melting away of all the pretended proofs of the guilt of Dreyfus, inferred from the secret dossier: not a single one had withstood an impartial examination, and in the course of the inquiry many documents had been recognized as false or as having been tampered with.
The spokesmen of the Staff Office, General Roget, Major Cuignet, and Cavaignac, now returned to the bordereau, and struggled to show that the documents enumerated therein could have been betrayed only by Dreyfus. But the attributing of the bordereau to Dreyfus clashed with the declaration of the new experts appointed by the Criminal Chamber (Paul Meyer, Giry, Molinier), who were unanimous in attributing it to Esterhazy. Charavay, one of the experts of 1894 who had decided against Dreyfus, retracted his previous decision when Esterhazy's writing was put before him. Lastly, a search, made as early as the month of November, put the court in possession of two letters acknowledged by Esterhazy, written on the same "pelure" paper (foreign note-paper) as the bordereau; a search had been made in vain for samples of this paper in Dreyfus' house, and in 1897 Esterhazy had denied that he had ever used it.The Panizzardi Telegram.
Before the united courts the most remarkable incident was that of the Panizzardi telegram of Nov. 2, 1894. Instead of the true interpretation of this telegram, which quite exonerated Dreyfus, the secret military dossier communicated to the Court of Cassation contained only a false version of it, put together from memory in 1898 by Colonel Henry. In the course of his deposition Major Cuignet tried to justify this false version, and accused the Foreign Office of want of faith. A somewhat animated correspondence took place between the two ministries on this subject. However, the delegate of the Foreign Office, Paléologue, had no trouble in confounding his opponent, and on April 27 Cuignet and General Chamoin, in the name of the War Office, signed a warrant recognizing the accuracy of the official interpretation. This incident had a parliamentary echo. On May 5 De Freycinet tendered his resignation from the War Office rather abruptly. He was replaced by Krantz, until then minister of public works.
Notwithstanding the remarkable prejudices of a considerable number of the councilors who were charged with the examination of the case, the inquiry of the united courts only confirmed in a striking manner the results of the inquiry of the Criminal Chamber. The president of the Civil Chamber, Ballot-Beaupré, was entrusted with the report, which he read in the open court on May 29. Visibly affected, he declared that the bordereau was the work of Esterhazy: this fact being proved, even if it did notallow of Esterhazy's acquittal being overthrown, was sufficient to demonstrate Dreyfus' innocence; and this was, according to Ballot-Beaupré, the new fact required by the law. Manau, the attorney-general, in his address to the court brought forward a second "new fact"—Henry's forgery. After a masterly speech by Mornard, acting on behalf of the Dreyfus family, the Court of Cassation retired for deliberation. In their decision, rendered June 3, they set aside the "fins de non recevoir" (refusal to admittance) inferred either from the secret dossier or from the pretended confessions of Dreyfus, which they judged not proved and improbable. They retained two "new facts": one, recognized by all, the fresh attribution of the bordereau; the other, the secret communication made to the judges of Dreyfus, of the document "canaille de D . . .," now considered by every one as inapplicable to the prisoner. Accordingly, the Court of Cassation annulled the sentence of 1894, and ordered that Dreyfus be tried again before a court martial at Rennes.
The very day before this memorable decree Esterhazy declared to a reporter of "Le Matin" that he was indeed the author of the bordereau; but he asserted that he had written it "by order," to furnish his friend, Colonel Sandherr (whose secret agent he pretended to have been), with a material proof against the traitor Dreyfus.The Court Martial at Rennes.
XVI. The presumptions that had been admitted by the Court of Cassation in favor of the innocence of Dreyfus, were so powerful that, according to general opinion, the judgment of the court martial at Rennes could be nothing but a mere formality, destined to procure for Dreyfus the supreme satisfaction of being rehabilitated by his peers. But after the lies, the hatred, the insults which had accumulated during the last two years, after the work of demoralization accomplished by the press of both parties, the overexcited army had now reached the point of identifying its own honor with the shame of Dreyfus. Its suspicions having been successfully roused against civil justice, it refused to bow down before the work of the latter, although it was so straightforward; and, as Renault Morlière had foretold, the only effect that the "loi de dessaisissement" had was to direct upon the whole Court of Cassation the suspicions and the invectives reserved up to this time for the Criminal Chamber alone.
