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

. (page 20 of 35)
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 20 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

val. Cordier explained that it was a letter from an Italian lady, with
whom the department, at that time, was in correspondence through an
intermediary at the Foreign Office.

"I greatly respect Italian ladies in general," said Colonel Cordier, "but
not when it is a case of espionage, and I advised Colonel Picquart not to
make too much use of the lady's offices, saying to him: 'There must be
no petticoats.'"


Major Lauth commented upon Colonel Cordier's testimony, especially
the statement that there were no Anti-Semites on the Headquarters Staff,
remarking that there was one exception, and that this was Cordier him-
self, who was always expressing antipathy to the Jews, especially when
there was a question of introducing Dreyfus to the department,

"Yes," exclaimed Cordier, "quite true. I was an Anti-Semite, but
my opinions never went to the length of bringing false evidence against
the Jews. [Sensation.] I am an honest man, and I have a conscience."
[Renewed excitement.]

Colonel rieur appeared in the witness box to refute Colonel Cordier's
testimony. He declared that on August 23, 1898, Colonel Cordier said
to him :

" Dreyfus is guilty. But there must be two others. There are three
of them."

Colonel Cordier shrugged his shoulders, and admitted that on that
date, just a week before the arrest of Henry, he said forgery had been
committed at the Headquarters Staff. But, the colonel added, he told
the same thing of others the day after the posting up of the speech of M.
Cavaignac, then Minister of War, was voted by the Chamber of Deputies.

Archivist Gribelin also advanced and protested against Colonel Cor-
dier's statement.

He was followed by General Mercier, who said it was necessary for
Cordier to say what he knew about the arrangement of the secret dossier
by Colonel Sandherr.

General Mercier caused a sensation by indorsing Colonel Cordier's
statement with reference to the alleged attempt of Mathieu Dreyfus to
bribe Colonel Sandherr. The general said :

" When Colonel Sandherr reported the interview and I asked his opin-
ion of it, Sandherr replied :

" ' He gave me the impression of being an honest man resolved to sac-
rifice everything for his brother.'"

The name of M. de Freycinet, known as "The Little White Mouse,"
was called, and amid suppressed excitement the former Minister of War,
former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and former Premier took the witness

Maitre Demange proceeded to question the former Minister. Counsel


recalled General Mercier's statement that M. de. Freycinet told General
Jamont that 35,000,000 francs had been raised abroad for the defence of

In reply, M. de Freycinet expressed the anguish which he felt at the
sight of the trouble into which his country was plunged, and said his
whole desire was to see peace and calm restored. In regard to the con-
versations referred to the witness said :

" General Jamont made me a visit of courtesy on the occasion of my
quitting office at the beginning of May. I received many similar visits.
I do not think that I exaggerate when I say I received a hundred such
visits. I made no note of the remarks exchanged by my different visi-

" In the case of General Jamont we, of course, talked about the case
and the campaign of speeches and press utterances which had been pro-
ceeding in different parts of the world during the previous two years. In
regard to the Dreyfus case I was led to say that our agents abroad re-
ported that efforts had been made, on the initiative of private individuals,
in behalf of this campaign. A very disinterested campaign in France, I
am sure ; but less so abroad.

" I reported the estimates I heard had been made by people who pro-
fessed to be weU acquainted with the question of advertising in regard to
the probable money value of the whole campaign throughout the world
since its inception.

" That, Monsieur le President, is a r^sum^, as complete and faithful as
my recollection permits, of the conversation with (General Jamont. What
struck me most was the identity of our anxiety in regard to the army.
We mutually expressed uneasiness, for it must not be concealed that the
present attacks have had a profound echo which might eventually en-
danger the cohesion of the army.

"You know well, gentlemen, that there is a higher discipline than
even the Military Code. As I said in the Chamber, it is that more rig-
orous discipline which comes from the confidence of the soldier in his
chiefs. How can that confidence be maintained if those chiefs are depicted
daily in the blackest colors ? Was it not to be feared that at a given mo-
ment this confidence would disappear, and what would be the result if we
were engaged in external difficulties? [Sensation.]


