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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formation desired.

During M. Cavaignac's arraignment Dreyfus was nervous and agitated.

M. Cavaignac next discussed the denials of Dreyfus, and said his ex-
cuse of lapse of memory was inadmissible. Dreyfus, he claimed, was
aware of the changes in the Bridge Corps belonging to the artillery, and
also of the details of the concentration. Why, then, the witness asked,
had he denied this knowledge?

It was impossible, according to M. Cavaignac, to believe that Ester-
hazy was a traitor, even admitting that the bordereau was written by him.
Esterhazy, he insisted, could only have acted as an intermediary or an

Colonel Jouaust asked M. Cavaignac to explain the discovery of the
Henry forgery, and the witness repeated the statements he had already
made on the subject,

"The Henry forgery," replied M. Cavaignac, "as alleged, was in order
to secure a revision of the case by the Court of Cassation, but was not even
alluded to. This forgery, therefore, should remain outside the scope of
the questions submitted to this court-martial. This is my opinion."

Counsel for the prisoner then questioned M. Cavaignac in regard to his
statement that General de Boisdeffre was absent from Paris on November
6th, when General Mercier declares he was there. The witness replied
that General de Boisdeffre was certainly absent on the date.

Colonel Jouaust then told Dreyfus to rise, and asked him if he had
any remarks to make upon the evidence. The prisoner replied :

" I am astounded that the man who produced in the tribunal of the
Chamber the Henry forgery can come here and base his convictions of my
culpability on matters which the Court of Cassation has already disposed
of." [Great sensation.]


Dreyfus did not create a very favorable impression when he made this
statement, which was delivered in a declamatory fashion, with his hand on
his heart.

The speech of M. Cavaignac, however, certainly appeared to make an
impression on his hearers.

General Zurlinden, also a former Minister of "War, was the next wit-
ness. He began by pointing out the obligation resting upon those direct-
ing espionage to do everything possible to save those serving them. He
then declared he still regarded the bordereau as being decisive proof of
the guilt of Dreyfus, and said it would be impossible for those who
were prosecuting Dreyfus to be acting from esprit de corps, as it would
be unjust to say they approved the "odious act just committed in the

General Zurlinden then traversed the old ground, and declared that
nothing, not even Esterhazy's confessions, had occurred to change his

The reiteration by General Zurlinden of his belief that Dreyfus wrote
the bordereau created a lively excitement.

M. Demange suggested that if Colonel Fabre had not thought of ex-
amining the handwriting of the probationers the bordereau would have
been eternally buried in the archives of the Ministry of War, "and," he
remarked, "if this is the case, it must be evidenced there was nothing in
the bordereau which indicated Dreyfus."

General Zurlinden, in a troubled voice, acknowledged this fact, and
tried to explain. M. Demange, however, got General Zurlinden to admit
that it was not until after the condemnation that the study of the bor-
dereau seemed to indicate that it was the work of a probationer.

In reply to further question, General Zurlinden said that in order to
know the whole truth in regard to the bordereau, they must have the four
notes therein mentioned. They must be secured.

At this point Dreyfus interjected :

" I associate myself with those words. Colonel. I also desire the truth.
I only ask for the truth."

These statements caused excitement in court.

General Chanoine, a former Minister of War, next testified. He
briefly affirmed his belief in the culpability of the prisoner.


The appearance of M. Hanotaux, the former Minister of Foreign
Affairs, who followed, reawakened the interest of the audience.

M. Hanotaux declared he had nothing to add to his evidence given
before the Court of Cassation. He said he never had cognizance, either as
a minister or as a private individual, of any secret dossier.

The former minister denied the allegation that he had told M. Monod
he believed Dreyfus was guilty. He was astounded at M. Monod's
statement, but the latter was evidently hazy in his mind regarding the
matter, as he had given three versions of the conversation.

M. Demange inquired whether M. Hanotaux was aware of the uncer-
tainties connected with the translation of the telegram, dated November
2, 1894.

The former Foreign Minister replied that uncertainty was the rule in
such cases. He was only aware of the one drawn up in the Foreign Office,
which alone was communicated to the War Minister.

