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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interesting personage.

" I protest absolutely against the allegation that I consented to the
communication of secret documents to the members of the Dreyfus court-
martial without the prisoner's knowledge. I never ordered such commu-
nication, and if it was done it was not with my cognizance. Having thus
explained certain matters I will continue my deposition."

Then the colonel proceeded to discuss the phrase occurring in the
bordereau, " I am going to the manoeuvres. " He said there was no ques-
tion of probationers going to the manceuvres in September. This, he
pointed out, would have curtailed their period of probation in an entirely
unusual manner. It was for this reason that D'Ormescheville, who drew
up the acte d'accusation, or indictment, against Dreyfus in 1894, changed
the date of the bordereau from September to April. When, however, it
was discovered that Dreyfus knew as early as March that he would not
attend the manoeuvres, the correct date was resumed. Later this was
found untenable, and so, in their testimony before the Court of Cassation,
Generals Mercier, Gonse, and de Boisdeffre reassumed the date of the bor-
dereau to have been April.

After dealing with the testimony of the experts at the court-martial
of 1894, Picquart proceeded to examine the secret dossier, a close analysis
of which, he asserted, was particularly necessary, " owing to the weight
the document had with the members of the court-martial in 1894."

"This dossier," continued the witness, "may be divided into two parts.
The first contains three documents : One, a document known as the
d' Avignon document, the terms of which are about as follows : 'Doubt;
proof; service letters; situation dangerous for me with French officer;
cannot personally conduct negotiations ; no information from an officer of
the line ; important only as coming from the Ministry ; already somewhere
else.' "

This is a literal translation of a cipher despatch in German, which


was intercepted early in 1894. It was sent by Schwartzkoppen in reply
to a message which had been intercepted December 29, 1893, and
which contained the words: "The documents; no sign of the General

" Service letters " in the reply is translated from the German original
"patent," i.e., an officer's brevet. Both dispatches have been paraphrased
by Picquart as follows : " The documents received. There is no evidence
that they come from the War Ofi&ce."

To which the reply was: "You doubt? My proof is that my inform-
ant [Esterhazy] is an officer. I have seen his brevet. True, only a regi-
mental officer; but I assure you he brings his information, every bit of
it, from the Intelligence Bureau. I cannot communicate directly with
Henry. "

"Two, the document containing the words, 'Cette canaille de D .'

" Three, a document which is nothing but the report of a journey to
Switzerland, and made in behalf of a foreign power.

"The second part of the dossier," continued Picquart, "consisted partly
of a supplementary review of the first. It contained the gist of seven or

eight documents, one of which, 'Cette canaille de D ,' will serve for

the purposes of comparison. It also contained the correspondence of At-
taches 'A' and 'B.'" [These initials represent Colonel von Schwartz-
koppen, formerly German military attach^, and Major Panizzardi, the
former military attach^ of Italy, at the French capital.]

The witness next explained why Major Du Paty de Clam's translation
of the d' Avignon document, which has been classed as idiotic, was open
to doubt and why the document, if it had any meaning whatever, was as
applicable to Esterhazy as to Dreyfus. Du Paty de Clam's translation or
paraphrasing reads as follows:

" You say the documents do not bear the mark of the General Staff.
There are doubts; proof is therefore necessary. I will ask for 'la lettre
de service,' but, as it is dangerous for me personally to conduct the nego-
tiations, I will take an intermediary and tell the officer to bring me what
he has. I must have absolute discretion, because the Intelligence Bureau
is on the watch against us ; there is no good of having relations with a
regimental officer. Documents are only of importance when they come
from the Ministry ; this is why I continue my relations. '


Eegarding the correspondence of the military attache, the witness
demonstrated the insignificance of the information asked for.

Colonel Picquart then took up the " Cette canaille de D " docu-
ment. He called the attention of the court to the fact that it was ad-
dressed by Schwartzkoppen to Panizzardi, and not vice versa, as long

After giving his reasons for believing Dreyfus was not the person re-
ferred to in that document, Picquart showed how Du Paty de Clam en-
deavored to ascribe the authorship of the document of Panizzardi with the
view of establishing a connection which in reality did not exist between
the various documents in the indictment against Dreyfus.