"I adjure those of my countrymen," continued M. de Freycinet ear-
nestly, " who participate in these attacks under the impulse of generous
passion and with the object of serving a noble, elevated idea — I have no
doubt they are led away — to take heed of the dangers in which they may
involve the country. As General Jamont said to me: 'It is high time
to end it.'

" Let us cease throwing in one another's faces accusations which discredit
us in the eyes of our rivals. Gentlemen, let us prepare — and I would that
my feeble voice could be heard by all — let us prepare to accept your judg-
ment with respect and silence. May the judgment of this French court,
toward which the whole world has its eyes turned, open up the era of
reconciliation which is so necessary. [Immense excitement.]

" Gentlemen, pardon me for telling you what I wish. It springs from
a heart which has no longer much to desire here below, except to live and
see the country great and honored.

"I have finished. I have given an exact account of the interview
with the commander-in-chief of our armies in time of war. I have noth-
ing to add."

M. de Freycinet had fully maintained his title to the nickname, " The
Little White Mouse," which was bestowed upon him on account of his
ability to speak lengthily without conveying much information.

Eeplying to a member of the court-martial, M. de Freycinet explained
the part which he played in the Ministry to which he belonged. He said
he confined himself to giving effect to the Government's decisions when
the Supreme Court decided in favor of a revision.

M. Demange wanted M. de Freycinet to repeat in court his statements
made in the Chamber of Deputies in regard to the small importance at-
taching to the alleged treason, but M. de Freycinet declined to repeat
them, saying the court could, however, indicate the sense of his speech.
In his opinion most of the leakages could only have been of infinitesimal
importance, though the information relative to covering the troops might
have been important. The publication of secrets relating to arming and
explosives was also dangerous. But when the witness made his speech
in the Chamber of Deputies he wished above all to avoid increasing pub-
lic excitement.

M. Labori — Is M. de Freycinet aware of any fact which led him to


believe foreign money has played a part in the revision of the trial of

M. de Freycinet — No, no, Monsieur le President.

M. Labori — What does M. de Freycinet think of the accusations of a
certain section of the press against MM. Scheurer-Kestner, Tarieux, Bris-
son, and Ranc, and by another section against the Court of Cassation,
tending to attribute the opinion on the revision expressed by those persons
to the influences of corruption?

Colonel Jouaust — I refuse to put the question.

M. Labori insisted that he should at least be permitted to question M.
de Freycinet relative to M. Scheurer-Kestner, the former Vice-President
of the Senate, whose statements about the letters Colonel Picquart wrote
to him from Tunis have been contradicted by Savignaud, Picquart' s former

To this the president of the court replied that the good faith of M.
Scheurer-Kestner was not under discussion. Colonel Jouaust added that
M. Labori wished to import passion into the proceedings.

Counsel was defending himself against this aspersion, when M. de
Freycinet intervened and said he did not scruple to say that M. Scheurer-
Kestner was his friend, and that he had the highest opinion of his char-

M. Labori thanked the witness for this frank statement.

After leaving the witness-stand M. de Freycinet took a seat beside
General Billot, with whom he briefly conversed. The former Minister
then left the court-room, after having been excused from further attend-

M. Gallichet, editor of the Drapeau, then testified. He expressed his
personal indignation at the charges of treason against Henry, and repeated
the gossip of a third party relative to an alleged remark Colonel Cordier
was overheard to make, namely :

" We have taken Dreyfus with his hand in the bag. "

M. Belhomme, a former Inspector of Schools, seventy-eight years of
age, testified that he examined as an expert the bordereau in the Ester-
hazy case, and came to the conclusion that it was not the work of Ester-
hazy. The witness added that he adhered to his opinion even more posi-
tively now than before. Incidentally, M. Belhomme expressed surprise


at the fact that the Court of Cassation did not take the result of his exam-
ination into account. In conclusion M. Belhomme declared he never be-
lieved the bordereau was in Esterhazy's writing, and added that until he
actually saw him make a fresh copy of the document, witness would have
no remarks to make in regard to the handwriting of Dreyfus, which he
had not sufficiently examined.