The depositions of General Zurlinden, General Chanoine, and M. Han-
otaux were listened to closely. The mass of evidence was directed against
Dreyfus. The lack of trenchant criticism, owing to the absence of the
defence's right arm, naturally left an impression unfavorable to the pris-



Chapter XXXI,


There was no session of the court-martial on August 15th, that being
Assumption Day. But the trial was resumed on August 16th, Major
Carriere, the representative of the Government, having refused to agree to
the adjournment of the case until August 21st, as asked for by M. De-
mange and Captain Dreyfus, owing to the murderous attack upon Maitre

The feature of the day's proceedings was the story of the sufferings of
Dreyfus on Devil's Island.

M. Gu^rin, the former Minister of Justice, was the first witness. He
only repeated the evidence he had given before the Court of Cassation.

Ex-Minister Gu^rin, in reciting his evidence, said that at the end of
October, after a Cabinet council, the Premier invited him to his room,
where General Mercier joined them, and explained that for some time
past documents had been missing from the Headquarters Staff, and that,
in consequence of inquiries made, suspicion had attached to Dreyfus.
General Mercier added that he was convinced Dreyfus was the culprit.
The general said he founded his conviction on three facts:

First, the bordereau, the author of which was undiscoverable until
Colonel Fabre, on returning from the manoeuvres, immediately after he
saw the document, exclaimed:

" Why, it is Dreyf us's handwriting. "

Secondly, the nature of the documents enumerated in the bordereau,
in conjunction with Dreyfus's employment in the different departments,
proved exclusively, according to General Mercier, that Dreyfus alone had
cognizance of all these papers, and he alone could have disclosed them.

Thirdly, the dictation test and Dreyfus's perturbation at the time.
This referred to the dictation given by Du Paty de Clam to Dreyfus a few
moments before his arrest.


General Mercier, M. Gu^rin then said, in consequence of these con-
victions declared his intention to ask the Cabinet to authorize the prose-
cution of Dreyfus, A special Cabinet meeting was held on November 1,
1894, to consider the matter. The witness forgot whether M. Casimir-
Perier or M. Dupuy presided. General Mercier handed the Cabinet noth-
ing but the bordereau. After the Minister of War had related his reasons
for his suspicions, the Cabinet unanimously authorized the prosecution of

M. Hanotaux alone made some reserves or diplomatic objections, based
on the place where the document was found. But it was agreed that, in
the event of court-martialling Dreyfus, measures should be taken to pre-
vent mention of the name of any power.

From that day the witness had learned nothing whatever of the case,
personally, as it was in the hands of the military authorities. M. Gu^rin,
at that time, had never heard of the secret documents, and none was ever
commimicated to the Cabinet. He only first knew during the Zola trial
of the existence of the alleged secret documents, and only learned of the
alleged confession of Dreyfus to Captain Lebrun-Renault from the news-
papers. General Mercier never mentioned the confession to the Cabinet.

Colonel Jouaust then questioned the witness, saying :

" M. Gobert, an expert, has declared you summoned him to your office
to give you information about the Dreyfus affair. Do you remember the
occurrences? Did he not say, on entering, pointing to the clock:

" 'Monsieur le Ministre de Justice, I fear lest at this hour a grave mis-
take is being committed ' ?

"Is it not a fact that you did not reply, but, when M. Gobert was
leaving, recommended him to observe extreme caution, as the Government
was desirous of keeping the treason secret, dreading particularly indiscre-
tions upon the part of the press, and, above all, upon the part of the Libre
Parole, as the suspected officer was a Jew ? "

M. Gu^rin replied:

" I cannot affirm whether or not I received M. Gobert, but what I can
affirm is that if he came I did not employ the language mentioned, and
T made none of the statements he attributes to me."

M. Lebon, the former Minister of the Colonies, then testified in jus-
tification of his instructions to treat Dreyfus rigorously, declaring that the


extreme stringency only dated from the time he thought an attempt would
be made to rescue the prisoner.

M. Lebon, in testifying regarding his treatment of the prisoner, said
that when the Cabinet was asked to intervene in favor of a revision he
thought the executive should not interfere with the judiciary.

