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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that Colonel Jouaust requested the general not to enlarge on the subject.

In conclusion Mercier invited the judges to pay no attention to Cap-
tain Freystaetter's statement, but to accord to the evidence which he him-
self had had the honor to give, all the confidence and moral authority
they would have reposed in it if the Freystaetter incident had never hap-

M. Demange said he agreed with General Mercier that the Freystaet-
ter incident could be dropped without injuring the case of Dreyfus.

"Thank God," said the lawyer, "I am here in a court of justice, where
the question of justice is being discussed before honorable men and loyal
soldiers. Then let this incident be forgotten."

The reports of experts were next read, showing that the tracing paper
on which the bordereau was written was similar to paper used by Ester-
hazy, and official records were produced, showing that Dreyfus was wrong
in regard to the number of probationers in 1894.

The prisoner admitted that his recollections were perhaps not precise.

M. Labori said he regretted that Cernuschi was not present, as coun-
sel desired to question him, and, in any case, he wanted to add to the
dossier certain letters showing that Cernuschi had suffered from insanity,
and was destitute of moral sense. The defence had discovered that appli-
cations had been made for Cernuschi's extradition, and that he was pro-
nounced to be altogether worthless and unreliable. Counsel also said that,
although representing himself to be a political refugee, if Cernuschi had
not left Austria he would have been placed in an asylum for the insane.

M. Labori then asked that a letter received from the witness Grenier
should be read. The Government Commissary admitted receiving it, but
said that the letter was of no importance. Counsel thought otherwise,
and read a copy of the letter which Grenier had sent him simultaneously


with one to Major Carriere, The letter referred to a letter from Esterhazy
showing the latter's great interest in questions oiitside of his duties, that
Esterhazy had in his possession official documents, that he concerned him-
self with the mobilization of the troops, and that he had expressed su-
preme contempt for the French army.

Colonel Jouaust remarked that if the letter had reached him he would
not have made use of it, as it had nothing to do with the Dreyfus case.

This called forth murmurs of assent and dissent, and M. Labori retorted
that he was of quite an opposite opinion. He said that General Chanoine
had handed the court a latter from Colonel Schwartzkoppen to his govern-
ment, announcing that he was about to send them information regarding
the real effectiveness of the Eussian army, and this was also referred to in
Esterhazy's letter. Colonel Schwartzkoppen had also mentioned the Paris
and Toul manoeuvres, which would explain the phrase, " I am going to the
manoeuvres." This letter was written a fortnight after the arrest of Drey-
fus, and M. Labori declared that he would he glad to hear the generals on
that point.

General Roget accordingly marched to the platform. In regard to the
mobilization of the Russian army, he said that a well-informed article on
the subject had appeared in the Revue Bleue, owing to the indiscretions of
a certain person he would not name, as he, the general, did not wish to
compromise him.

Captain Cuignet confirmed General Roget's statement, adding that it
must not be concluded that the information furnished to the German gen-
eral staff did not emanate from Dreyfus. The fact that it took a fort-
night to reach its destination proved nothing.

Gteneral Mercier also intervened to show that any information fur-
nished by Esterhazy could have had no value.

Colonel Picquart offered explanations of the leakage in 1893, and Gen-
eral Mercier again jumped up and protested against indiscretions commit-
ted in favor of a former minister being called leakages.

At the request of M. Labori, the testimony given by the witness
named Ecalle before the Court of Cassation was read. It described how
Esterhazy employed Ecalle to execute a sketch of a rifle, which afterward,
Esterhazy said, he had sent abroad with an imaginary plan of mobilization.

After further testimony on this point, a letter from Esterhazy to Gen-


eral Eoget was read, in which the writer complained that no use was
made of his information, and violently attacking M. Bertillon, who, ac-
cording to Esterhazy, ought to be in an asylum for the insane.

Esterhazy complained of his miserable condition, described General de
Boisdeffre as a scoundrel, and the Echo de Paris as a "dirty Jew sheet,"
adding that it was a mistake to abandon him and then prosecute him.

After repeating his threats, Esterhazy wrote that if he were the moral
author of the bordereau he could not have supplied the information con-
tained in it, and expressed surprise that nothing had been said in regard
to the role played by Colonel Picquart. He then attacked, turn about,
all the officers of the General Stafif.

