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 27 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 27 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Dreyfus. The statements of the military attaches, that they had no rela-
tions with Dreyfus, had been confirmed by the statement of the Minister
of State in the Eeichstag, who could not have been deceived by his attach^
at Paris.

"I have finished," then said M. Demange, "my examination of the se-
cret dossier. All France knows the worthlessness of its contents. Yet,
it is owing to it that the country has been distracted for months, and it
has been thought that there were documents and proofs in it which might
bring France to blows with a neighboring power. You are now acquaint-
ed with it. The secret dossier has been exploded. You will pardon me
the loss of time I have imposed upon you. I will now take up the cir-
cumstantial evidence."

M. Demange then discussed the circumstantial evidence adduced in



PLEADING FOR THE PRISONER 815

1894. He said the perturbation of Dreyfus at the dictation scene had
nothing to do with producing the idea of guilt in the minds of those pres-
ent. Colonel Du Paty de Clam, M. Cochefert, chief of detectives, and
Major Gribelin were all convinced beforehand of his guilt as a result of
evidence which they considered imimpeachable ; so much so that they
wished Dreyfus to blow his brains out, but Dreyfus declined because he
was innocent.

Continuing, counsel for the defence successively showed the hoUow-
ness of the stories of Mathieu Dreyfus's attempt to corrupt Colonel Sand-
herr, the late Lieutenant-Colonel Henry's theatrical denunciation of Drey-
fus as a traitor Eu the court-martial of 1894, and the reports of the detec-
tives. He pointed out how the prosecution had advanced as proof the
alleged statements of individuals, who were not in the pay of the War
Office, but whom they carefully abstained from producing for examination ;
especially dwelling upon Henry's statement in 1894 — which has since been
admitted to be false — that a certain War Ofl&ce employee informed him
that Dreyfus was the culprit.

M. Demange then showed the emptiness of the gambling and libertine
charges against the prisoner, and said that the simplest actions of Dreyfus
were misconstrued, even his legitimate desire to obtain knowledge being
imputed as a crime.

After demonstrating the falsity of the testimony of M. de Beaure-
paire's witnesses, Mueller, Dubreuil, Villon, and Cernuschi, counsel said
that the only proof left was the bordereau. Who could have sent it?
Who wrote it? Complete light could only be shed on it by the produc-
tion of the notes enumerated in the bordereau. This had been said by
General Zurlinden himself. But counsel asked the court to remember,
with reference to those notes, that all General Deloye could say was that
it was not impossible that Dreyfus might have possessed them. This
was all he could say when it was a question of high treason. M. De-
mange added:

" You will find this phrase in the mouth of a witness entitled to your
entire respect, and it is upon the strength of such a statement that Drey-
fus is to be proved guilty. I will not attempt to obtain such light on the
documents, but since theories have been promulgated I will suggest one.
I will seek to show that you must put aside even the technical value of



316 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

the bordereau and the last effort of the prosecution. I will seek to com-
bat the circumstantial evidence it has invoked."

At this point M. Demange paused to announce that he would need
another two hours and a half to finish his plea, and as it was then already
eleven o'clock the court adjourned until 7:30 A.M., September 9th, thus
fixing the opening of the court of that day an hour later than usual.

The general impression formed was that the speech of M. Demange
must have had a certain effect on the judges, as it was a strong effort ar-
gumentatively.

Great interest was aroused during the day by the arrival at Eennes of
Max Eegis, the ex-mayor of Algiers, the notorious Jew-baiter. He was
attended by a couple of Algerians in native costume, and a crowd of peo-
ple followed him about. He stopped to take some refreshment at the
principal caf^, and the place was immediately invaded by a gaping crowd.
M. Eegis was present in the court-yard of the Lyc^e during the morning,
and discussed the situation with the leading anti-Dreyfusards. His pres-
ence was not considered a good omen for the peace of the town.

The local papers published an open letter from M. Eegis to the Premier,
M. Waldeck-Eousseau, declaring that he, M. Eegis, intended to preserve
the greatest calm, but adding that if an attempt was made to arrest him
he would resist.



AGAIN FOUND GUILTY 317



Chapter LII.

