W. (William) Harding.

Dreyfus: the prisoner of Devil's Island, a full story of the most remarkable military trial and scandal of the age online

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120 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

Colonel Jouaust — Did you say : "If I handed over documents it was
to have more important ones in return ? "

Dreyfus — No.

Colonel Jouaust — Did you say : " In three years they will recognize
my innocence " ? Why did you say " three years " ?

Dreyfus — I asked for all means of investigation. They were refused
me. I was justified in hoping that at the end of two or three years my
innocence would come to light.

Colonel Jouaust — Why three years?

Dreyfus — Because a certain time is necessary to obtain light.

Colonel Jouaust then said :

" Coming to the day of your degradation, what passed between you and
Captain Lebrun-Eenault? What did you tell him? "

Dreyfus — Nothing. It was really a sort of broken monologue on my
part. I felt that everybody knew of the crime with which I was charged,
and I wished to say I was not the guilty party. I wished to make clear
that the criminal was not he whom they had before their eyes, and I said :
"Lebrun, I will cry aloud my innocence in the face of the people."

Colonel Jouaust — Did you not say, "The minister knows I handed
over documents " ?

Dreyfus — No. If I spoke of a minister who knew I was innocent, I
referred to a conversation I previously had with Du Paty de Clam.

This ended the first day of the second court-martial.

Colonel Jouaust treated Dreyfus brusquely, almost brutally, and it was
a matter of satisfaction to the friends of the prisoner when the latter set
the judge himself right on certain dates connected with Dreyfus's stay on
the General Staff. It was an unimportant point, but it was eloquent tes-
timony to the keenness of Dreyfus's intellect.

The prisoner sat most of the time with his legs stretched out, his
spurs resting on the ground, his hands joined and resting on his lap. He
repelled the insinuations, that he had relations with German officers dur-
ing his stay in Alsace, in fiercely indignant terms.



THE PRISONER ASSISTS THE JUDGES 121



Chapter XXVII.
THE PRISONER ASSISTS THE JUDGES

The court-martial sat in secret session on Monday, August 9th, from
6:30 A.M. until 11:45 a.m., in order to examine the secret documents in
the case, and this was continued until August 11th. Several of the docu-
ments were written in German, and in the course of the proceedings a
German dictionary was sent for. When certain words and expressions
could not be exactly understood, even with the aid of the dictionary, Drey-
fus, who is a perfect German scholar, volunteered a translation, and was
allowed to give explanations, which were of valuable assistance to the
members of the court.

The police measures were much more stringent than on the day of the
opening of the trial. Strong detachments of infantry instead of gendarmes
cordoned the streets leading to the Lyc^e. Gendarmes alone performed
this duty August 7th, and the sightseers, who were much less numerous,
barely numbering three hundred persons, were pressed still further back.
Even persons standing inside the entrance hall of a house in view of the
door of the Lyc^e were compelled to retire into the interior of the house,
and the front door was closed. Absolutely nobody but police and soldiers
were thus within one hundred yards of Dreyfus when he crossed the
Avenue de la Gare. The police authorities explain the rigor of these
measures on the ground that yesterday a few cries against the prisoner
were raised while he was crossing the avenue.

Maitre Demange, of covmsel for Captain Dreyfus, in an interview after
the session of August 10th, expressed himself as very well contented with
the way in which matters were proceeding, and, judging from his manner,
it was apparent that the defenders of the accused had not met with any-
thing very surprising or alarming in the secret dossier.

Naturally Maitre Demange declined to give any particulars respecting
the contents of the dossier, but he declared that he and his colleague,



122 DEEYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

Maitre Labori, were satisfied of the desire of the members of the court to
thresh the whole matter out, and to have full light turned upon the accu-
sations against Dreyfus.

The court-martial concluded its secret sessions at nine o'clock on Au-
gust 11th, when M. Paleologue of the Foreign Office completed his ex-
planations of the secret dossier.



GENERAL MERCIER CONFRONTED BY DREYFUS 123



Chapter XXVIIL

GENERAL MERCIER CONFRONTED BY DREYFUS

The second public session of the second court-martial of Captain Drey-
fus began at 6:30 o'clock August 12th. The red-and- white facade of
the Lyc^e was bathed in sunshine when Dreyfus crossed the Avenue de
la Gare from his prison and entered the Lyc^e. The stringent police pre-
cautions observed every day during the week were again taken, but barely
twenty persons gathered to witness the prisoner's appearance.