After M. Demange had asked a question or two, to which M. Bel-
homme did not reply, M. Demange pointed out the contradictions in M.
Belhomme's original report and in his statements at this session.

The court then adjourned.


Chapter XLIII.


M. Paul Meyer, member of the Institute and Director of the School
of Ancient Manuscripts, was the first witness on August 30th. He de-
posed in favor of Dreyfus.

After MM. Molinier and Giry, and M. Picot, a member of the Insti-
tute, all of whom testified in favor of Dreyfus, General Deloye testified
against the prisoner on the artillery references in the bordereau.

Then the court, on the application of the Government Commissary,
Major Carriere, ordered that the opening part of the session of August
31st be behind closed doors for the purpose of discussing documents relat-
ing to the artillery.

The evidence of MM. Meyer, Molinier, and Giry, all of whom are
handwriting experts of the first mark, was a strong point for Dreyfus.
They were most emphatic in declaring the bordereau was written by
Esterhazy, and created a better impression than M. Bertillon by not in-
troducing the fantastic diagrams which the latter deemed necessary.

On the other hand, many persons thought General Mercier, fearing
that the exposure of August 26th would discredit him altogether with the
judges, had conceived the idea of giving way on certain points, and thus
to some extent reinstating himself by an afi'ectation of impartiality.

M. Meyer explained this in his evidence before the Assizes Court.
He was unable to be so positive in regard to the writer because he had
only seen a facsimile of the bordereau ; but at the Court of Cassation he
saw the original bordereau.

"I convinced myself," said M. Meyer, "by a magnifying glass that the
bordereau was written in a free hand and without hesitation, whereas it
is precisely hesitation in the formation of the strokes which reveals the
use of a method of tracing. I can affirm that it is in the writing and in


the very hand of Esterhazy. That is perfectly clear to me." [Commo-

At the conclusion of his testimony the witness gave a demonstration
of the fallacy of the Bertillon system.

Professor Auguste Molinier, of the School of Ancient Manuscripts, gave
similar evidence. He said that each fresh examination of the bordereau
only served further to convince him that it was the work of Esterhazy.

Amid deep attention the witness demonstrated how the conclusions of
the experts who attributed the bordereau to Dreyfus were mutually de-
structive, and dwelt on the defects of M. Bertillon's arguments, pointing
out the striking resemblance of the alleged doctored handwriting with
Esterhazy's writing, who, he added, in everybody's opinion, had relations
with Colonel Schwartzkoppen, the former German military attach^ at Paris,
and the dissimilarities between the writing of the bordereau and that of
the prisoner.

The members of the court-martial were apparently much interested,
and asked Professor Molinier a number of questions, to which he replied,
upholding his conclusion that Esterhazy was the writer of the bordereau.

General Mercier requested permission to speak, and called attention to
the fact that in his testimony before the Court of Cassation Professor Mo-
linier said a change was apparent in Esterhazy's handwriting after 1894,
and asked that the professor's former evidence be read.

M. Labori then jumped up and inquired if General Mercier intervened
with the object of verifying Professor Molinier's evidence. Counsel added
that it seemed to him that General Mercier intervened less in the charac-
ter of a witness than as a representative of the Government Commissary.
He therefore would be grateful to the general if he would kindly explain
the bearing of his remark.

Mercier replied that on this special point he desired to confirm the
evidence of Professor Molinier, which, he said, corroborated M. Bertillon's
statement that Esterhazy, the man-of-straw, changed his handwriting in
order to replace Dreyfus.

In conclusion General Mercier said :

" Having emphasized the point in regard to the change in Esterhazy's

handwriting in 1897, perhaps before, I am satisfied." [Commotion.]

Professor Giry, also of the School of Ancient Manuscripts, gave sim-


ilar evidence to that of Professor Molinier. He said the bordereau only
had a superficial likeness to Dreyfus's handwriting, and asserted that it
was certainly the work of Esterhazy.

The witness also said the bordereau was not written with the aid of

M. Labori asked if the witness had noticed a change in Esterhazy's
caligraphy, and Professor Giry replied that he had studied the question,
but did not think there had been any marked change.