AGAIN FOUND GUILTY

When Rennes awoke on September 9th, the appearance of the streets
left no doubt that the final crisis of the great trial had been reached. The
whole town bristled with soldiers; all the streets near the court were
guarded at intervals by double lines of infantry ; two companies of infan-
try sat on the church steps adjoining the Lyc^e, with their arms stacked
in front of them, while in the courtyard of the prison and at various
other points cavalry could be seen in readiness. Every one entering the
court was subjected to the closest scrutiny. Even the few women who
attended the session were deprived of their small sunshades before being
permitted to pass.

A larger crowd than usual witnessed the passage of Dreyfus from the
prison to the Lyc^e. But the crowds were nowhere large, and, aside
from the presence of the military, the town was as tranquil as usual.

The prisoner looked flushed and in ill health, apparently suffering from
the great strain.

M. Demange resumed his speech for the defence, which was interrupt-
ed on September 8th by the adjournment of the court. The audience
listened to his remarks with the most serious attention, and he was also
closely followed by the judges. In his appeal to them he strongly ac-
centuated the words : " Why, you must not say a thing is possible. A
judge must have proof. No doubt must rest on the conscience of a judge."

In the second row of the privileged public, facing the judges, sat
Mathieu Dreyfus, brother of the prisoner, whose sunken eyes and careworn
face reflected his anxiety and anguish. It was evident that he had not
slept during the night.

The prisoner sat behind a captain of gendarmes, and as M. Demange
refuted the arguments made in the speech of the Government Commissary,
Major Carriere, the prisoner continually turned his face toward Mathieu,



318 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

to watch the effect it had upon him. Dreyfus, however, did not display
the intense emotion with which his heart, on this critical morning, must
have been bursting.

Gendarmes were plentifully sown among the audience, and were posted
in the gangways around the court- room. There was a pleasant contrast
in their pretty blue uniforms with white cord trimmings, to the sober
attire of the majority of the spectators. They kept their eyes roaming over
the court, and their hands rested on the black leather cases in which nes-
tled big army revolvers.

The silence was only broken by the occasional rustling of a reporter's
notebook, or the neigh of an artillery horse picketed in a street beside the
Lyc^e. Now and then there was the sound of the rattling of a rifle or the
clanking of the sword of some officer hastily crossing the court-yard where
the troops were stationed.

The peroration of M. Demange was a splendid piece of oratory. His
voice thundered through the court, echoed outside, and the officers and
troopers stationed in the court-yard crowded around the entrance hall,
standing on tiptoe to catch a glimpse of the speaker, while inside the hall
many of the audience were moved to tears.

The speech was very skilfully arranged, and was devoted to demolish-
ing stone by stone the arguments of the prosecution. Counsel began by
saying :

"When yesterday's (September 8th) sitting was ended I was about to
deal with what is called the direct evidence, namely, the technical value
of the bordereau. The prosecution, by taking separately each of the notes
containing information supplied by the writer of the bordereau, deduced
the opinion that he alone could have communicated information of the
documents. If he had in his possession proof of this, he should have given
it. It devolved upon the Public Prosecutor to prove that Dreyfus pos-
sessed this information, and nobody but he. That is how the question
must be put. We are before a court of justice, in which suppositions have
no place. In order to produce proof, I must ask, and we must know, what
was the information supplied. Consequently, we must have the notes de-
livered. Otherwise we have to deal with a hypothesis. That is my first
objection, to which I challenge the Public Prosecutor to reply."

M. Demange, remarking that the hypothesis accepted in 1894 could



AGAIN FOUND GUILTY 319

not now be maintained, proceeded minutely to examine the theories of the
Headquarters Staff, especially General Roget's, whose arguments he refu-
ted seriatim. He similarly analyzed the evidence of General Mercier,
reiterating the arguments as to the utter improbability of an artilleryman
employing the incorrect terms used in the bordereau in connection with
artillery matters.

He then reviewed the well-known facts in the case, showing that Col-
onel Schwartzkoppen, the German military attach^ at Paris, supplied
information to his government, years before, regarding the " 120-short "
field-gun. He said that only the internal construction of the brake of this
gun remained secret, but Dreyfus knew nothing about it, and never asked
for information on the subject from the few officers knowing it. There-
fore, counsel contended, Dreyfus could not have betrayed this secret.