M. Casimir-Perier, ex-President of France, arrived on foot shortly
afterward, and was saluted by a crowd in waiting. Then came Colonel
Picquart, formerly of the Secret Intelligence Bureau of the General Staff.
He was greeted with shouts of " Vive Picquart ! " which he smilingly
acknowledged.

The curtain rose on the same theatre-like scene as on August 7th.
The judges, in uniform, were seated on the stage, behind the dark, cloth-
covered table on which, in a row, were k^pis with gay-colored plumes and
heavy gold-lace bands. Every inch of the court was occupied, in expec-
tation of a sensational scene.

The session opened with precisely the same formalities as on August
7th. Dreyfus entered the hall with the same quick, jerky step, and his
features were pale and rigid as he took a seat upon the platform. Drey-
fus, on entering the court, saluted the president with the same soldierly
mien, and Colonel Jouaust returned the salute, and said :

"Sit down, Dreyfus."

The proceedings opened tamely. Matters began to get tedious as M.
Casimir-Perier and General Mercier reiterated what had been already
shown. But this was only the calm before the storm. When the storm
broke, it carried every one in court with it into a whirlpool of the wildest
excitement.

Colonel Jouaust, immediately after the court had settled down to work,
opened the proceedings by saying to Dreyfus :



124 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

"la January, 1895, the director of the penitentiary of the lie de Re,
in the course of duty, searched the clothes you brought from the prison.
He found this document in an inside pocket of your waistcoat. "

The president here handed Dreyfus a paper, and asked :

"Do you recognize it as having belonged to you? "

Dreyfus — Yes, Colonel.

Colonel Jouaust — Whose was it?

Dreyfus — Mine.

Colonel Jouaust — Will you tell me how and under what circum-
stances this document came into your possession?

Dreyfus — It is a document I used during my trial. In order to dis-
cuss the value of the bordereau I wished to keep it.

Colonel Jouaust — The Military Code gives you the right to have a
copy of the documents in your case. This document, therefore, was legiti-
mately in your possession. Why did you wish to keep it?

Dreyfus — As a souvenir of the text of the bordereau?

Colonel Jouaust — That was not proper, and, therefore, it was taken
from you. I merely wish to elucidate this point. That will do.

M. de la Roche- Vernet, a secretary attached to the French Embassy
at Berlin, was the next witness called. He said he acted as the transmit-
ting agent of the Ministry of War and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in
the translation of the Panizzardi despatch, which was a very minute and
complicated matter. Several drafts, he explained, were first made, and
finally an official translation was drawn up, which was the same as since
published. The original of this despatch was in cipher. It was sent,
November 2, 1894, by Colonel Panizzardi, Italian attache in Paris, to the
Italian Headquarters Staff in Rome. Its true construction, which obviously
establishes the innocence of Dreyfus, is :

"If the captain has had no relations with you, it would be well to
instruct our Ambassador to avoid the comments of the press."

The original has disappeared from the secret dossier. But there exists
a version given by Du Paty de Clam "from memory," which reads:

" Captain Dreyfus arrested. The Minister of War has proof of his
relations with Germany. All my precautions are taken."

Questioned respectively regarding the draft and the translations, he
said they were purely hypothetical, the first only having two words, " Cap-



GENERAL MERCIER CONFRONTED BY DREYFUS 125

tain Dreyfus," of which the translators were really sure, the sense being
to the effect that Dreyfus had been arrested, and that he had no relations
with Germany.

M. Paleologue of the French Foreign Office was then called.

The net result of the two witnesses' replies to MM. Labori and Dem-
ange was that nev^er, in any translation, was there any question of rela-
tions with Germany.

The next witness was M. Casimir-Perier, formerly President of France.

He said :

" Monsieur le President, you ask me to speak the truth and all the
truth. I have sworn to do it. I will speak it, without reference, with-
out reserve, in its entirety. Whatever I may have said in the past, what-
ever people may believe and say, which, unfortunately, is not always the
same thing, that I alone am aware of incidents and facts which might
throw light, and that I have not hitherto said all, justice ought to know
that it is false. I will not leave this place without saying all. I intend
to do this, not because I can add anything useful to what I have already
said, but out of respect to my conscience and the judges and to the opin-
ion of men of good faith. I will not leave this place until I have left an
unalterable conviction that I know nothing which might throw light on
the case, and that I have said all I know."

