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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Major Le Bond, a professor of the Military School, described his rela-
tions with Esterhazy and Picquart, telling how Esterhazy attended the
artillery manoeuvres of 1894 and 1896, and touching upon Picquart's sub-
sequent inquiry as to whether in 1894 Esterhazy could have obtained
secret documents relating to new inventions, to which the witness replied
in the negative.

The major added that during this interview Picquart said he spoke in
behalf of the Minister of War. The witness added :

" Colonel Picquart's manner in speaking of Esterhazy left me so little
doubt that proofs of Esterhazy's guilt existed that I asked if he had been
arrested or was about to be taken into custody. Colonel Picquart replied
that he had not yet obtained positive proof, but had the gravest presump-
tions. "

Major Le Bond also said that when Colonel Picquart questioned him
in 1896 as to the possibility of Esterhazy's possessing knowledge of artil-
lery matters, the witness replied that Esterhazy seemed anxious to learn
something about artillery, but his questions, while displaying intelligence
and alertness of mind, showed comparatively little acquaintance on the
subject. Esterhazy, he added, could only have consulted the Firing Man-
ual through the witness, and had he done so his action, though not irreg-
ular, would have remained in the major's memory.

Here Colonel Picquart jumped up and denied that he mentioned es-
pionage to Major Le Bond, or that he spoke in behalf of the Minister of
War. But the major adhered to his statements, and asserted that Pic-
quart's memory was playing him false.

At this juncture Colonel Jouaust announced that it was Esterhazy's


turn to speak, but that, as he was not present, the evidence which he gave
before the Court of Cassation would be read.

The clerk of the court accordingly read Esterhazy's deposition.

The chief aim of Esterhazy, in his testimony before the Court of Cas-
sation, delivered January 24, 1899, was to show that in 1897-98 he was
protected by Du Paty de Clam, Henry, and their subordinates, acting vm-
der orders from Generals de Boisdeffre, Gonse, and de Pellieux. He re-
fused to make any declaration in regard to the bordereau, in language which
was interpreted against him by the Court of Cassation in its judgment re-
garding a revision of the Dreyfus case.

M. Labori asked that three letters addressed by Esterhazy to the Pres-
ident of the Republic should be read.

The following are passages from those letters. In the first letter he

"My house is illustrious enough in the annals of French history and
in those of the great European causes, for the Government of my country
to take care not to allow my name to be dragged in the mud. I address
myself, therefore, to the supreme head of the army and to the President of
the Republic, and I ask him to put an end to the scandal, as he can and
ought to do.

" If I should have the sorrow not to be listened to by the supreme
head of my country, my precautions are taken for my appeal to reach the
ears of my heraldic chief, to the sovereign of the Esterhazy family, the
Emperor of Germany. He is a soldier, and will know how to set the
honor of a soldier, even an enemy, above the mean equivocal intrigues of
politics. He will dare to speak out loud and strong to defend the honor
of ten generations of soldiers. It is for you, as President of the Republic,
to judge if you should force me to carry the question into that region.
An Esterhazy fears not anything or anybody, if not God."

In his second letter Esterhazy said :

" I am at bay and compelled to use all means in my power. A gen-
erous woman, who warned me of the horrible plot woven against me by
friends of Dreyfus, with the assistance of Colonel Picquart, has since been
able to procure for me among other documents the photograph of a paper
which she succeeded in getting out of that officer.

"This paper, stolen in a foreign legation by Colonel Picquart, is most


compromising for certain diplomatic personages. If I neither obtain sup-
port nor justice, and if my name come to be pronounced, this photograph,
which is to-day quite safe abroad, will be immediately published."

In the third letter he said :

" This document is protection for me, since it proves the scoundrelism
of Dreyfus, and is a danger for my country, because its publication, with
the facsimile of writing, will force France to humiliate herself or to de-
clare war. You, who are above empty quarrels in which my honor is at
stake, do not leave me under the obligation of choosing between two alter-
natives equally horrible. Compel the Pontius Pilate of politics to make
a clear, precise declaration instead of manoeuvring to retain the voice of
friends of Barabbas.