At this juncture M. Labori said that he thought that the court had
heard quite enough of this edifying letter, and asked that the rest of it be
not read. But Major Carriere objected, remarking that the letter was
most interesting.

M. Labori — They are all interesting, and I would like to have them
all read.

Major Carriere — They are all of the same degree of interest They
are all rot.

The reading then proceeded. In a letter containing a long string of
bitter recriminations and violent insults, particularly in regard to certain
members of the court-martial, whose impartiality was impugned, Esterhazy
declared in conclusion:

" I will say or do nothing to increase the dangers of the situation.
But I, an old and faithful servant, have been denounced and have fallen
beneath the blows, after having been basely abandoned by the Boisdeffres,
Billots, and other generals."

After Major Hartmann had briefly refuted General Mercier's state-
ment that the Germans always termed the hydro-pneumatic brake the
"hydraulic brake," which Hartmann declared to be absolutely untrue. Colo-
nel Jouaust, though requested by M. Labori to allow M. des Fonds-
Lamothe to be re-examined, refused to hear any further testimony.

Thereupon on September 7th, at 10:30 a.m., the Government Com-
missary, Major Carriere, began his speech closing the case for the prosecu-
tion. He concluded at 11 :50 a.m. His speech, lasting only an hour and

a quarter, was generally characterized as one of the weakest and most


ridiculous orations ever heard in a court of law. His absurd arguments,
colored by his grotesque mannerism, evoked continual outbursts of de-
risive laughter.

Major Carriere, after reading the judgment of the Court of Cassation,
and the questions referred to the present court-martial, said :

"Colonel and Councillors: By a judgment, June 3d, last, of the
Court of Cassation, the Dreyfus case was sent before a court-martial at
Eennes. I read the judgment at the beginning of the trial. It quashes
and annuls the judgment of December 22, 1894, convicting Captain Al-
fred Dreyfus, and sends him before a court-martial at Eennes to be tried
on the following question :

"Is Captain Alfred Dreyfus guilty of having in 1894 practised machi-
nations for the benefit of a foreign power, by delivering the documents
mentioned in the bordereau?

"The task of the court-martial at Rennes is the same as that of 1894.
The trial has been public, and has been conducted with all the fulness
possible to answer the requirements of justice and public opinion. It is
my duty to discharge the task of justice with moderation. I have no per-
sonal opinion to defend. I have carefully examined the documents, seek-
ing scrupulously to ascertain the truth, without malice, without passion,
and without fear."

Major Carriere then entered upon a review of the case. He defended
the secret sessions as being necessary, while they did not injure the diffu-
sion of light; traced the espionage plot, recalled the discovery of the bor-
dereau and the investigation which was said to show that the traitor was
Dreyfus, and reviewed his prosecution and trial and the judgment of 1894.

"The proceedings," said Major Carriere, "were conducted according to
the prevailing conditions, I will say nothing more in regard to the moral
character of the prisoner, the question of his gambling or consorting with
loose women. It has been said that we military men are not clever, and
are not tactful. Maybe that is so. But we are a simple and upright
people, who proceed direct toward our duty, and our acts are always char-
acterized by good faith."

The major then proceeded to examine the bordereau, saying that apart
from the question of the handwriting, upon which even the experts fell
out, he thought that the reference to covering of troops and the artillery


formation were very significant. Esterhazy, he pointed out, would have
had no difficulty in securing the Firing Manual, therefore he could hardly
have written that it was difficult to get ; while Dreyfus could not easily
have obtained it.

Discussing the sentence about going to the manoeuvres, which has
caused so much controversy, Major Carriere declared that it would have
been impossible for Esterhazy to write it. He referred to the complexity
of the prisoner's character, and proceeded to dilate upon the impartiality
with which he had examined the whole case, upon which, he asserted, he
had entered with his opinion wholly unformed.