When M. Casimir-Perier took the witness-stand at the first Zola trial,
he replied :

"I cannot take oath to tell the whole truth, because I cannot tell it."

The witness read the text of the despatch received by Count von Mun-
ster-Ledenburg, the German Ambassador at Paris, from Prince Hohenlohe,
the German Imperial Chancellor, which the former communicated to M.
Casimir-Perier during a visit to the Elys^e Palace. It ran :

" His Majesty the Emperor, having every confidence in the loyalty of
the President of the Eepublic and the Government of the Eepublic, begs
your Excellency to tell M. Casimir-Perier that it is proved the German
Embassy was never implicated in the Dreyfus affair. His Majesty hopes
the Government of the Republic will not hesitate to declare so. Without
a formal declaration, the story which here continues to spread regarding
the German Embassy would compromise the position of the representative
of Germanv."



126 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

M. Casimir-Perier then recounted how he had expressed to the then
Premier and Minister of War his astonishment and indignation at the
interview concerning Dreyfus's alleged confession, which Captain Lebrun-
Eenault gave Le Figaro on the subject of Dreyfus.

The witness then related the facts in connection with the futile efforts
of M. Waldeck-Rousseau to prevent the first court-martial from sitting
behind closed doors, and said he (the witness) had never received any
member of the Dreyfus family. M. Casimir-Perier concluded this part of
his statement by raising his voice and speaking very excitedly, saying :

" For the honor of the Chief Magistracy, which I occupied, for the
honor of the Republic, I will not allow it to be said that I had exchanged
a word with a captain in the French army accused of treason."

This statement caused applause in court, which Colonel Jouaust speed-
ily suppressed.

The ex-President ended his statement by saying :

" I affirm, before this tribunal of a soldiers, that my resignation was
not connected with the diplomatic incident concerning Germany. It
pains me not to be able to second the court in the work of justice confided
to it, for from this place must emerge at last, for the sake of the country,
reconciliation and peace. I can do no more than tell the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth. As Chief of State, or when a citizen, I
have always, in my respect for France, regarded her as free to make a
decision as she is herself revered." [Applause, which was quickly sup-
pressed.]

M. Demange then introduced the question of the letter which the
anti-Dreyfusards asserted Dreyfus wrote to M. Casimir-Perier respecting
him. The witness emphatically replied that he had never entered into
any such engagement, as alleged, and he asked that the letter, which was
published by the Eclair of Paris, should be produced in court, and that
the whole matter should be cleared up. M. Casimir-Perier ended this
statement with a slap of his hand on the rail of the desk.

Colonel Jouaust then asked Dreyfus if he had anything to say.

Thereupon the prisoner arose and, accompanying his utterances with
gestures of his right hand, said :

" My words have certainly been distorted, for I have no recollection of
such a letter. The words the former President of the Republic has just



GENERAL MERCIER CONFRONTED BY DREYFUS 127

uttered are exact. I have never, even in my own mind, supposed there
was any engagement undertaken by him, and that he had not held thereto.
I can well understand the indignation of M. Casimir-Perier ; but such an
idea never crossed my mind.

" Will you allow me to explain ? M. Demange had asked me at the
time of the trial, in conveying through M. Waldeck-Rousseau my request
for a public trial, that this publicity should only be on condition that the
question of the origin of the documents remained secret. I gave my
word of honor not to raise this question, and in that I bowed before the
superior interests of my country. In my mind it was with the defence,
and not with the President of the Eepublic, that the word of honor was
given. I never had an idea that an engagement was made between the
President and myself. Never ! Never ! Never ! "

Colonel Jouaust — Then you declare false these letters in which it is
said that the President of the Republic entered into certain engagements
with you?

Dreyfus replied :

" In any case, the sense has been completely distorted. "

M. Casimir-Perier gave his evidence with a blanched face, but in the
determined tone of a man who maintains every word uttered, which in-
spired confidence in his words. The members of the court-martial listened
to him respectfully.