The former Chief of the Intelligence Department concluded his exam-
ination of the first portion of the secret dossier by saying :

" May I be allowed to express deep regret at the absence of Major Du
Paty de Clam? It seems to me indispensable that this officer, who wrote
the commentaries on the secret dossier, should be summoned to give evi-
dence here. He would give us his reminiscences, and I would help him. "
[Laughter.] "But," added Picquart, "since I am dealing with this
question of the commentaries of Major du Paty de Clam, permit me to
point to you, gentlemen, that this document was not the property of any
particular minister. It was classified as belonging to the Intelligence
Department, and, as you see, it formed part of a well-defined dossier — a
dossier which was shut up in one of the drawers of my desk and which
was abstracted from it. This commentary, therefore, is upon a secret
dossier document which was improperly removed from my department. "

Continuing, the witness remarked : " Mention was made yesterday of
the disappearance of documents. That is the case in point."

Turning to the second portion of the dossier, Picquart described a
number of documents in it as forgeries, and said the police reports therein
contaiaed nothing serious against Dreyfus. He explained that they em-
bodied the theme mostly utilized by police spies in order to dupe the In-
telligence Department, and asserted that their information was mostly
worthless or false, and prepared in order to make interesting reading.

" In the inquiry made by M. Quesnay de Beaurepaire " (former presi-
dent of the Civil Section of the Court of Cessation), continued Picquart,
" you have an excellent example of the sort of people who can present in


the most specious guise what amounts absolutely to nothing. You can-
not imagine, gentlemen, what people, in order to get money, if only a
modest twenty-franc piece, have brought to the Intelligence Department
in the shape of so-called ' information,' which examination has proved to
be worthless."

Concluding his examination of the secret dossier. Colonel Picquart ex-
plained how he had acquired the conviction that the bordereau was writ-
ten by Esterhazy, and how he ascertained that the anti-Dreyfus proofs
were worthless. He began by detailing how he first learned of the exist-
ence of Esterhazy and his efi'orts to discover something about him. The
witness earnestly asserted that the first occasion on which he saw Ester-
hazy's name was when he read the address of the ;petit lieu. He said he
was not acquainted with Esterhazy, and never had Esterhazy watched.
Previous to this the utmost efforts had been made to prove the contrary,
and to show that Picquart knew Esterhazy before the discovery of the petit

What Picquart gathered about Esterhazy's character, he continued, cre-
ated the worst impression upon him, but he learned nothing to connect
Esterhazy with any act of espionage. Therefore he did not mention his
suspicions. An agent, however, was ordered to watch Esterhazy, who
had completely compromised himself through his relations with an Eng-
lish company, of which he had agreed to become a director.

"That could net be permitted in the case of a French officer," said
Picquart. "Moreover, Esterhazy gambled, led a life of debauchery, and
lived with Mile. Pays."

Turning to the leakage at Headquarters, the witness described the ne-
gotiations of Major Lauth with the spy Eichard Cuers, at Basle, showing
how the spy promised to inform him about the leakage, and how he, Pic-
quart, was induced to allow Lieutenant-Colonel Henry to accompany Major
Lauth to Basle.

Picquart also described the vague replies of Henry when questioned
on the subject of Esterhazy before his departure, and the futility of the
visit to Basle, because of Cuers's refusal, when he saw Henry, to impart
the promised information. This incident caused the witness to wonder
whether, instead of trying to make Cuers speak, Henry and Lauth had not
done everything possible to impose silence upon him.


"I affirm," continued Picquart, "that General de Boisdefifre knew that
this question was to remain a secret between us, and that I was not to
mention it except to the Minister of War. I knew Esterhazy was anx-
ious to enter the War Office, and I did not regard his desire favorably. I
communicated my impressions to my chiefs, who approved all my steps,
and the application of Esterhazy was rejected.