Counsel then asked whether General Mercier had meant to intimate
that Esterhazy's handwriting had become more or less like that of Drey-
fus since 1894, to which the general replied that he had not wished to
express an opinion, but he reiterated that M. Bertillon had shown that
Esterhazy's handwriting had become more like that of the bordereau.

M. Picot, a member of the French Institute, said he had had an inter-
view with a " certain military attache " (Colonel Schneider, the Austrian
military attach^), and that the conversation turned upon the Dreyfus case.
The attach^ expressed surprise at the "incorrect attitude of French officers
in doubting the word of foreign officers."

"My impression," added the witness, "was that he was anxious to as-
sert firmly and unequivocally the absolute innocence of Dreyfus." [Sensa-

"Regarding the bordereau," continued M. Picot, "the attach^ said only
three documents, enumerated, were referred to, the real fact being that
the others were padding, meant to swell the dossier."

The witness noticed that the attach^ employed the expression "hy-
draulic brake," and never "pneumatic brake."

In regard to Esterhazy, the attach^, M. Picot said, declared that he
considered him a swindler. The attach^ also asserted that Esterhazy had
relations with Colonel Schwartzkoppen, who dismissed him because Ester-
hazy only brought information devoid of interest.

It was then, continued ]\I. Picot, that Esterhazy tried to enter the
War Office, and almost succeeded, and it was then that he wrote to
Colonel Schwartzkoppen the letter since known as the bordereau. In re-
ply to the writer of the bordereau, added M. Picot, Colonel Schwartzkop-
pen wrote the telegram card known as the petit bleu. But on reflection
he crumpled it up and threw it into the fireplace.


At this juncture General Eoget asked leave to speak and, stationing
himself beside the witness, said he must strongly protest against M.
Picot's evidence regarding the military attache's surprise that French
officers did not believe their foreign colleagues.

"What does the witness think," continued General Eoget, "of the for-
eign office, who, having caused the publication in the Figaro of an em-
phatic denial of a statement of General Mercier, was afterward obliged to
acknowledge the authorship of a document? "

M. Picot retorted that he had only repeated statements made to him,
and had abstained from comments on them. He had, therefore, nothing
to say in reply to General Eoget's questions.

M. Demange, intervening, asked General Eoget if he did not think
the Foreign Office's mistake was excusable, since the word " report " had
been applied to a document not possessing the character of the report?

"It is not for me to accuse or excuse," replied the general. "I con-
fine myself to pointing out to the court that the conversation repeated
occurred in May, that is to say, at the time the result of the investigation
of the Court of Cassation was already known. For my part, I only inter-
vened because French officers have been arraigned, and when being
accused, French officers have the right to reply." [Excitement.]

General Deloye, Director of Artillery at the War Office, was called to
the witness bar. He repeated his explanations given before the Court of
Cassation as to the various peculiarities of the artillery, particularly with
reierence to the brake of the " 120 short " gun.

The witness said he considered that in 1894 it would have been im-
possible for any officer serving with his regiment to communicate any-
thing in regard to the brake of this gun. He added that, although the
gun was in use at Eennes, the officers forming the court-martial, among
whom was an officer commanding a " 120 short " gun, had only the vaguest
ideas about this gun, while in 1894 the details of the "pneumatic brake"
could only have been known to very few officers.

When Dreyfus was asked if he had anything to say, he replied :

" I do not intend to discuss the terms of the bordereau, nor advance
theories about it. It must be known what is in the notes and what is
their nature and their value before theories can be suggested.

"Mention has been made of the ' 120 short' gun. I state briefly for


the second time all that I knew in 1889-90 at Bourges of this gun. I
knew the principle of the ' pneumatic brake.'

" General Mercier's deposition recalled the fact that he was Inspector-
General at Bourges in 1890. He must remember the lecture given in the
presence of all the ofl&cers, both of the Gunnery School and the foundry,
and all the departments of Bourges, and the officers of the garrison artil-
lery. He must recollect the final lecture given on the subject of the
'pneumatic brake,' of which he made the customary rough sketch. This
is to be found in the St. Cyr lectures. All my knowledge of the 'pneu-
matic brake ' was derived from the lectures. As regards the brake itself, I
have seen it twice, once in the courtyard of the Gunnery School at Bourges
and once in the School of War. I have not seen it in action. I have
not seen the '120 short' gun fired. I have never been present at the
firing trials.