Regarding the practical tests of the gun, M. Demange continued, Drey-
fus was similarly ignorant. General Mercier's statement that Dreyfus
attended the trials could be dismissed, as it had been proved that the
only leakage resulting from those trials had been furnished by the spy
Grenier. It was thus apparent into what error all the witnesses support-
ing the prosecution had fallen. Their opinions had been imperfectly
formed, and the judges must be on their guard against it, honest and sin-
cere as it doubtless was.

After refuting the imputations against Dreyfus based on the Firing
Manual, which he said were purely hpyothetical, M. Demange continued,
emphatically :

" The prosecution has no right to rest content with hypothesis. We
are in a court of justice. The defence alone has the right to say it is pos-
sible or not possible. As General Deloye declared, it is the duty of the
Public Prosecutor to produce evidence. But he had adduced none against
Dreyfus."

After showing that the prisoner had never seen the " 120-short " field-
gun fired, counsel read letters from Esterhazy proving that the latter at-
tended the Chalons camp, and probably attended the trials.

"But the prosecution," M. Demange added, "has not to choose between
Dreyfus and Esterhazy. It has only to prove Dreyfus guilty, and could
not do so. On the contrary, we have shown that Dreyfus did not possess
the documents communicated nor the information contained in them."



320 DREYFUS. THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

Dealing with the note referring to the covering of troops, M. Demange
pointed out General Mercier's change of front on this subject. In 1894
the general contended that it was in reference to the commands of these
troops that the leakage occurred, while he now asserted that it was regard-
ing the mobilization and transport of the troops. The prosecution had
thus advanced two versions, which must cause the judges terrible search-
ings of conscience, especially as no proofs had been furnished. What right
had the prosecution to advance statements without corroboration? Coun-
sel put it to the conscience of the judges, and he had asked this of Gene-
ral Mercier himself.

Continuing to plead with great warmth and eloquence, and with clear,
closely reasoned arguments, which were followed with breathless interest
by the entire audience, M. Demange declared that he did not believe in
the complicity of Henry and Esterhazy, for Henry was honorable and loyal.
If he had been the accomplice of Esterhazy, Henry would have destroyed
the bordereau. Possibly Henry had inadvertently divulged information
to Esterhazy, under the impression that he was conversing with an hon-
orable, straightforward man like himself, and, discovering in 1898 that he
had placed his hand in a traitor's, he committed a crime upon which
counsel declined to enlarge, since the perpetrator had already paid for it
with his life. What other explanation could be given of the suicide of
this man, with whom the whole army sympathized ? Even after the dis-
covery of the crime Henry had spoken of scoundrels. Was one of these
not Esterhazy and the other Weil, the latter having unconsciously betrayed
information? General Saussier had every confidence in Henry's loyalty,
and Esterhazy might have received information from Henry or Weil, who
were unconscious informers.

A loyal soldier. General Billot, had moreover said that the traitor was
not alone. In his mind he connected the names of Esterhazy and Drey-
fus. Counsel did not profess to clear up the matter, but he wished it to
be cleared up. It must be proved that Dreyfus knew Esterhazy and Weil.
M. Demange did not fear whatever light could be thrown on the case.
Three men were in the Intelligence Department — Henry, Esterhazy, and
Weil. Esterhazy had even placed the others under pecuniary obligations,
and all these were closely bound together.

Eeplying to tho hypothesis deduced in the note relating to the modifi-












\-^.Jif- -,agff-^iaf-J>^^ ■•' ^-^ . s^




3i
00



o

o

3



^1

1^



p-(

m

O

H
■Jl

pq
O

P3

H

pq

W



iLA"-



> $





CAPTAIN DREYFUS: "THAT I AM ALIVE TO-DAY I OWE TO MY WIFE."




tup: trial at rennes: colonel joual'st reading the arraignment at

THE BAR.



if








/J



'/J



73

H


H

Zi

o

O



pq




MAITRE DEMANGE ADDRESSING THE COURT IN BEHALF OF DREYFUS.



AGAIN FOUND GUILTY 321

cation of the artillery, M. Demange pointed out that the information could
have been obtained by Esterhazy at the Chalons camp, while, regarding
the Madagascar note, Dreyfus had nsver had possession of it, though one
of his most bitter prosecutors. Colonel Du Paty de Clam, had it in his
office.