"All letters that I have written will shortly reach the hands of one
of my relatives, who has had the honor this summer to receive two em-
perors. What will the whole world think when it learns of the cowardly,
cold cruelty with which I have been allowed to struggle in my agony
without help, without advice? My blood will be upon your heads."

General Gonse said he desired to reply to Esterhazy's statements.
During the course of his observations, the general said Esterhazy's allega-
tion that he was the right-hand man of the General Staff was absolutely

The general then proceeded to refer to his avoidance of Esterhazy dur-
ing the Zola trial.

"I considered him to be a compromising person," said the witness,
" and I was not wrong. If Esterhazy was permitted to go free at the time
of the judicial inquiry, it was by order of General Saussier, who would
not accept the advice of the General Staff nor of the officers imder him,
however high their rank. It was Major Du Paty de Clam alone who
compromised the entire Headquarters Staff by his imprudence. [Sensa-

" If I now say so for the first time it is because the case against Du
Paty de Clam had been dismissed. I could not have spoken earlier with-
out seeming to accuse a prisoner. "

The general then attempted to explain the intervention of the Head-
quarters Staff in the choice of Esterhazy's witnesses at the time of his
prosecution by Colonel Picquart, and said he, the witness, was convinced


Du Paty de Clam was only connected with the late Lieutenant-Colonel
Henry and not with Esterhazy.

M. Labori said he desired to show if General Gonse did not consider
himself in some measure responsible for the proceedings of Du Paty de

The general replied in the negative, and added that he was conscious
that he had always done his duty. The witness admitted, however, that
Du Paty de Clam was not altogether innocent of a share in the appearance
of the " Dixi " article, which appeared in the Libre Parole, and gave the
public the first information regarding the character of the secret dossier
and the intrigues against Colonel Picquart.

When General Gonse was asked what he thought of Du Paty de
Clam's interviews with Maitre Tezenas, Esterhazy's counsel, he replied :

" Esterhazy was a sort of special prisoner. He retained his liberty,
not because he was under the protection of the General Staff, but because
General Saussier so ordered."

Thereupon M. Labori remarked that General Saussier acted in this
matter because he had been deceived by the Headquarters Staff in regard
to Esterhazy, adding :

" That is a point which it is very important to emphasize. "

The general admitted that were two interviews between Du Paty de
Clam and M. Tezenas, after which, witness said, he ordered them to stop.

General de Boisdeffre at this point took the occasion to re-defend

"I ask leave," he said, "only to tell the court that I give the most
absolute contradiction to Esterhazy's evidence."

Then turning to the counsel for defence, the general added :

" If I were not here as a witness I would ask permission to say, in re-
gard to these falsehoods, that I despise them and repel them with the
scorn they deserve."

General Lebelin de Dionne, governor of the Military College, then tes-
tified to Dreyfus's character at college. The prisoner, he said, displayed
great intelligence, but had a deplorable temper. He recalled a remark of
Dreyfus that the people of Alsace-Lorraine would be much happier under
German rule than under the rule of France.

The prisoner, referring to the recriminations mentioned by General


Lebelin de Dionne, explained that during his first year at the Military
College he attained very high marks, that the second year he almost held
his place, when, he added, he heard that a member of the Examining
Board had declared at a board meeting that, without knowing the pupils,
he put mark 5 opposite the name of Dreyfus, simply because they did not
want a Jew on the Headquarters Staff. The prisoner thought that his
protests against this would, therefore, be readily understood.

Eegarding the alleged remarks about Alsace-Lorraine, Dreyfus declared
that the statement was the very opposite of his real sentiments.

M. Lanquety, a mining engineer of Boulogne, who told the Court of
Cassation that he had seen Dreyfus at Brussels during the summer of
1894, followed. The witness said he could not now swear to when he
saw Dreyfus there.

The prisoner, rising, declared that it was in 1886, at the time of the
Amsterdam exhibition, adding that was the only time he visited Brussels.

"I met you, M. Lanquety," said Dreyfus, "at a restaurant in St. Hu-
bert Arcade. We exchanged a few words."

M. Lanquety admitted that the prisoner's statement was true.




When the trial of Captain Dreyfus was resumed at the Lyc^e on Au-
gust 24th, Colonel Jouaust, president of the court, ordered that the evi-
dence given by M. Penot, a friend of the late Colonel Sandherr, chief of
the Intelligence Department, be read.