The first victim of this fresh outburst of passion was the Dupuy ministry. This "ministère de bascule" (trimming ministry), after having done everything in its power to retard the work of justice, now seemed to accept it without any reserve, and to be ready to draw any inference from it. The cruiser "Sfax," stationed at La Martinique, had been ordered to bring Dreyfus back to France. Du Paty de Clam was arrested on the charge of having taken part in the Henry forgery, an accusation rashly made by Major Cuignet, and which was bound to be rejected for lack of evidence.
General Pellieux was brought before a council of inquiry for collusion with Esterhazy; Esterhazy himself was prosecuted for the affair of the "liberating document." The cabinet felt itself threatened by the indignation of all sections of the Republican party, and made fresh advances to the "Dreyfusards." On June 5 the Chamber of Deputies voted the public placarding of the decision of the Court of Cassation—a necessary step in view of similar action taken in the case of Cavaignac's speech. Still further, the cabinet proposed to the Chamber to bring before the Senate an action against General Mercier, on the ground of the secret communication made to the judges of 1894.
But the Chamber, which had acclaimed Cavaignac and overthrown Brisson, hesitated to start upon the course of retaliation into which Dupuy was urging it. It found a deputy (Ribot) to declare that the ministry was encroaching upon its prerogatives, and another (Pourquery de Boisserin) to propose the postponement of any decision until the court martial of Rennes had rendered its decree. This last proposition rallied the majority; nobody observed that, in thus connecting Mercier's safety with a fresh condemnation of Dreyfus, a false character was being given in advance to the trial at Rennes: out of a simple legal debate was being formed a duel between a captain and a general.Defeat of Dupuy Ministry.
Dupuy's cabinet was finally overthrown (June 12), and the groups on the Left, in presence of the danger of a military pronunciamento that threatened them, decided to uphold nothing but a ministry of "Republican defense." On June 22 Waldeck-Rousseau succeeded in forming a cabinet, in which General the Marquis de Galliffet was minister of war.
The cruiser "Sfax" landed Dreyfus on July 1 at Port Houliguen, near Quiberon. Hurriedly disembarked on a stormy night, he was immediately transferred to the military prison of Rennes. After five years of physical and moral torture, which he had survived only by a miracle of will-power, the unhappy man had been reduced to a pitiable state of bodily and mental exhaustion. For five weeks the attorneys chosen by his family, Demange and Labori, were busy in acquainting him as far as was possible with the remarkable events that had occurred during his absence; his attitude while the trial was progressing proved the difficulty he had in realizing the situation.
His trial began on Aug. 7, in one of the rooms of the lycée at Rennes. The court martial was composed entirely of artillery officers, except the president, Colonel Jouaust, who belonged to the corps of engineers. The public prosecutor was Major Carrière, a retired gendarme, who at the age of sixty had begun to study law. In accordance with legal requirements, the indictment was in substance the same as at the previous trial; but the only question put to the court was whether Dreyfus had delivered up the documents enumerated in the bordereau. It appeared, therefore, that only witnesses who could give evidence on this point would be heard, and such, in fact, were the instructions given by the War Office to the government commissary; but these directions were not respected by him nor by the defense. Hence the Rennes trial was but a repetition of the interminable string of witnesses who had already been heard at Zola's trial and in the Court ofCassation, the greater part of whom only brought forward opinions, suppositions, or tales absolutely foreign to the question. The generals, forming a compact group which this time worked under Mercier's personal direction, delivered regular harangues and interfered in the debate continually; the president, overawed by his superior officers, exhibited as much deference to them as he showed harshness and sharpness to Dreyfus. From beginning to end of the trial he made no pretense of keeping account of the facts duly established by the Court of Cassation. Esterhazy's avowals, intermixed, it is true, with lies, were held as being null and void. The voluminous correspondence which he addressed to Jouaust and to Carrière was thrown into the waste-paper basket. The questions asked by one of the judges indicated that some one had spoken to him of the pretended "original bordereau," said to have been annotated by the Emperor William, and of which the bordereau was simply a copy by Esterhazy.