Eetuming to the Firing Manual, counsel showed how Esterhazy se-
cured a copy of it, and pointed to the fact that his government had asked
Colonel Schwartzkoppen for supplementary information, which showed
that the original intelligence was incomplete, and supplied by an in-
competent person, not an artilleryman. The memorandum to Colonel
Schwartzkoppen asked for the Firing Manual, which must, therefore, have
been offered, and to the graduation bar, which Esterhazy had obtained from
a friend and kept.

Had all these proofs existed against Dreyfus, how strong would have
been the case for the prosecution ! But their hypotheses were not even
probable, while the theories of the defence were all supported by docu-
ments culled from the secret dossier.

Dealing with the last line of the bordereau, " I am going to the man-
oeuvres," counsel produced a note, written by Dreyfus, proving that he
knew in May, 1894, that he would not attend the manoeuvres with his
regiment.

Counsel dwelt upon the importance of the fact that the probationers
absolutely knew they would not attend the manoeuvres, though certain
individuals cherished the hope that exceptions might be made in their
favor. Only one actually applied to General de Boisdeffre for permission,
but the latter did not promise anything. M. Demange protested against
the Government Commissioner's assertion that it had been agreed that the
probationers should attend the manoeuvres as officers of the Headquarters
Staff, and said he wished to know if Major Carriere adhered to his state-
ment on the subject.

Major Carriere recalled that General de Boisdeffre had declared that
he had promised to do his best to satisfy the probationers.

M. Demange — And you call that an agreement?

Major Carriere — Certainly.

M. Demange — Then we do not agree as to the meaning of the word

in the French language.
21



322 DEEYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

Continuing, M. Demange exclaimed :

" Hear what the author of the bordereau writes : ' I am going to the
mancEuvres.' Is that only a belief? Isn't it rather a certainty ? Well,
gentlemen, I have shown you that Dreyfus could not have written that.
On the contrary, Esterhazy's regiment was at the manoeuvres, regarding
which information was supplied. Was Esterhazy there? I do not know.
But what is certain is that Dreyfus, if he was the author of the bordereau,^B
could not have written at the end of August: ' I am going to the ma-nH
noeuvres,' since he knew the probationers were not going. I think I have
shown that when all the points of the accusation are examined they van-
ish. So much for the technical value of the bordereau. I have argued
foot by foot with my honorable friends on the other side, and I have
shown the fallacy of the mental process whereby they reached the point
that they were able to affirm on their soul and conscience that Dreyfus
was guilty. I might therefore say with pride that I have demolished the
case of the prosecution. But I am not entitled to do so. I merely say
to the court, be careful. You must be certain, and before you can say
Dreyfus is guilty you must, on your souls and consciences, be able to de-
clare that there is no doubt that no one but he had the documents enu-
merated in the bordereau. But you do not know what the documents are.
That is my last word on this portion of the case. I have now to deal
with the material evidence."

Counsel next dissected the handwriting evidence, and reminded the
court of the groans with which M. Scheurer-Kestner was greeted when he,
displayed the handwriting of Esterhazy in the tribune of the Senate.

" 'Is that all you have? ' disdainfully asked the Senators. To-day the
prosecution has no more."

Eeferring to M, Bertillon, M. Demange said he did not understand his
conclusions. "He produced in court a monumental work," said the law-
yer. " But I am convinced, and hope to prove, that M. Bertillon's system
is false. But, I must do him the justice of saying that when the Prefect
of Police applied to M. Bertillon he appealed to a man of genius who, by
the creation of the Anthropometric Department, conferred upon society an
inestimable benefit. Still, I can only say, ' You have fallen into error
which may be fatal to an innocent man.' "

Proceeding, M. Demange demolished M. Bertillon's theories, dealing



AGAIN FOUND GUILTY 323

at great length with the different contentions, admitting that some of them
might content certain scientific minds. But, he added, it must not be for-
gotten that genius had a dangerous neighbor. It did not do to have too
much genius, and M. Bertillon's work was liable to land the judges in se-
rious error. The statements of scientists, the evidence of common sense,
and the declarations of M. Bertillon himself showed that the experts had
not proved the guilt of Dreyfus. If the handwriting of the bordereau was
disguised, how could Dreyfus's exclamation, "This handwriting has a
frightful resemblance to mine," be explained?

Counsel said he was convinced that the bordereau was written, in his
natural hand, by Esterhazy. The paper on which it was written also con-
demned Esterhazy.