" His insistence, however, only increased my uneasiness regarding him,
and I resolved to obtain a specimen of his handwriting. I was immedi-
ately struck with the similarity of his handwriting and that of the bor-
dereau, and forthwith I had the letters of Esterhazy which were in my
possession photographed, and showed the photographs to Major Du Paty
de Clam and M. Bertillon between August 25th and September 5th. "

The colonel emphasized this point, because M. Bertillon affirmed that
he saw the photographs in May, 1896, and made a note of them, whereas
the letters were not written on that date. The conflicting testimony of
Picquart and Bertillon on this point had been used to discredit the for-
mer's evidence.

Colonel Picquart also said Du Paty de Clam, on seeing the writing,
forthwith declared it was that of Mathieu Dreyfus, the brother of Captain

The witness, continuing, said:

" ' You know,' Du Paty de Clam maintained, ' that the bordereau is
the joint work of Alfred and Mathieu Dreyfus.'

"M. Bertillon said: ' That is the writing of the bordereau.'

" M. Bertillon tried to discover where I had obtained the handwriting,
but the only information I imparted was that it was current and recent

" M. BertUlon then suggested that it was a tracing, and ended by say-
ing that if it was current handwriting it could only have emanated from
some one whom the Jews had been exercising for a year in imitating the
writing of the bordereau.

"At M. Bertillon's request I left the photographs with him. When
he returned them he said he adhered to his opinion and earnestly asked
to see the original. When I saw beyond a doubt that the handwriting of
the bordereau was Esterhazy 's, and seeing that the documents mentioned
therein might have been supplied by Esterhazy, that the words, ' I am


going to the manoeuvres ' could perfectly well apply to Esterhazy, and that
Esterhazy had secretaries at his disposal to copy a document so volumi-
nous as the Firing Manual, I resolved to consult the secret dossier to see
what part of the treachery might be ascribed to Dreyfus, and to assure
myself whether the dossier contained anything implicating Esterhazy. I
frankly admit I was stupefied on reading the secret dossier. I expected
to find matters of gravity therein, and found, in short, nothing but a doc-
ument which might apply just as much to Esterhazy as to Dreyfus, an
unimportant document mentioning d'Avignon, and a document which it

seemed absurd to apply to Dreyfus, namely, the 'Cette canaille de D '


" Lastly, I recognized a report appended in the handwriting of Guen-
n^e, an agent, which appeared to be at least as worthless as the second

" It was then evening. I had stayed late at the office in order to ex-
amine the documents thoroughly. I thought it over during the night,
and the next day I explained the whole situation to General de Boisdeffre.
I took to his office the secret dossier, the facsimile of the bordereau, the
petit bleu, and the principal papers connected with my investigation of

" I wonder now if I had one or two interviews ? But I still see Gen-
eral de Boisdeffre, as he examined the secret dossier with me, stop before
he reached the end, and tell me to go into the coimtry, give an account
of the affair to General Gonse, and ask his advice.

" When I informed General Gonse of all which had occurred, he re-
marked : * So a mistake has been made ? '

" After my interview with General Gonse I did not work any longer on
my own initiative. I said nothing more until the return of General
Gonse, September 15th. At this time Esterhazy was at the great manoeu-

Next the witness dwelt on the rumors in September, 1896, of the proj-
ect of replacing Dreyfus by a man-of -straw, and the discovery of the forged
Weyler letter, supposed to be connected with the same project.

At about the same time the campaign for and against Dreyfus was
started by the newspapers.

The witness then turned to the newspaper attacks on Dreyfus, saying


that the information regarding the bordereau contained in them convinced
him that they had been inspired by some one closely connected with the
Dreyfus affair. They could not, he added, be attributed to the Dreyfus
family, while they contained expressions familiar to Du Paty de Clam,
whom it would be interesting to hear on the subject.

The witness next said he asked permission to inquire into the sources
of the articles, but was forbidden to interfere in any way whatever.

Describing his interview with General Gonse, on September 15th,
Picquart said :

" When I asked General Gonse for permission to continue the investi-
gation, insisting on the danger of allowing the Dreyfus family to proceed
with their investigation alone, the general replied that it was impossible,
in his opinion and in the opinions of General de Boisdeffre and the Minis-
ter of War, to reopen the affair. When I pressed the point, in order to
make General Gonse understand that nothing could prevent its reopening
if it could be believed Dreyfus was innocent. General Gonse replied :

"'If you say nothing, nobody will know.'