" I said to myself, let us take the bull by the horns. It was Picquart
who brought about the revision. Let us study Picquart. I found his case
perfectly constructed, and for a moment hoped we might acquit and reha-
bilitate an innocent man. It would have been all to our advantage and no
trouble to repair a judicial error of the judges of 1894, whose honor has
never been impugned. That would necessarily have pacified the public
mind. But closer investigations of Picquart's case showed fissures. My
momentary conviction of the innocence of Dreyfus was transformed into
a stronger belief in his guilt, which has been confirmed by the testimony
of the witnesses ; and I come here to tell you, on my soul and conscience,
that Dreyfus is guilty, and I demand the application of Article 76 of the
Penal Code."

The last statement of the Government Commissary caused a great deal
of excitement in court, which was afterward adjourned for the day.

When Major Carriere had concluded, and Colonel Jouaust had ordered
the adjournment of the court, Dreyfus rose quickly and apparently not de-

As the prisoner was passing counsel's table, M. Labori stopped him and
whispered, "Courage." Dreyfus smiled and nodded, and, as he proceeded,
M. Jaures, the Socialist leader, and a number of others seated on the
benches before which Dreyfus passed, repeated M. Labori's word of en-

The most elaborate police measures were to be taken during the last
day of the trial. Eight gendarmes were to be distributed in the court-
room. Twenty gendarmes and a detachment of infantry were detailed
for duty in the courtyard ; the cordons of troops and gendarmes in the


vicinity of the Lyc^e were ordered tripled and placed farther back; de-
tachments of gendarmes were to be posted on the squares and bridges of
the town, and mounted gendarmes bad been instructed to patrol the prin-
cipal streets of Eennes. Also the garrisons of neighboring towns were
held in readiness to be despatched to Eennes at a moment's notice.


Chapter LL


The development of the Dreyfus case on September 8th was marked
by three distinct matters, namely, the opening of the speech of Maitre
Demange for the defence ; the decision of Maitre Labori not to make a
speech for the defence, as he feared to irritate the judges ; and an official
statement from Berlin that German agents never had any relations with
Dreyfus. The latter was issued in the following terms :

Berlin, September 8th. — The Reichsanzeiger this evening, in the official
portion of the paper, publishes the following statement:

"We are authorized to repeat herewith the declarations which the
imperial Government, while loyally observing the reserve demanded in
regard to internal matters of another country, has made concerning the
French Captain Dreyfus.

"For the preservation of his own dignity and the fulfilment of a duty
to humanity, Prince von Munster, after obtaining the orders of the Empe-
ror, repeatedly made in December, 1894, and in January, 1895, to M.
Hanotaux, M. Dupuy, and M. Casimir-Perier, declarations to the effect
that the Imperial Embassy in France never maintained either directly or
indirectly any relations with Dreyfus.

"Secretary of State von Buelow, in the Reichstag January 24, 1898,
made the following statement:

" * I declare in the most positive manner that no relations or connec-
tions of any kind ever existed between the French ex-Captain Dreyfus,
now on Devil's Island, and any German agents.'"

At Eennes this announcement was not received until late in the even-
ing of September 8th.

The hall of the Lyc^e was crowded at the opening of the session of the
court-martial September 8th. At an early hour a long line of people
awaiting admission was formed outside the door. Standing-room at the


back of the court commanded fifteen and twenty francs for places, and the
demand was increasing as the trial approached its end. Among the privi-
ileged persons in attendance was Baron Eussell of Killowen, Lord Chief
Justice of England, who was conducted to a seat by General Chanoine and
M. Paleologue, of the French Foreign Office. The chief justice came to
Rennes especially from Paris, where he had attended the sessions of the
Anglo- Venezuelan boimdary arbitration commission, in order to see some-
thing of the trial.

Maitre Demange at once began his speech for the defence. He pointed
out the strength of the testimony against Esterhazy, and during the course
of his remarks he cried : " Do you think if Dreyfus and Esterhazy had
been before the court-martial in 1894, that the court would have con-
demned Captain Dreyfus ? "

As he asked this question, counsel pointed to the prisoner sitting be-
fore him and added: "No."

The voice of M. Demange was beautifully modulated, sometimes soft
and persuasive and at other times sharply argumentative. Then again he
frequently filled the hall with his stentorian tones, as he thundered with
indignation at the charges against Dreyfus, the shameful weakness of the
prosecution, and in denunciation of Esterhazy.