"On my soul and conscience," declared M. Lebon dramatically, " I


say I regard the measures I took relative to the prisoner on the He du
Diable as warranted, and if I had to repeat them I would not hesitate."

He admitted that on October 6, 1896, Dreyfus was put in irons and
kept in them for two months. At night a lamp was lighted over his head
that the jailer might watch the expression of his face. Myriads of tropi-
cal insects were thus attracted, which nearly drove the prisoner insane.
When Dreyfus learned that he was placed in irons he wrote to the com-
mandant of the lies du Salut penitentiary, in which he said, among other
things :

" I would be grateful to you to let me know of what fault I have been
guilty since I have been here. I thought I had conformed rigorously to
all the rules. I carried out every order to the letter."

M. Lebon then explained the reasons for the rigorous measures
against Dreyfus as already set forth in an earlier chapter. He said a cer-
tain telegram sent to French Guiana disappeared. It was traced out of
France, but immediately it reached the English lines it disappeared,
showing, the witness said, that efforts were being made to enable the pris-
oner to evade the regulations. Rigorous, even painful, measures were
therefore taken to prevent his escape. M. Lebon therefore issued orders
that, if necessary, the prisoner was to be fired upon.

In October, 1896, a sham attempt was made by the oJB&cials of the
Guiana police to rescue Dreyfus. When their boat reached the JQe du
Diable a loud noise was made. Dreyfus awoke. His jailor immediately
levelled his revolver at the prisoner's head. Dreyfus turned his face to
the wall and lay very still.

Continuing, M. Lebon said he also issued orders that only copies of
the letters addressed to the prisoners should be delivered to him, the orig-
inals being retained. The witness was informed, August 19th, that an
American vessel passed the lies du Salut, and orders were then issued
that Dreyfus was to be shot on the slightest alarm.



Keferring to the Weyler forgery, M. Lebon said he frankly admitted
that he believed in its authenticity, as did Colonel Picquart, until long
after its production. M. Lebon next referred to the numerous rough
drafts the prisoner made of his letters before finally dispatching them.

At this point, M. Demange interrupted the witness and said :

" I pass from a surprise to surprise. August 14th, it was a witness
playing the part of prosecutor. To-day, one witness defends himself by
saying his conscience is tranquil. He is welcome to a tranquil con-
science. But ask him if he finds it surprising that this man, alone out
there, on a lost island, should have poured out his soul on paper? I ask
again, why you allowed the forged Weyler letter, in which a handwriting
was indicated, to reach Dreyfus ? "

To this M. Lebon replied :

" We could not give up the original. But, the idea never occurred to
any agents of the Administration to subject Dreyfus to the savage and
atrocious treatment which has been spoken of."

Colonel Jouaust, addressing Dreyfus, asked :

"Did you receive the letter just referred to? "

Dreyfus replied:

"Yes, Colonel."

" What impression did it make on you ? "

"I understood nothing of what it contained," answered the prisoner.

At this juncture some time was occupied in reading a long report from
the Minister of the Colonies to the Minister of War, giving the various
reports of the governor of French Guiana. Passages describing the dread
the prisoner expressed to the doctors when he feared he was losing his
reason caused an immense impression. Tears were even seen to glisten in
the eyes of General Billot, the former Minister of War.

At the conclusion of the report, M. Lebon asked leave to explain. He
said :

" I do not dispute the accuracy of the report, but it is partial. Refer-
ence has been most carefully made to the precarious health of the pris-
oner. But the doctor never made a communication to me on the subject.
I do not hesitate to say that if he had done so I should have given orders
to have the prisoner treated as all invalids should be treated. It is with
deliberate intent that I have been represented as an executioner."



Colonel Jouaust, turning to Dreyfus, then remarked :

" Have you anything to say in regard to this deposition ? "

Then the prisoner made vehement reply that he was not there to
complain, saying:

" No, Colonel. I am here to defend my honor. I do not wish to
speak here of the atrocious sufferings, physical and moral, which, for five
years, I, a Frenchman and an innocent man, was subjected to on the lie

These remarks of Dreyfus caused intense excitement in court. The
prisoner uttered the words in a loud voice and with tremendous energy.