"'General,' I replied, firmly, 'what you tell me is abominable. I do
not know what I shall do. But I won't carry this secret with me.'

" I at once left the room," added the witness. "That is what occurred.
I know my account is disputed, but I positively swear it," said Picquart,
as he emphatically smote the bar in front of the witness box, and looked
in the direction of the generals.

The colonel next described his intentions with regard to Esterhazy,
which Generals Gonse and de Boisdeffre had forbidden him to carry out.
He attached particular importance to this point, as it contained a clue to
subsequent occurrences. Later, the witness said, that while Du Paty de
Clam evidently acted wrongly in disguising himself during the investiga-
tions with a false beard and blue spectacles, perhaps he was authorized to
do so.

Colonel Picquart also showed how, through an article in the Eclair of
September 14, 1896, he was satisfied Esterhazy had been warned of the
suspicions against him.

In order to make the proofs complete, the witness continued his inves-
tigations with the utmost discretion. In his opinion, the only event of
importance in the Dreyfus affair since the discovery of the bordereau was


the Henry forgery, perpetrated on October 31st, 1896. He added that it
must have been handed immediately to General Gonse.

Shortly before Henry perpetrated the forgery, the agent Guen^e, Henry's
right-hand man, prepared a report declaring that M. Castelin (Republican
Revisionist, Deputy for Laon, division of Aisne) was about to play the
hand of the Dreyfus family by unmasking, in the Chamber of Deputies,
the prisoner's accomplices, thus having the affair reopened.

Then, turning to the distant mission upon which he was dispatched,
Picquart described the irritation he felt when he saw he was being removed
because he was no longer wanted as head of the Intelligence Department.
He explained that if this disgrace had been frankly avowed it would have,
been much less painful to him. The colonel also said that during his
absence his correspondence was tampered with.

Dealing with his mission to Tunis, which Picquart said ought to have
been intrusted to a commissary of police, the witness declared it was then
that Henry, abandoning his underhand intrigues, began a campaign of
open persecution. Henry wrote to the witness, accusing him of commu-
nicating information to the press, with disclosing the contents of secret
documents, and with attempting to suborn officers in connection with the
petit bleu.

It was then Picquart learned of the existence of the forged secret doc-
uments directed against himself, and foresaw his own ruin if the Dreyfus
affair was reopened ; and, to safeguard himself, he intrusted to a lawyer
friend, M. Leblois, a certain letter from General Gonse, at the same time
acquainting the lawyer with what he knew of Esterhazy, and instructing
the lawyer how he should intervene, " if the occasion demanded it. " This
lawver communicated with M. Scheurer-Kestner, then one of the Vice-
Presidents of the Senate, and the representations of the latter to Premier
M^line's Government followed.

When Picquart's furlough was due. General Leclerc, commanding in
Tunis, was ordered to send Picquart to the frontier of Tripoli. Leclerc
commented to the witness on the abnormal order, and Picquart confided
to the general the probable reasons for it, and his belief in the innocence
of Dreyfus. General Leclerc thereupon ordered Picquart not to go beyond

Picquart created a sensation by incidentally remarking that the judges


in 1894 were shamefully deceived in having the document containing the
words, "Cette canaille de D " communicated to them.

Witness then bitterly recited the details of the various machinations
with the view of incriminating him, instigated by Henry, Esterhazy, and
Du Paty de Clam.

"I have almost finished my task," added Picquart, "but I ask permis-
sion to refer to the way the bordereau came to the War Ofi&ce. I have
doubts in regard to the person who brought the bordereau. Two quite
different persons could certainly have delivered the bordereau in 1894.
But, if an intelligent person had delivered it, he would certainly have in-
sisted on the value of its contents. "

In reply to questions of General Roget, Picquart admitted sending doc-
uments to Belfort for the use of the Quenelli case. " But," Picquart added,
"they were handed to the Public Prosecutor."

General Eoget's questions were evidently with the view of eliciting
the confession from Colonel Picquart that, in the Quenelli case, he com-
municated to the judges documents unknown to the defence, as he now
accuses the General Staff of doing in the Dreyfus case.