It was to the effect that Colonel Sandherr said the Dreyfus family
offered him 150,000 francs on condition that he would clear Dreyfus.

Maitre Demange, for the defence, disposed of this allegation by read-
ing the actual note on the subject written by Sandherr, thereby proving
that the Colonel's remarks had been distorted, Dreyfus's brothers only
having said :

" We are convinced of the innocence of our brother, and will spend our
entire fortune to discover the truth."

The testimony of the first witness of the day, M. Dinolle, a former
official of the Government, was also in favor of Dreyfus, as it was in di-
rect contradiction of what M. Dubreuil deposed yesterday regarding the
alleged intimacy of Dreyfus with the German attach^ at the house of M.
Bodson, a mutual friend.

The president of the court then called the next witness, Colonel
Maurel-Pries, who was president of the Dreyfus court-martial in 1894.

As M. Labori lashed him with pointed questions the colonel hesi-
tated, and then answered in a short, choppy manner, and when M. Labori
finally disposed of him, the witness left the platform with the pale face
and scared look of a man who had been awakened from a nightmare.

The counsel had drawn from the colonel a confession that the secret
dossier was communicated to the judges of the court-martial of 1894 by
Colonel Du Paty de Clam. This avowal produced a sensation in court,
and Maurel-Pries's declaration that he only read one of the documents
did not affect the main fact, while his protestation that the reading of the


document had no effect upon him, as his mind was already made up, was
nullified by his subsequent declaration that this one document sufficed to
convince him.

M. Labori pointed out the contradictions in the evidence of the offi-
cers of the Headquarters Staff regarding the importance and nature of the
contents of the bordereau, and asked General Mercier where Dreyfus could
have obtained particulars about the hydro-pneumatic brake?

The general hotly objected to being asked to repeat his evidence, and
M. Labori, equally warmly, said :

" I am only asking for definite statements."

Mercier then said he thought Dreyfus might have had cognizance of
the brake at Bourges, adding:

" In any case, he had a better chance to obtain such knowledge than
Esterhazy could possibly have had."

M. Labori — General Mercier says, " Dreyfus might have had cogniz-
ance." I desire to emphasize that expression. We shall now prove Drey-
fus could not have had cognizance of the brake.

Counsel proceeded to demonstrate how rigorously the secret of the
construction of the brake was guarded, and asked why, in 1894, the
charges regarding the Robin shells were not dwelt upon ?

General Mercier — That arises from the simple fact that it was not
known until 1896 or 1897 that information on the subject was being di-
vulged. The existence of treachery in regard to the distribution of heavy
artillery among the army corps was unknown until 1896.

The passages-at-arms between M. Labori and General Mercier were
followed with the keenest interest. Both men were wary and mutual
suspicious of each other, and there was considerable acerbity, Colonel
Jouaust at times finding difficulty in preventing the discussion from wan-
dering outside legal paths.

Continuing, M. Labori asked why General Mercier did not have a re-
port prepared regarding the confessions Dreyfus is alleged to have made
to Captain Lebrun-Eenault.

General Mercier — The question of the confessions was of no impor-
tance, as a revision of the case seemed impossible.

M. Labori — What does General Mercier think of Esterhazy and the
part he played ?


General Mercier — I do not know Esterhazy, and I do not think about
him at all.

M. Labori — Did he know you at his trial in 1898?

General Mercier — No.

Colonel Jouaust — General Mercier was not Minister of War then.

M. Labori — This is most interesting. General Mercier declares he
knows nothing of the trial of 1898.

General Mercier — I know nothing of it. I leave that to the court-
martial which tried Esterhazy. I have only to answer in court for my
acts, and I refuse you the right to question me about my thoughts.

Colonel Jouaust, addressing M. Labori, said :

" You are reverting to the evidence of General Mercier ? "

M. Labori — My object in interrogating the witness is to revert to his

General Mercier — I protest against the word "interrogating," for I am
not a prisoner.

"Interrogatory," in French law, is generally applied to the examina-
tion of an accused person by a magistrate.