M. Demange next examined at length the theory that Esterhazy was
a straw-man, and showed this was rendered quite untenable by every ac-
tion of Colonel Picquart, who was accused of trying to effect the substitu-
tion. How, if Esterhazy was a straw-man, could he have lost his head
at the moment of his arrest to such an extent that he contemplated sui-
cide? The lawyer contrasted the lives of Dreyfus and Esterhazy, saying
there was nothing but idle tales against the former, while the latter was
always in search of a five-franc piece. When the time arrived for the
judges to say whether the bordereau was in the handwriting of Dreyfus,
they would have to remember that all the experts admitted that it was
not, while all of them admitted that it showed traces of Esterhazy's
handwriting. They would also have to compare the demeanor of Drey-
fus during the past five years with the demeanor of Esterhazy to-day :
One, on Devil's Island, constantly turning his eyes toward France and
appealing to Greneral de Boisdeffre against his conviction, demanding only
justice ; the other full of recriminations and bitter abuse, writing insulting
letters to the generals.

M. Demange, after reverting briefly to the charges in connection with
the Eobin shell, protested against General Mercier's refusal to discuss
motives, as being merely a psychological question, while it was in
reality a question of common sense. There was an entire lack of mo-
tive in the case of Dreyfus, while there was every motive upon the
part of Esterhazy. Dreyfus was rich and happy, he had two children
who were his pride and joy, and a wife of whose devoted courage all



324 DREYJ?US: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

were aware — everything a man could desire. Why should he have
risked all that?

"Believe me," added M. Demange, "my conviction comes from an
honest heart. I am convinced that the judges, with the doubt which
will remain in their minds, will find it impossible to declare the prisoner
guilty, for they will rather turn their eyes to the men hiding on the other
side of the Channel. I ask you once more whether the noble, dignified
bearing of the prisoner since 1894 is not that of an honest, loyal soldier? "

After this, M. Demange, with his voice broken with emotion, tears
streaming down his face, and hands trembling, concluded his brilliant
flight of oratory.

"Ah, gentlemen," said he, "I must now close in order to restore you
to your well-earned repose, for I have now been addressing you for two
days. But, there is one thing which detains me. When I have finished,
the last word of the defence will have been said, and you will go to your
private room to consider your verdict. Once there, what are you going
to ask yourselves? If Dreyfus is innocent? That is not the point. But
is he guilty? You will ask yourselves, ' Are we going to say he sent
these documents when we do not even know what they contain ? ' and
when you say to yourselves, after having heard that the defence is power-
less, it is true, to throw complete light on the matter — but, believe me,
speaking from sincere, honest conviction, we do not know what he sent.
Another may have given these documents ; but he, no, no ! These were
things he could not have given — " when you say to yourselves further that
this writing is not his, when you say to yourselves that there is over there
on the other side of the Channel a man of whom we have to say, ' It is
he,' — will there be, gentlemen, no doubt in your minds? That doubt will
be sufficient for me. That doubt will mean his acquittal. It will not
permit honest, logical consciences to say this man is guilty. Very well,
gentlemen, I ask only one thing, and that is that at this moment you cast
one more backward glance. Remember what the prisoner was on Devil's
Island. Remember how, for five years, this man, in spite of the most
horrible sufferings, notwithstanding the most cruel torture, was never for
a single moment alone, a guard with him night and day, and never allowed
to exchange a syllable with a fellow-creature. I am not speaking of the
torture of his being placed in irons ; I am speaking of the terrible mental



AGAIN FOUND GUILTY 325

torture to which he was subjected. Well, gentlemen, the spirit which
these sufferings, these tortures could not curb, that spirit which remained
proud and high, I ask you, is it the spirit of a traitor? I ask you if it is
not that of a loyal, tried soldier? I ask if the man who only lived for his
children, that they may bear an honored name, this man here who has the
cult of honor in his family, I ask if you can believe him to be a villain
and a traitor to his motherland? No, I have no need to proclaim his in-
nocence, I say your verdict wOl not be a verdict of guilty, for you have
been enlightened. The judges of 1894 had not been so enlightened. They
have not before them Esterhazy's writing. But you had it. That is the
conducting wire, as God has permitted you, gentlemen, to have it.



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 27 of 35)