The examination of Dreyfus himself was without interest; he confined himself to denials, and preserved an entirely military attitude, the exaggerated correctness of which did not arouse any sympathy. Several hearings with closed doors were devoted to the examination of the military and diplomatic secret dossiers. General Chamoin, delegate of the War Office, had (as explained by him later, through inadvertence) incorporated in them again the false rendering of the Panizzardi telegram, together with a commentary from Du Paty.
General Mercier's evidence (Aug. 12), which had been announced with much parade and bustle, was put forward in a clever speech, but brought out nothing new, unless it were a note from the Austrian military attaché, Schneider, which Mercier had procured by unavowed means. In this note the Austrian diplomat declared that he persisted in "believing" in the guilt of Dreyfus. The note was of the year 1895 or 1896; but a false date had been written on the copy, "Nov. 30, 1897"—a date later than the discovery of Esterhazy's handwriting, and at which, as a matter of fact, Schneider had completely changed his opinion! Called upon to explain the part he played in 1894, Mercier admitted, this time without hesitation, the communication of the secret dossier, took the credit of it to himself, and declared that if necessary he was ready to do it again.Labori Shot.
On Aug. 14 an unknown person, who succeeded in escaping, fired a revolver at Labori and wounded him severely in the back. For more than a week the intrepid advocate was prevented from attending the hearing.
One can not enter into the endless details of all the evidence, which continued for nearly a month longer at the rate of two sittings a day. The most notable witnesses were Casimir-Perier, Commander Freystaetter (one of the judges of 1894)—both in violent opposition to Mercier—Charavay, who, though seriously ill, came loyally forward to acknowledge his error of 1894, and Bertillon, who repeated his claims as to the "autoforgery" of the bordereau, together with fresh complications. At the last moment Colonel Jouaust, using his discretionary power, heard with closed doors, and without putting him on his oath, a Servian named Czernucki, formerly an Austrian officer. This man, who was generally considered to be half-mad, related in an obscure way that a civil official and an officer of the staff "of a power of central Europe" had certified to him that Dreyfus was a spy. Although this story was of no value, Labori took advantage of it to demand in turn that the evidence of Schwarzkoppen and Panizzardi should be received. This was refused. However, the German government inserted a notice in the official newspaper of Berlin (Sept. 8), repeating in formal terms the declaration made by the chancellor Von Bülow on Jan. 24, 1898 before a commission of the Reichstag, and proclaiming that the government had never had any dealings whatever with Dreyfus.
Major Carrière's address to the court assumed that Dreyfus was guilty. He affirmed that at the beginning of the trial he had hoped to be able to demonstrate his innocence, but "this mass of witnesses who have come to give us information and personal opinions" had destroyed that hope. Of Dreyfus' two attorneys only Demange addressed the court. His speech was long, well reasoned, and touching, but he weakened it by making it too polite and by speaking too gently of all the officers, not excepting the late Colonel Henry.
In his rejoinder Carrière asked the judges to group the witnesses into two divisions and to weigh them. Demange begged them not to raise to the dignity of proof such "possibilities of presumptions" as had been brought to them. Finally, Dreyfus uttered these simple words:
"I am absolutely sure, I affirm before my country and before the army, that I am innocent. It is with the sole aim of saving the honor of my name, and of the name that my children bear, that for five years I have undergone the most frightful tortures. I am convinced that I shall attain this aim to-day, thanks to your honesty and to your sense of justice."