General Mercier promptly replaced General Eoget.

"Picquart," Mercier said, "has stated that I ordered him to convey
documents to Colonel Maurel-Pries. That is false. I never handed any
packet to Colonel Picquart for Colonel Maurel-Pries. I never mentioned
secret documents to him. "

In reply Colonel Picquart said :

" I remember perfectly that General Mercier handed me a packet for
Colonel Maurel-Pries."

General Mercier next denied Colonel Picquart's statement relative to
the meeting with General Gonse during the afternoon of January 6, 1895,
when the latter was greatly excited at the prospect of war.

Colonel Picquart replied that he adhered to everything he had said.
General Gonse, the witness explained, was excited because he knew of the
action of an ambassador toward M. Casimir-Perier, then President of the

General Mercier next referred to Picquart's statement that the D' Avig-
non document was communicated to the court-martial of 1894. He said:

" I deny it positively. The only documents communicated were the


Panizzardi telegram, Du Paty de Clam's commentary, the note of the Ital-
ian attach^ in regard to French railroads, and the report of Guenc^e."

Picquart here pointed out that he had only expressed his belief on this

Maitre Demange's cross-examination compelled General Mercier some-
what reluctantly to enumerate the secret documents submitted to the first
court-martial. Among them was the "Cette canaille de D " letter.

When asked why the commentary of Guen^e was not attached to the
document, Mercier replied :

" It was supplied for my personal use. "

"Then," said Maitre Demange triumphantly, "you could not have
meant Dreyfus, but did mean Dubois."

M. Demange asked General Mercier why it did not occur to him to
append to the comments information of the existence of a man named
Dubois, who was suspected of having communicated information to foreign

General Mercier replied .

" Because we had discovered that he could not have been the author
of the documents mentioned in the comments. "

"Ah," said Maitre Demange, "because you considered that Dubois
could not be the author, after study of the dossier, of the divulgations,
consequently you did not reveal the fact that there was a person called
D who might be meant? "

General Mercier — Quite so.

The court then adjourned.


Chapter XXXIV.


The stage of the Lyc^e at Rennes was occupied, successively, on Au-
gust 19th, by three enemies of Dreyfus — Major Cuignet, General de Bois-
deffre, and General Gonse. From 6:30 until 11 a.m. they devoted them-
selves mainly to reiterating what they had said in evidence against the
prisoner, who followed them with characteristic composure.

But when the moment came for him to reply, the prisoner delivered
one of those brief utterances of indignation which have had such a power-
ful effect upon his hearers.

General de Boisdeffre, one of the witnesses, is tall, and, like every gen-
eral who has appeared in court except General Mercier, he boasted of a
very conspicuous bald patch, the heads of the other generals being adorned
by little more than a rim of gray hair.

De Boisdeffre spoke in a blunt manner and in somewhat gruff tones,
but with a certain air of sincerity which had its effect on the judges.

The general was treated with obvious deference by the members of the
court-martial, but he did not appear to relish the novelty of being ques-
tioned by a junior officer, one of the judges, who wished for a few harmless

Major Cuignet, charged by Cavaignac, when Minister of War, about
a year ago, to examine the secret dossier, was the first witness called.

"Before beginning an account of the special investigations into the
case which I was ordered to make by Ministers of War, from M. Cavai-
gnac to M. de Freycinet," said the witness, " I wish to mention a personal
fact which, in conjunction with the evidence already heard, will consti-
tute fresh proof of the prisoner's indiscreet behavior when employed on
the Headquarters Staff.

" I was on the staff when Dreyfus was a probationer, during the latter
half of 1893. Among other duties, I was connected with the railroad


service and the mining of railroads, with the view of interrupting traffic
in case of need. It is hardly necessary to point out the secret character
of such matters. Dreyfus was a probationer on the eastern railroads, and
had been ordered specially to study the mining of them. He possessed
information relating solely to them. One day Dreyfus asked me to give
him the general scheme of mining which I possessed, giving as a reason
for his request that he was anxious to increase his knowledge, and that
it was necessary for him to know the general scheme in order properly to
cany out the work entrusted to him. I replied that I did not see the

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 14 of 35)