M. Labori — It is not a question of " interrogatory" ; I used the word in
the most respectful sense. Will General Mercier say what he means by
the charge preferred against the partisans of Dreyfus of having spent
35,000,000 francs? What was this sum used for? The amount is simply

General Mercier — I might just as well ask you.

M. Labori — Do you mean to suggest that it was spent in advertise-
ments and in buying consciences?

General Mercier — I say nothing whatever.

Counsel next wished to know why the bordereau was commimicated
to the court-martial of 1894, when it was considered impossible to show
the other documents of the secret dossier.

General Mercier — Because the bordereau was not dated, not signed,
and its place of origin could be concealed.

M. Labori pointed out that the place of origin had been mentioned in
court, and then asked for explanations in regard to the perpetration of the
1894 forgery.

The cross-examination of General Mercier became more and more


heated, aud so rapid that it was difficult to follow, and many of the an-
swers were confusing. As the questions of counsel touched upon the
secret dossier and a certain document in blue pencil, General Gonse, Gen-
eral Eoget, M. Gribelin, and Major Lauth also participated in the discus-
sion, which almost degenerated into a wrangle.

Major Lauth said he believed a clue to the blue-pencil document ex-
isted before the trial of 1894, and M. Labori asked why, in that case, it
was not produced at the trial, since it incriminated the prisoner?

General Mercier said he did not know of this clue, and Major Lauth
disclaimed all responsibility in the matter, as he was not connected with
the preliminary inquiry.

General Gonse said the document had been in the possession of Colo-
nel Sandherr, [sensation] and it was by him placed in the secret dossier
for comparison with other papers.

M. Labori asked for explanations in regard to the commentary on the
secret dossier, and General Mercier admitted he destroyed it in 1897.

General Gonse, who was questioned on the same subject, declared that
it was by order of General de Boisdeffre that he returned the commen-
tary to General Mercier.

Answering further questions, Mercier said the Panizzardi telegram
was not communicated to the court-martial in 1894. He was ordered by
General de Boisdeft're not to include it in the secret dossier.

Counsel next discussed the three-page document, claiming that the
false rendering of the Panizzardi telegram was to correct it and point
directly to Dreyfus as the traitor.

Mercier asked to be allowed to converse with General Chanoine before
attempting to explain. General Chanoine thereupon advanced and ex-
plained about the document, which had been handed him by General
Mercier. He said he noticed inaccuracies in it, and resolved not to use
it. Witness, however, had been carried away in testifying, and read a
page of the document, and it was after a friendly conversation with Maitre
Labori that he read the entire document in court, at General Mercier's
request, and returned him the document.

General Mercier acknowledged the accuracy of General Chanoine's
statement, adding that it was Colonel Du Paty de Clam who gave him
the document.


Counsel had the document reread, and referred to the two versions of
the two telegrams of November 2d, one designating Dreyfus as communi-
cating documents to Germany. M. Labori pointed out that M. Paleo-
logue of the Foreign Office denied that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
had communicated this version, and asked why General Mercier had re-
ceived it through Du Paty de Clam.

At this juncture General Eoget mounted the platform and expressed
surprise at this " idle controversy being resumed." [Cries of " Oh ! Oh ! "]

The general asked that Major Maton, who assisted in deciphering the
telegram, be called, and counsel protested against the application of the
word "idle" to any questions he thought proper to ask.

General Chanoine said that he communicated the document to General
Eoget, while enjoining absolute privacy on the subject.

When asked if he accepted responsibility for the document. General
Chanoine replied in the affirmative, adding, however, the admission that
he had made a mistake.

Colonel Jouaust intimated that the court ought to take no notice of
the document in question.

