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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Jews are nowhere more hated than in Russia. The judges were every-
where described as criminals, and gloomy speculations were indulged as to
what future is in store for France.

Papers of all nationalities began to fall in with the idea of boycotting
the Exhibition.

At Budapest, Hungary, the following semi-official statement was is-
sued :

" A movement is on foot against sending exhibits to the Paris Exposi-
tion of 1900. Many intending exhibitors have withdrawn their notices
of participation on the ground that the present state of things in France
renders it unsafe to send exhibits."

The Cathedral Chapter of Grau, capital of the county of the same
name, on the Danube, and the residence of the Catholic Primate of Hun-
gary, has cancelled its decision to send exhibits, giving as a reason its un-
willingness to endanger works of art worth millions of florins.

In the United States the feeling was intense.

Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, following its time-honored custom of

taking definite action with regard to all great public questions, considered

the Dreyfus case on September 10th, and adopted resolutions condemning

his sentence and expressing sympathy for the unfortunate captain and his

family, and sorrow for France. The famous old church was crowded to

the doors, and every sympathetic reference to Captain Dreyfus made by
22



338 DEEYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

the speakers, among whom was Dwight L. Moody, the evangelist, was
received with warm applause. There was a particularly enthusiastic
demonstration when a communication from the representatives of the
Congregational churches of Great Britain, who have just arrived here to
attend the International Council in Boston, was read.

Mr. Moody, after the close of the opening service, said :

" Our friends who are going to the coimcil in Boston, having learned
of Captain Dreyfus' s fate on their arrival here, want to express an opinion
on the great Dreyfus trial in France and to offer their sympathy for that
unfortvmate man. Fortunate, rather, for he is suffering for his race. I
am glad that they have the opportunity to express that opinion."

The Eeverend Horace Porter, assistant pastor of Plymouth, then intro-
duce G. W. Cowper Smith, one of the delegates, who read the following
communication from himself and his associates :

"That we, the undersigned, representatives of the Congregational
churches of Great Britain, deputed to attend the International Council in
Boston, having learned on our arrival in the United States of the fresh
condemnation of Dreyfus, hereby record our amazement and sorrow at the
verdict, unsustained as it is by public evidence, and express our fervent
hope that a sense of justice may yet be aroused among the people of
France that will lead them to repudiate the decision of a military court,
and thus vindicate the rule of national righteousness."

Mr. Smith then said:

" I thank you for this opportunity of being able to introduce in historic
Plymouth Church, which has so many happy associations with the Eng-
lish people, the expression of opinion which I have just read."

Mr. Porter, in behalf of Plymouth Church, read the following resolu-
tion, which was unanimously adopted :

" We who are here for Christian worship would remember with sym-
pathy the undeserved suffering of Alfred Dreyfus and his family, and de-
clare our sorrowful surprise at the manner of his recent trial and renewed
condemnation, which we trust and pray may yet be overruled by higher
authority, acting for the honor of France, for the love of justice, and in
the fear of God."

Mr. Moody prefaced his sermon, as he had done at the morning ser-
vice, by a sympathetic reference to Dreyfus and his family.



INDIGNATION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD 339

A mere glimpse of the handsome red and blue uniform of a French
army officer on the stage of the Criterion Theatre during the evening of
September 9th, the day of the verdict, drove one of the most fashionable
audiences of the season to fury, and caused one of the greatest pro-Dreyfus
demonstrations that has occurred in New York. Eeserved and good-man-
nered* men and women suddenly assumed the deportment which might be
expected of an audience at a Bowery melodrama. Men in evening dress
sprang to their feet, deriding the French army, and women hissed in scorn.
Cries of " A bas 1' arme^e ! " " Shame on France ! " and " Long live Drey-
fus ! " were heard all over the house. People in the orchestra and boxes
were as demonstrative as those in the gallery. The confusion lasted fully
three or four minutes, during which the play was interrupted.

At Louisville, Ky., about twenty-five citizens met at the office of Dr.
P. G. Trunnell, on September 10th, to perfect the organization of what is
to be known as the "Dreyfus Sympathizers." Dr. Trunnell, one of the
organizers, said that the object of the organization was to interest the
United States Government in the case of Captain Dreyfus, who, they
believe, had been wrongfully punished.