An hour later he heard the verdict that ruined all his hopes and those of justice: by five votes to two the court martial declared him guilty. It was asserted that the two votes were those of Colonel Jouaust (who throughout the trial had carefully concealed his opinion) and of Lieutenant-Colonel de Bréon, a fervent Catholic, the brother of a Paris curate. As if, however, to acknowledge its doubts, the court admitted that there were "extenuating circumstances"—a thing unheard of and incomprehensible in a matter of treason. The sentence pronounced was detention for ten years: it was known that the judges had recommended the condemned man to the indulgence of the War Office (Sept. 9, 1899).
XVII. The whole of the civilized world was amazed and indignant on the announcement of the sentence. In France itself nobody was satisfied, except General Mercier, who was delivered by this halting pronouncement from all fear of punishment. For several days the ministry hesitated as to what course to pursue. Finally, the idea of immediately pardoning Dreyfus, started by some of the prisoner's friends, who were alarmed at his state of health, prevailed in the government councils. They had some trouble in inducing the president of the republic to grant the pardon, and Dreyfus to accept it; for in order to avail himself of it the prisoner wasforced to withdraw the appeal he had laid before the council of revision. Later on, the disingenuousness of political parties saw in this relinquishment the avowal of his crime! On Sept. 19, the very day on which Scheurer-Kestner died, appeared the presidential decree remitting the whole of the punishment of Dreyfus, including the military degradation. The decree was preceded by a report from the minister of war, reciting various reasons for clemency. Then by an "ordre du jour," which he did not communicate even to the president of the council, General Galliffet announced to the army that the incident was closed.
On Sept. 20 Dreyfus was set at liberty. He immediately wrote to the president of the republic a letter in which he declared anew his innocence, together with his resolve to know no rest or peace until his honor was restored. He retired with his family to Carpentras, then to Geneva, and finally went back to settle in Paris, without causing the slightest public demonstration. Thus ended in a paradoxical result this long struggle for right. Dreyfus, liberated and restored to his family, innocent in the eyes of the world, remained excluded from the army and legally dishonored. In the senatorial elections of 1900 all the notable "Dreyfusards" (Ranc, Siegfried, Thévenet) remained unelected; it was only at the legislative elections of 1902 that the tide began to turn and some of the champions of revision (Pressensé, Jaurès, Buisson) were returned to the Chamber of Deputies.Pardon and Amnesty.
The sentence of Rennes left unsettled several actions which were more or less connected with the Dreyfus case: proceedings against Picquart for infraction of the law against espionage; an action for libel by Henry's widow against Joseph Reinach; an action against Zola (whose condemnation by default was not definitive); eventual proceedings against General Mercier, etc. Waldeck-Rousseau's ministry considered that the people were tired of an "affaire" that had paralyzed the business of the country, and had brought it to the brink of a civil war; for it had become known that if Dreyfus had been acquitted the leaders of the anti-Revisionists—Déroulède, Marcel Habert, Jules Guérin—had determined on a "coup." To prevent this they had been arrested (Aug. 12) for conspiracy against the state, and condemned to banishment or prison. The ministry reported a bill which declared that all actions for matters connected with the Dreyfus affair, excepting those for the crimes of murder and treason, were canceled. It was the "policy of the sponge" praised by the journalist Cornély. It met with keen opposition from the convinced adherents of Dreyfus; they saw in it an immoral stifling of justice, and they succeeded in protracting the discussion of the bill. In the mean time all the actions remained unsettled. But events convinced Waldeck-Rousseau still further of the necessity for the pacific measure. In the month of May, 1900, the mere insinuation of a revival of the "affaire" had favored the success of the Nationalist candidates in the municipal elections of Paris. The resignation of General Galliffet, May 30, 1900, on a side issue of the "affaire" and the almost unanimous vote by the Chamber of an "ordre du jour" against the reopening of the case, encouraged the government to insist on the voting for the bill. After long debate it was definitely adopted on Dec. 24, 1900.