"Mention has also been made of the shrapnel shell of 1891. The
knowledge of General Deloye on this point is much more extensive than
mine, and everything he has said is quite correct. In 1894 I studied the
shell, and, in a necessarily incomplete study, reached the conclusion that
the shell of the 1891 pattern was a shell in which the bullets were kept
in place by a smoke-generating substance intended to produce dense clouds
of smoke on bursting, in order to facilitate range finding. These are the
conclusions I reached in 1894, and I chronicled them in a report made at
the time."


Chapter XLIV.


The session of the court-martial of August 31st opened behind closed
doors. Majors Hartmann and Ducros and General Deloye, all of the artil-
lery, were present. The court discussed the secret documents relating to
the artillery subjects of the bordereau. In addition to the usual cordons
of troops in the streets leading to the Lyc^e, an extra guard was posted,
so as completely to isolate the hall in which the judges met in secret

The public were admitted to the court at 9 :30 a.m. The first wit-
ness called after the public session was opened was Captain Lebrun-Ee-
nault of the Eepublican Guard, who reiterated his testimony given before
the court of Cassation, repeating the terms of the alleged confession of
Dreyfus :

" I am innocent. In three years they will recognize my innocence.
The Minister knows it. If I delivered documents to Germany, it was to
have more important ones in return."

The witness's explanation that he did not refer to the confession of
Dreyfus during his interview with President Casimir-Perier, because he
overheard a conversation during the course of which he was called
"traitor," "canaille," and "cur," came as a surprise, for he did not men-
tion this in his evidence before the Court of Cassation, as Maitre Labori,
leading counsel for the defence, pointed out.

M. Labori also laid stress on the fact that Captain Lebrun-Eenault
should have kept his notebook, in which, he asserts, he made a note of liis
conversation with Dreyfus, for four years, and have destroyed it on the
very day the matter was brought up in debate in the Chamber of Depu-
ties. The captain's reply that he looked upon the copy made by M.
Cavaignac, then Minister of War, as being sufficient, was considered rather


Captain Lebrun-Renault is a well-built man of medium height, broad-
shouldered, and wears a well-trimmed mustache. But he has queer eyes.
He spoke in a loud, clear voice.

Dreyfus, replying to the witness, began by calmly declaring that Cap-
tain Lebrun-Eenault's statement that a certain Captain d'Attel was pres-
ent during his conversation with Captain Lebrun-Kenault was inaccurate.

The witness, however, maintained that Captain d'Attel was present,
whereupon Dreyfus said that if he was present he, the prisoner, did not
speak to him.

Dreyfus then raised his voice excitedly, and, accompanying his words
with short, emphatic gestures of the right hand, which was quivering with
his emotion, he declared that Captain Lebrun-Eenault should not have re-
peated to his chiefs his utterances, which began with a protestation of
innocence, without asking him to explain his words.

"Those are manoeuvres," cried the prisoner, " which must fill all honest
men with indignation."

This declaration of the prisoner made a deep impression on the audience.

Dreyfus spoke the last words through his teeth and was evidently la-
boring under the greatest excitement and indignation. The audience
broke into " Bravos ! " which the gendarmes immediately suppressed.

Captain Anthoine followed and repeated what Captain d'Attel had said
confirming the confession. Dreyfus replied that he had not spoken to
Captain d'Attel.

On being recalled, Captain Lebrun-Renault said this was true, but he
added that Captain d'Attel was present and could have overheard the con-

M. Labori here pointed out that Captain d'Attel had not spoken to his
chiefs on this subject, and General Mercier, who, like all the military
witnesses, followed the proceedings with the keenest attention, rose and
admitted that this was correct.

Colonel Jouaust told Dreyfus that he had not explained why he men-
tioned the term of three years, to which Dreyfus replied :

" I did not give three years as the term. I only said I hoped that in
the course of two or three years my innocence would be recognized. And
I wish to state. Colonel, that, as my letters to General Gonse show, my

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 20 of 35)