M. Demange asked that the official report of the treatment of Drey-
fus on the He du Diable should be read. The clerk of the court did so,
and in a sympathetic tone, recounted the harrowing tale of Dreyfus's
mental and physical sufferings and inhuman treatment, as already pic-
tured in a previous chapter.

Deep-drawn breaths of indignation came from the hearers as the read-
ing proceeded. Dreyfus at first watched the faces of the judges with his
usual composure ; but gradually, as the story proceeded and incidents of
his awful existence were brought up before him, his eyes grew dim and
tears glistened in them, and then slowly trickled down his cheeks. Drey-
fus could stand it no longer, and, for the first time during his trial, gave
way to such emotions and silently wept. The faces of those in the audi-
ence expressed sympathy with the prisoner's emotion, and even the cap-
tain of gendarmes sitting beside Dreyfus turned and gave him a look of
unconcealed compassion.

General Mercier, who, with M. Lebon, was seated in the front row of
the witnesses' seats, listened to the reading of the report unmoved, while
Colonel Jouaust followed it with an air of bored tolerance.

M. Lebon afterward returned to the stand and added a few more words
in justification of his conduct, and then Colonel Jouaust ordered the next
witness to be brought in. All eyes were turned toward the door on the
right of the stage, and a moment later the form of a woman, dressed in
deep mourning, appeared in the doorway, and, accompanied by a non-com-
missioned officer, advanced to the platform. It was the widow of Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Henry, the French officer who committed suicide in prison
after confessing to forging certain documents in the case.


With pale face, and hand upraised before the crucifix, she took the oath
to tell the truth.

Madame Henry was of medium height, with a plain cast of features.
She at once put herself at ease, leaning forward with both hands resting on
the rail of the witness stand. In an attitude of complete self-possession
she gave her evidence, accompanying the words with frequent gestures.

In the course of her deposition, Madame Henry admitted the frequent
visits of Esterhazy to her husband, and declared her husband told her he
had forged one document "in order to save the honor of the country."

Colonel Jouaust, in addressing Madame Henry, said :

" We thought, Madame, that your life in common with your husband
has placed you in a position to give interesting information. I beg you
to tell the court what you know. "

Madame Henry deposed that toward the end of September, 1894,
after dinner one evening, her husband told her a very important paper
had been handed him. The witness added :

"As he did not return, I retired about eleven o'clock, and I asked him,
when he returned, why he was later than usual. He imdid a narrow,
transparent roll of paper, and said :

" 'There is a serious matter here, which I have been requested to inves-
tigate this evening.'

" Shortly afterward he re-entered the room, holding papers and a let-
ter, which he had just pieced together. He placed them all in his hat, in
order not to forget them in the morning. He left on horseback, as cus-
tomary, the following morning, saying he had to see Colonel Sandherr as
soon as possible."

" What was his impression on seeing the bordereau ? " asked Colonel

The witness replied that he, Colonel Henry, did not know the author
of it, but said perhaps Colonel Fabre or Colonel d'Abbeville knew.

Continuing, Madame Henry said:

"When my husband returned from the Cherche-Midi Prison, after
taking Dreyfus there, I asked why he was on duty, and he answered :

"'I have just carried out the most painful task an officer can have. I
have taken to the Cherche-Midi an officer accused of the frightful crime
of treason.' Without naming Dreyfus, he added:


" ' I beg you not to speak of it for some time. He is an unfortunate
fellow.' "

Before concluding her testimony, Madame Henry returned to the
subject of the forgery. She evidently thought she could exonerate
her husband by saying that he believed he was justified, in the interests
of his country, in inserting in the existing dossier new and convinc-
ing material, the proof of which had reached him verbally a few days

In answer to a question of Colonel Jouaust, Madame Henry declared
she did not know the name of the person who had given the information
to her husband.