In the course of the discussion Waldeck-Rousseau had stigmatized General Mercier's conduct in 1894, and consoled the defenders of Dreyfus by making appeal to the justice of history. Of the three most notable champions of revision, Scheurer-Kestner had already gone to the grave; Zola returned to France, where he died from an accident Sept. 29, 1902; as to Colonel Picquart, indignant at the law of amnesty, he abandoned the appeal that he had lodged against the decision—very much open to criticism—of the council of inquiry which had struck him from the lists, and definitely left the army by way of protestation.
The Dreyfus case has rendered one service to the French democracy by bringing into full light the danger of an alliance between anti-Semitism, nationalism, militarism, clericalism—different terms which express the various forms of the spirit of intolerance and counter-revolution. It has, besides, been a lesson to the whole world of the danger of letting religious prejudice interfere with the sacred prerogative of justice.
- Sources: Yves Guyot, La Révision du Procès Dreyfus, Faits et Documents Juridiques, Paris, 1898 (contains the report of Ormescheville and a stenographic report of the Esterhazy trial);
- Le Procès Zola, ib. 1898, 2 vols.;
- L'Instruction Fabre et les Décisions Judiciaires Ultérieures, Paris, without date  (contains all the actions against Picquart and Leblois);
- La Révision du Procès Dreyfus à la Cour de Cassation, Paris, 1898 (public hearings in the Chambre Criminelle, Oct., 1898);
- Enquête de la Cour de Cassation, ib. 1899, 2 vols.;
- Débats de la Cour de Cassation (May, 1899), ib. 1899:
- Le Procès Dreyfus Devant le Conseil de Guerre à Rennes. ib. 1900, 2 vols.;
- Lettres d'un Innocent (Alfred Dreyfus), ib. 1898;
- Alfred Dreyfus, Cinq Années de Ma Vie, Paris, 1901;
- Henry Leyret, Lettres d'un Coupable (Esterbazy), Paris, 1898; the French newspapers from 1894 to 1903.
- The declaration of Esterhazy before the consul of France at London (end of 1900) was published in the Siècle and the Indépendance Belge in May, 1901.
- The principal polemical writings are those of Bernard Lazare, Jean Jaurès (Les Preuves),
- Joseph Reinach ("Junius": Les Faussaires; Tout le Crime, etc.),
- E. Zola (La Vérité en Marche),
- G. Clémenceau, J. Cornély, Jean Ajalbert, A. Réville, Urbain Gohier, Yves Guyot, E. Duclaux ("Un Intellectuel": Gonse Pilate),
- Michel Colline, P. Quillard (Le Monument Henry), all favorable to Dreyfus;
- on the opposite side there are hardly any to name, except the collection of articles of Maurice Barrès. The work of E. de Haime (pseudonym), Les Faits Acquis à l'Histoire (Paris, 1898), contains letters and declarations from various publicists.
- The histories of the affair which appeared during its course can not be much relied on. These are: in French, the volumes signed "Captain Paul Marin" and "Ch. Dubois" (translated into Italian); in English, those of F. Conybeare and of G. Barlow.
- Mention may also be made of F. de Pressensé, Un Héros, le Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart (Paris, 1898),
- and Esterhazy, Les Dessous de l'Affaire Dreyfus (1899).
- The standard work is the Histoire de l'Affaire Dreyfus, by Joseph Reinach, in course of publication (tome i., Le Procès de 1894, 1901; tome ii., Esterhazy, Paris, 1903). The complete work will be in five volumes.
- As short epitomes may be mentioned: Pierre Molé, Exposé Impartial de l'Affaire Dreyfus (1898);
- Sir Godfrey Lushington. The Conspiracy Against Captain Dreyfus (National Review, June, 1899).
- Consult also Lavalée's L'Histoire des Français, ed. F. Lock and M. Dreyfous, vol. vii., Paris, 1901, and several volumes of André Daniel's (Lebon's) Année Politique (Charpentier);
- Docteur Eyon, Résumé, etc., 1903.