Dreyfus here gave a detailed story of how he employed his time at
Bourges from October, 1889, to February, 1890. He said that as he was
preparing for his examinations he had no time to go to caf^s or to think
of anything outside of his duties. This was a reply to General Mercier's
assertion that he could have learned the secret of the hydro-pneumatic
brake there. The prisoner said :

"I was promoted to be a captain on September 12, 1889, and re-
mained at Bourges from October, 1889, to February, 1890, when the writ-
ten examination at the Military College began. I was then called to
Paris, obtained two months' leave, was married in April, and I spent four
months at Bourges. As I was preparing for examination I had no time
to go to caf^s or to think of anything outside of my duties. "

General Risbourg, who was commander of the Republican Guard in
Paris in 1894, was the next witness. He described the scene with Cap-
tain Lebrun- Renault, when the witness learned of Dreyfus's alleged con-
fessions to Captain Lebrun-Renault the day after the prisoner's degra-

In conclusion General Risbourg eulogized the services of Captain Le-


brun-Renault, and said that before the incident of the confession there
was nothing against him. He was an excellent officer, a good comrade,
and incapable of injuring any one.

After being asked the usual question, Dreyfus protested against Gen-
eral Eisbourg's evidence.

"I am surprised," the prisoner said, "that he. Captain Lebrun-Eenault,
could have made the statement attributed to him. On the way from the
prison of La Sante Captain Lebrun-Eenault shook hands with me, a fact
which is in contradiction of his statement. Besides, when such a terrible
charge has been hanging over a man who has resisted it for five years,
witnesses should not come here merely to speak their beliefs, but ought
to bring proofs, positive proofs. Otherwise I am completely nonplussed
as to how I can reply." [Sensation.]

Continuing, Dreyfus said :

" Eeference was also made to confessions. I will state the exact terms
of the so-called confession of mine. The day Captain Lebrun-Eenault and
I were together in the room I said to him :

" ' I am innocent. I will declare it in the face of the whole people.
That is the cry of my conscience. You know that cry. I repeated it all
thorugh the torture of my degradation.'

Afterward I added, referring to the visit of Du Paty de Clam : ' The
Minister is well aware that I am innocent.'

" What I meant to intimate was that I had apprised the Minister, in
response to the steps Du Paty de Clam had taken against me, that I was
innocent. Du Paty de Clam visited me and asked for information. I
replied to him :

"'I am innocent, absolutely innocent.'

" I replied verbally to Du Paty de Clam and in writing to the Minister
that I was perfectly innocent. That is what I meant by the words:
' The Ministry is well aware that I am innocent.'

" Then I reverted to the visit of Du Paty de Clam, and said to Captain
Lebrim-Eenault :

" ' Du Paty de Clam asked me if I had not given documents of no im-
portance in order to obtain others in exchange.'

" I replied that not only was I absolutely innocent, but that I desired
the whole matter should be cleared up. Then I added that I hoped that


within two or three years my innocence would be established. I told
Du Paty de Clam that I wanted full light on the matter; that an injury
had been done, and that it was impossible for the Government to fail to
use its influence to discover the whole truth.

" ' The Government,' I said, ' has means, either through the military
attaches or through diplomatic channels, to reach the truth. It is awful
that a soldier should be convicted of such a frightful crime. Consequently,
it seems to me, I who asked only for truth and light, that the Govern-
ment should use all the means at its disposal to secure that light.'

" Du Paty de Clam replied :

" ' There are interests at stake higher than yours. These channels
cannot be employed.'

" He added, however, that the inquiries would be continued. It was
on the strength of Du Paty de Clam's promise to try what means could
be found to reach the truth and end this awful injury, that I said I
hoped that in two or three years my innocence would be proved, for Du
Paty de Clam told me that the investigation, which would be of the most
delicate nature, could not be undertaken immediately.

" I think I have expressed my whole mind. If you still have any
doubt, I ask you. Colonel, to present it to me."

The prisoner's remarks deeply impressed his hearers.

At the request of M. Demange, General Mercier was recalled and
asked to explain why, having sent Du Paty de Clam to Dreyfus to dis-
cover the amoimt of the injury Dreyfus had done, he had not followed up
his investigations.

General Mercier — I did not feel called upon to do so.

Colonel Jouaust — Tell us, General, why, when you were apprised of
the confession, you did not send some one to Dreyfus to try to get a sub-
stantiation and discover what he had not told Du Paty de Clam.

General Mercier — Dreyfus had written me that he refused to discuss
the confessions with Du Paty de Clam, and I took no further steps.

Colonel Jouaust — But, since the prisoner seemed to have begun mak-
ing avowals of his guilt, why did you not follow the matter up?

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 17 of 35)