General Eoget, in undress uniform, followed. His evidence was a vit-
riolic diatribe against Dreyfus from beginning to end. He traversed the
old ground, giving his reasons for his conviction of the guilt of Dreyfus.
He declared there was no charge against Esterhazy, with the exception of
the resemblance of his handwriting to that of the bordereau. Moreover,
the witness added, there had been a new fact since the judgment of the
Court of Cassation, namely, Esterhazy's confession that he wrote the bor-
dereau. But, he added, Esterhazy advanced and withdrew his confession
intermittently. If Esterhazy had rendered services to the Intelligence
Department there would have been traces of them in the books. But
no money had been paid Esterhazy, though, even supposing he worked
out of pure benevolence, he would have been paid. Yet there was no
trace of such payments. Esterhazy had first confessed that he wrote the
bordereau by the orders of Colonel Sandherr, to a representative of the
London Observer. The confession was published in that paper on Septem-
ber 25, 1898. Later he made a signed confession, which was published in
the Daily Chronicle, of London, and later still he confessed to Le Matin,
in Paris. It was not the fact of the confession that the Court of Cassation
deemed a "new fact," but because Esterhazy possessed paper identical with
that on which the bordereau was written, and because his handwriting was
identical with that of the bordereau.

"But," declared General Eoget, "I, who knew Colonel Sandherr, will
declare that is false. Colonel Sandherr was absolutely incapable of such
an order. I add that it is inadmissible, because Colonel Sandherr was the
last person to know of the existence of the bordereau, which was received


in the ordinary way. This bordereau was handed to Colonel Henry, and
was brought by him to the Intelligence Department. It was shown to
others by Colonel Henry after he had pieced it together. Colonel Sand-
herr only saw it later.

" Esterhazy has also said the document was stolen from an embassy
and brought by a porter. It is false to say the Intelligence Department
ever had any relations with a porter of that embassy. It is possible Es-
terhazy is preparing some surprises for us between now and the end of the
trial. They won't disturb me any more than other surprises."

Eeferring to the question of the complicity of Henry and Esterhazy,
the witness said:

" If Henry had been the accomplice of Esterhazy, how can it be admit-
ted that he himself brought the bordereau, which might have caused him
to be suspected, to the Intelligence Department? "

Greneral Eoget while testifying constantly turned toward the prisoner
to see the impression made by his deposition, which was virtually a
speech for the prosecution. The general discoursed lengthily on the
famous scene with Colonel Henry in the office of M. Bertulus, the exam-
ing magistrate, and said M. Bertulus asked Henry to inform the witness
that he, M. Bertulus, was a friend of the army, and begged the witness to
call and see him, when he would communicate the result of his investiga-
tions into the "Blanche" and "Speranza" forgeries. "In reply," said
Greneral Eoget, " I said : ' When you see M. Bertulus, you will thank him
in my behalf. Tell him the investigation does not interest me in any
way.' I added that I was rather distrustful of this proposal, which I
pointed out was perhaps a trap."

The general next dealt with the seizure of papers at the house of Mme.
Pays, on which M. Bertulus largely founded his conviction of the guilt
of Henry, owing to the mention in them of the name of a spy, Eichard
Cuers at Basle, where it was well known spies were in the habit of

Then the general tried to refute M. Bertulus's statements, declaring
Henry brought three of these documente to the War Office, and that they
did not contain the mention of Basle or Cuers as stated by M. Bertulus.
The latter, however, had already shown before the whole Court of Cassa-
tion that, while he was mistaken in saying the words appeared in those


documents, they did appear in other papers seized at Mme. Pays's resi-

At this point the general thought it desirable to make a declaration
that he did not desire it to be said that he questioned the good faith of
some of the witnesses who had been heard. He added :

" I make this statement so that there shall be no misunderstanding
and in order that my words be not misinterpreted. Nevertheless, their
testimony is open to criticism, even as our utterances are criticised."

Continuing, the witness said:

" M. Casimir-Perier deposed before the Court of Cassation that an am-
bassador called to demand an official denial of the statement that impor-
tant documents were found at his embassy. The ambassador, however,
knew it was a fact. But, admitting that he did not know it, there is
nothing surprising in the occurrence, in view of the facility with which
Attach^ ' A ' (I do not mention his name, as the minister has forbidden it)
allowed compromising letters to lie aroimd. I read one such letter which
was very compromising to a person whose name I cannot mention. Why,
therefore, should not the bordereau go astray ? "

The general insisted upon the truth of the statements that Military
Attaches "A" and "B," imder which letters he referred to Colonel

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 12 of 35)