A resolution was offered to the effect that the organization appeal to
the Congress of the United States asking that body not to make any fur-
ther appropriation for the Paris Exposition, and an amendment was offered
appealing to the citizens of the United States who champion Captain Drey-
fus's cause, to avoid France in every way possible, and thus administer a
rebuke to that nation for the injustice to one of its subjects. The minis-
ters of all denominations in Louisville were asked to assist in promoting
the interests of the body.

The Marion Club, of Indianapolis, consisting of one thousand Repub-
licans of that city, put itself on record on September 10th, as in favor
of boycotting the Paris Exposition. The following telegram was sent by
the officers to Senators Beveridge and Fairbanks and Representative Over-
street, all of whom belong to the club :

" The Marion Club, as a club which is a lover of justice and fair play,
urges you, as a just rebuke to military despotism, which has convicted
Captain Dreyfus, an innocent man, to use your influence with President
McKinley to get him to withdraw the American Commissioner to the
Paris Exposition."



340 DKEYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

In Philadelphia the verdict was condemned on every side.

Former Postmaster-General John Wanamaker said :

"While the Dreyfus episode is the business of France, the widespread
interest in the case makes it impossible not to hold an opinion upon it.
The larger jury of the people throughout the world will not agree with
the verdict rendered, unless it is intended that the pardoning power will
promptly remit the unexpired portion of the ten years' sentence."

Former District Attorney George S. Graham said : " I am not surprised
at the finding of the court-martial, but, in my opinion, it is the most un-
justifiable verdict ever rendered in any civilized community."

Dr. Solomon Solis-Cohen: "To my mind the Dreyfus question is not
a Jewish one. Dreyfus was never identified with his people, either racially
or religiously, prior to his persecution. The fact of his Hebrew birth has
been used by his enemies and those of justice and the republic to intensify
the prejudice against him, and effect his condemnation. The Dreyfus
affair is in no sense a Jewish matter, but involves the liberty and con-
science of all mankind."

Morris Newburger, president of the Jewish Publication Society of
America: "The condemnation of Dreyfus was a foregone conclusion.
Every one realized that the trial from its beginning until its ending was a
travesty upon justice."

Ealph Blum : " I have always felt that poor Dreyfus was made the
victim of a conspiracy, because he was born a Hebrew."

Chicago was equally indignant.

L. B. Wright, of Wright's Iron Printing Company, said :

" I have discharged all the Frenchmen in my employ, for one of them
said Dreyfus should be hanged. The judges violated every principle of
law and justice."

Clarence Buckingham, a prominent member of the Stock Exchange:
"The verdict is an outrageous one, and every one in the United States
thinks so. Those who prosecuted Dreyfus are smirched."

Frank O. Lowden, a lawyer and representative of the George M. Pull-
man estate : " A republic can do more injustice than a kingdom or an em-
pire."

George Gibault: "It is a perversion of justice."

Theodore Prouix : " The French papers have .printed everything unfa-



INDIGNATION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD 341

vorable, and the American papers all that was favorable, to Dreyfus.
Three-fourths of the French people believe him guilty. There vyill be a
revolution in France, but the army v/ill suppress it."

French Consul Henri Merou : " The verdict v?ill have no effect upon
the Exposition."

E. G. Keith, President of the Continental National Bank: "The ver-
dict is unfair."

Eabbi E. G. Hirsch, of the Sinai Congregation : " I expected this ver-
dict. It was necessary to prevent the overthrow of the republic, but the
army now will save it. Franco has passed through a dangerous crisis,
but the republic will stand. This verdict is an infamous one, but it de-
cides the question of a republic, a kingdom, or a royalty. For a time at
least the republic is safe. "

Eli B. Elsenthal : " There was no evidence of guilt whatever. The so-
called honor of the army of France was placed above truth and justice."

Levy A. Eiel: "There was no evidence against Dreyfus."

B. J. Rosenthal: "French judges do not consider evidence."

A. M. Eothschilds: "It was simply an outrage of justice."

A. J. Nathan: "This verdict is infamous."

Boston was not behind in expressing its indignation.