Captain Dreyfus listened to the oration of M. Demange with a mask
of impassibility resembling his attitude during the first days of the trial.
Whatever the prisoner's feelings were as he heard M. Demange pleading
for his liberty, he carefully concealed them.

It was generally noticed that when Maitre Labori entered the court that
morning he spoke to M. Demange in a deprecating tone, and a sharp dis-
cussion ensued, almost bordering on a dispute. The same thing took place
during the usual brief suspension of the sitting. The two lawyers appar-
ently were at loggerheads about the best method of conducting the case,
which, it was said, boded no good for Dreyfus, and nobody was astonished
when it was announced that M. Labori would not address the court in be-
half of the prisoner.

The following, in substance, was the plea of M. Demange :

" However solemn the occasion may be, I must at the outset protest
with all my soul against the allegation which one of the witnesses did not
shrink from uttering. The witness said that whoever advocated the revi-


sion of this case, that is to say, whoever believed in the innocence of
Dreyfus, was working against the army and against the country. I here
declare that he does not know me, and that he does not know Maitre
Labori. Neither M. Labori nor myself would be here if those statements
were true. Let me tell you simply this: The day on which, amid the
shock of furious political passions, I saw let loose over our country this
tempest of madness, when I saw everything I had learned to revere and
love since childhood imperilled, I, a Frenchman, the son of a soldier, en-
dured every torture. When I turn my eyes toward Devil's Island, where
was buried alive one who, from the bottom of my heart, I believe to be a
martyr, I began to wonder if Divine justice had not abandoned him.
Since then I have recovered. I have hearkened to the voice of my con-
science, and have pursued an undeviating course, free from anger or pas-
sion, not heeding hatred or prejudice. I have done my duty. You will
do yours, which is to mete out justice."

Continuing, M. Demange said he wished to define clearly the prisoner's
position. On this subject he said :

" When the case of the revision began, Dreyfus was a convict, and se-
rious presumptions of his innocence were necessary before the case could
be taken up by the Court of Cassation. To-day it is for the Public Prose-
cutor to prove his guilt. Let no one blame us, therefore, if we have not
proved the innocence of our client. The task was not incumbent upon
us. It is for the Government Commissioner to show that he is guilty of
the abominable crime imputed to him."

Counsel then protested against the suggestion that an attempt had
been made to put Esterhazy on trial, explaining that all the defence de-
sired was that the innocence of Dreyfus should appear. M. Demange
added that he was satisfied that the judges of 1894 were honest, like the
present judges. But if the former had seen Esterhazy's handwriting, he
asserted, they would have pronounced a different verdict.

Counsel then entered into details, dealing with the information col-
lected regarding the prisoner in 1894, during the course of which he re-
marked :

"The only real information is that found in the cries from his soul.
Even before his conviction, what was his first cry ? ' I will not take my
life because I am innocent.' "


Proceeding, M. Demange dilated upon the prisoner's increasing pro-
testations of innocence, and his touching letters to his family, ex-
claiming :

" In them you see his soul, which speaks. Alone in his tomb he com-
munes with himself. He cherishes the hope of seeing his innocence

Among the letters of Dreyfus read by M. Demange was one in which,
after asserting his innocence, and declaring that he always served the tri-
color flag with devotion and honor, the prisoner complained that he was
treated on Devil's Island like an ordinary convict. It concluded: "I wish
to live."

"That is a soldier's soul," exclaimed M. Demange, "and it is that man
you call a traitor. That is the man who, in your presence, restrains his
sobs and his emotions. Ah, gentlemen, I would rather defend guilty men
who are clever dissemblers, than an innocent man who is too sincere."

After this, other letters of the prisoner were read, all breathing the
same desire to live to see his honor restored, though the writer was broken
down in health and spirit. One letter, written in 1897, appealed to Gen-
eral de Boisdeffre to lend his generous aid in securing for the writer res-
toration of his liberty, of which he had been robbed. Writing to his
brother, the prisoner said :

" While one or more scoundrels are walking free, it would be a happy
release for me to die. But it would be a disgrace to Lucille and my chil-

The letter concluded urging his brother to find the culprits, while care-
fully protecting the interests of the country.