General ]\Iercier, who was attired in the undress uniform of a general
— black tunic and red trousers — and wore on his breast the decoration of
a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, was then called to the stand. As
he sat down he placed a brilliant crimson and gold k^pi on a shelf at-
tached to the witness rail, where it remained, a striking patch of color, dur-
ing the time he gave his testimony, which lasted from 8 :10 a.m. until
noon. Beside his k^pi he placed a black leather wallet full of papers,
and he accompanied his remarks with a continual nodding of the head.

His forehead was wrinkled, his eyebrows were contracted, and his eyes
peered through slits between his puffy eyelids. His cheeks were sallow,
and he spoke almost inaudibly and in a weak, monotonous pitch of voice,
which produced a soporific effect upon those who were not able to distin-
guish his words, but who were within hearing of his voice. This mono-
logue, with hardly a break, except when the clerk read the various docu-



128 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

ments Mercier presented to the court, lasted nearly four hours, with ten
minutes' suspension at eleven o'clock, when there was a general feeling
that the witness was going to prove, as the Dreyfusards predicted, an utter
fiasco.

At the outset of General Mercier' s testimony he prepared the court for
a war scare by declaring that the Emperor of Germany porsonally took an
active part in organizing espionage ; and then, later, when he defended his
action in communicating the secret dossier to the court-martial of 1894,
he said :

" I no longer have reason to keep silent, and I am going to accomplish
what I consider my duty. In 1894 the diplomatic situation was perilous.
M. Hanotaux (then Minister of Foreign Affairs) had indicated this. M.
Casimir-Perier had spoken before the Criminal Chamber about the unusual
step taken by Count von Munster. He also exposed the somewhat unusual
way by which he could double himself into an official personage and a pri-
vate personage, later giving Count von Munster information that was at
first refused him.

" But M. Casimir-Perier amended his deposition, saying he had not
said that the same day M. Dupuy and myself remained from 8 in the
evening until 12 :30 o'clock in his private office at the Elys^e awaiting the
result of telegraphic communications between the Emperor of Germany
and Coimt von Munster. We remained four hours and a half waiting to
see whether peace or war would result from the exchange of programs. "

Here M. Casimir-Perier shook his head and hand in emphatic denial
of General Mercier's statement.

General Mercier continued:

" I had been warned during the afternoon that the situation was very
grave. Count von Munster had an order from his sovereign to ask for
his passports if his demands were not conceded. I was prepared to give
the order for mobilization. You see, we were within an ace of war. It
was only at 12:30 that M. Casimir-Perier notified me that Count von
Mimster had accepted the insertion of a somewhat vague note declaring
the Ambassador was not involved."

M. Casimir-Perier here again made a repudiating gesture, and General
Mercier continued to explain that this was the reason for his action re-
garding the secret dossier.



GENERAL MERCIER CONFRONTED BY DREYFUS 129

While he was under examination, General Mercier asked Colonel Jou-
aust to allow him to present a document showing how an espionage sys-
tem was organized in France by Colonel von Schwartzkoppen, the former
German military attache at Paris. The document referred to the fortifi-
cations of the Meuse. General Mercier then entered into an explanation
tending to prove that von Schwartzkoppen was at the head of the German
espionage in France. The witness afterward had the clerk read the letter

containing the words "Cette canaille de D " (That scoundrel of a

D ).

In the mean while Dreyfus watched Mercier through his eyeglasses
apparently unmoved. Dreyfus had listened to General Mercier's pitiless
arraignment that morning, until he approached the end of his deposition,
with sphinx-like rigidity of features, but watching Mercier like a cat
watching a mouse. No one would have suspected the volcano slumbering
within Dreyfus, which burst forth when human flesh and blood could
stand it no longer. The only sign of the smothered fire within was his
heaving bosom and the parching of his lips and palate, which he occasion-
ally moistened with his tongue.

A casual observer might have missed these indications and have imag-
ined that he was an image cut in stone, with the eyes fixed on Mercier.
But, when, at last, his feelings obtained the mastery, and he sprang to his
feet and faced his accuser, man to man, and flatly denied the charges,
already known, which the general reiterated, one appreciated the depth of
his previously suppressed emotions; and Mercier, who, startled, had
jumped to his feet, at the ringing sound of Dreyfus's voice, from the chair
in which he was seated while giving his evidence, recoiled before the ter-
rible look Dreyfus threw at him, and stood aghast wondering whether the
prisoner was going to spring upon him.