" Is not that the cry of an innocent man ? " asked M. Demange, added :
" Yet, though General de Boisdeffre received the letter, he did not forward
it to Mathieu Dreyfus. Five Ministers of War pronounced Dreyfus
guilty, while admitting that it was impossible to produce proofs. Gen-
eral de Boisdeffre, General Gonse, and General Eoget also affirmed their
belief in his guilt. But, happily, they stated reasons, and, instead of
proofs, only accumulated presumptions."

Counsel, after pointing out that the generals only studied the case at
the very moment when public aberration had reduced the whole question
to a conflict between Dreyfus and the army, thus making it impossible that


the generals should not be prejudiced, and probabilities and presumptions
seemed to them to be proofs, said :

" I must acknowledge, however, the honesty and honorable conduct of
the generals, who could not have acted otherwise than they have done."

M. Demange then paid an eloquent tribute to the "honesty of purpose"
manifested by the generals. Dealing next with the alleged confessions,
counsel read the report of Captain Lebrun-Eenault, of the Eepublican
Guard, who had the prisoner in custody previous to his degradation, and
maintained that the exact words of Dreyfus, which were now known only
to reflect the ideas which Colonel Du Paty de Clam had previously ex-
pressed to the prisoner, point out that, although Du Paty de Clam main-
tained the contrary, it was certain that imagination had played a much
greater part than reason in his acts. It was also significant, counsel said,
that the report drawn up by Du Paty de Clam on the day following his
interview with Dreyfus had disappeared. Du Paty de Clam, counsel inti-
mated, had evidently forgotten his remarks to Dreyfus, as he had forgot-
ten other facts.

M. Demange then said that he was surprised at the attitude of General
Gonse toward the alleged confessions, and marvelled at the fact that Cap-
tain Lebrun-Eenault, who was sent to the Elys^e palace expressly to re-
peat the confessions, did not mention them. It was likewise inexplicable
that General Saussier and General Mercier took no steps to verify the so-
called confessions, which were lost sight of until M. Cavaignac, as Minis-
ter of War, sprung them upon the Chamber of Deputies as proof of the
guilt of Dreyfus. The Court of Cassation, the lawyer also said, had justly
decided that they were not confessions.

Discussing the secret dossier, M, Demange examined the documents
one after the other. He said that all interpretations of the document
commencing "doubt proof" were hypothetical, but they applied much
more easily to Esterhazy than to Dreyfus. It was so with the other docu-
ments. There was nothing to indicate that Dreyfus was concerned any
more than any one else. The leakage ascribed to Dreyfus could only refer
to the plans of fortresses, and this leakage continued until 1897.

The document containing the words "Cette canaille de D ,"

according to M. Demange, only indicated a "poor devil," and could rot be
ascribed to a man whom another letter described as a friend in the Second


Bureau. No credence could be attached to some of the documents, while
others were wholly inapplicable to the prisoner.

Counsel said the sixth document was a letter written from Germany
by Count von Munster-Ledenburg, the German Ambassador to France, to
Colonel Schwartzkoppen, the military attach^ of Germany at Paris, con-
taining the words, "As regards Dreyfus, we are easy." M. Demange
pointed out that the Dreyfus case was the universal topic of discussion
in Germany at the time, and at first the German officials might have
been uneasy, but had evidently reassured themselves.

M. Demange was indignant at the fact that, because Count vou Mun-
ster-Ledenburg had not expressly declared Dreyfus was innocent, the pros-
ecution should have deduced from his words an avowal of his guilt.

Referring to the letters of November 2d and November 11th, sent by
Major Panizzardi to his chief, it had been alleged that they proved that
Dreyfus had relations with Colonel Schwartzkoppen, whereas in reality
Major Panizzardi merely denied that Dreyfus had any relations with
Italy. It was impossible to doubt the authenticity of these facts. It
was incredible that Colonel Schwartzkoppen and Major Panizzardi de-
ceived their governments. The omission of Esterhazy's name from these
letters was intentional.

In concluding his examination of the secret dossier, M. Demange re-
marked that he felt compelled to refer to these documents emanating from
foreigners, as General Mercier relied upon them to support the guilt of

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 26 of 35)