At the end of his evidence General Mercier said he believed that
the. only motive of Dreyfus's treason was that Dreyfus had no feeling of
patriotism.

This utterance brought forth hisses from the audience, whose blood
had been sent up to fever heat by the witness's savage attacks on
Dreyfus.

General Mercier, not heeding the hisses, closed by remarking:

" If the least doubt crossed my mind. Messieurs, I would be the first



130 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

to declare it to you and say before you, to Captain Dreyfus: 'I am mis-
taken, but in good faith.'"

Then Dreyfus electrified the spectators. He jumped to his feet, as
though the words had galvanized him into new life, and shouted with a
voice which resounded through the hall like a trumpet note :

" That is what you ought to say ! "

The audience burst into a wild cheer, whereupon the ushers called for
silence.

General Mercier then stammered :

" I would come and say : ' Captain Dreyfus, I was mistaken, in good
faith, and I come with the same good faith to admit it, and I will do all
in human power to repair the frightful error.'"

The prisoner then shouted :

" Why don't you then ? That is your duty ! "

Colonel Jouaust and the other members of the court-martial in the
mean time had risen and seized the two men, while the court rang with
the cheers of the spectators.

General Mercier, after a pause, when the excitement had partially
calmed, said:

"Well, no. My conviction since 1894 has not suffered the slight-
est weakening. It is fortified by the deepest study of the dossier,
and also by the inanity of the means resorted to for the purpose of
proving the innocence of the condemned man of 1894, in spite of
the evidence accumulated and in spite of the millions of money ex-
pended. "

The witness referred to the famous "syndicate," which Scheurer-Kest-
ner and Zola were accused of fathering.

"There is a syndicate," wrote Zola at the time; "it is composed of all
honest and intelligent persons throughout the civilized world, who have
given careful study to this case, who believe in elementary justice, in law,
and in the rules of evidence."

Colonel Jouaust then said : " Have you finished ? "

General Mercier replied : " Yes. "

General Mercier, when he had finished his testimony, according to gen-
eral opinion had said really nothing, and had proved nothing. The over-
whelming proofs he was to have thrown down before the members of the



GENERAL MERCIER CONFRONTED BY DREYFUS 131

court-martial like a bombshell failed to appear, and he left the court dis-
credited.

Mercier had played the well-worn war scare, but the effect must have
been very discouraging to him, for his hearers listened, without stirring a
muscle, to his story of how France was on the threshold of a war with
Germany.

Colonel Jouaust then announced that the sessions of the court-martial
would be resumed August 14th.

M. Casimir-Perier thereupon arose and said :

" After the deposition of General Mercier I shall ask the court to hear
me, and I would prefer it to be in confrontation with him."

This announcement caused a sensation. Then followed a thrilling
demonstration against General Mercier. As he turned to leave the court
the audience rose en masse and hissed and cursed him, those at the back
of the court standing on chairs and benches in order better to hound him
down. The gendarmes placed themselves between the general and the
audience, which showed a strong disposition to maltreat the former Min-
ister of War. Though the general was cheered by the crowd outside the
court-room on his departure from the Lyc^e, none of them had witnessed
the scene in court or listened to Mercier's weak brief. Moreover, the
inhabitants of Eennes have always been anti-Dreyfusard. Counter-shouts
of " Vive la E^publique ! " and " Vive la Justice ! " were raised by those on
both sides. The gendarmes, however, cleared the streets, and the crowd
quietly dispersed.



132 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND



Chapter XIX.
ATTEMPT TO MURDER M. LABORI

A COWARDLY attempt to assassinate Maitre Labori, leading counsel
for the defence of Dreyfus, was made on Monday, August 14th.

The sitting of the court-martial that was pending seemed big with
emotion. M. Casimir-Perier was to be confronted with General Mercier,
and all looked forward with impatience to the moment when the great
advocate M. Labori, who had revealed himself at the Zola trial as per-
haps the most expert and formidable cross-examiner of the French bar,
was to exercise his incomparable intellect against the mysterious general
whose action in 1894 precipitated upon his country such a host of woes.

Five minutes, ten minutes went by. M. Demange was in his place,
but the chair of his colleague was still vacant. This absence was strange,
and was generally commented upon.



Online LibraryW. (William) HardingDreyfus: the prisoner of Devil's Island, a full story of the most remarkable military trial and scandal of the age → online text (page 10 of 35)