General William A. Bancroft said the whole trial had been remarka-
ble for the kind of testimony accepted as evidence. The judge were mili-
tary. Civil judges might have decided otherwise.

Colonel Melvin O. Adams said :

"If such judgments as this in the Dreyfus case can stand in a coun-
try, safety of the individual is a mere name. I have no opinion whether
Dreyfus be in fact innocent or guilty, but his condemnation by such means
is monstrous."

In the Hebrew quarter of Boston the opinion is summed up as follows :

" Of course, Dreyfus is not guilty. If he were they would shoot him,
and the fact that they have given him a ten years' sentence shows that he
is innocent."

Jay Hunt, recently in Paris, says :

" The verdict was to uphold the government and army. The president
of the court was prejudiced from the start."

Upon learning the verdict of the Dreyfus court-martial Assistant Dis-



342 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

trict Attorney Maurice B. Blumenthal, of New York, took steps for the
organization of a committee of citizens, irrespective of religious belief, and
including clergymen of different denominations, to hold a mass meeting to
protest against the conviction of Captain Dreyfus. A representative com-
mittee was appointed to wait upon President McKinley and petition him
to appeal to the President of France to pardon the unfortunate victim.

This extraordinary outcry of all Christendom against the heinous out-
rage done to justice and humanity at Eennes was classed as "The Fifth
Act " in a powerful contribution to the Aurore, signed by Emile Zola, on
September 10th. The article read as follows:

THE FIFTH ACT.

I am in mortal fear. It is not anger, avenging indignation, the need
to proclaim the crime and demand its punishment in the name of truth
and justice that I feel now; it is terror, the sacred terror of the man who
sees the impossible being realized, the rivers flowing back to their sources,
the earth turning without the sun ; and what I fear is the distress of our
generous and noble France. My dread is of the abyss into which she is
falling.

We had fondly imagined that the Eennes court-martial was the fifth
act of the terrible tragedy which we have been living for close upon two
years past. All the dangerous stages seemed to us to have been passed.
We thought we were approaching a " d^noument " of pacification and con-
cord. After the dreadful battle the victory of right became inevitable ;
the play must end happily, with the classic triumph of the innocent.

And we have been deceived ! A new stage opens before us, and that
the most unexpected f^nd the most terrifying of all, still further darkening
the drama, prolonging it and urging it toward an unknown termination,
before which our very reason trembles and grows weak.

The Eennes trial was only the fourth act, and, great God ! what will
the fifth act be? What new tortures and sufferings will it bring? To
what supreme expiation will it force our people? For is it not certain
that the innocent cannot be twice condemned, and that such an ending
would blot out the sun and arouse the nations?

Ah ! that fourth act ! that trial at Eennes ! In what mortal agony did
I not live through it, in that solitude where I had taken refuge in order to
disappear from the scene like a good citizen desirous of giving no cause
for passion and disorder ! With what a tightening of the heart did I not



INDIGNATION THEOUGHOUT THE WOELD 343

await telegrams, letters, papers; and what revolt and what pain did their
perusal not cause me ! The days of that splendid month of August were
blackened, and never have I felt the gloom and chill of mourning under
skies so glorious.

Assuredly, for two years past, I have had my share of suffering. I
have heard the mob shouting death at my heels. I have seen at my feet
an ignoble mire of insult and menace. For eighteen months I tasted the
despair of exile. Then there were my two trials — lamentable spectacles
of villainy and iniquity.

But what are my trials in comparison with the trial at Eennes? Idyls,
refreshing scenes where hope flowers.

We had been witness of monstrous things — the prosecution of Colonel
Picquart, the inquiry into the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassa-
tion, the " loi de dessaisissement " which resulted from it. But all that
seems childish now. The inevitable progression has followed its course.
The Rennes trial stands out above all like the abominable flower growing
atop of all these heaped-up dunghills.

We have seen the most extraordinary collection of attempts against
truth and justice — a band of witnesses directing the course of the trial,
making their plans every night for the cowardly ambush of the morrow,
pressing the charge, in place of the Public Prosecutor, with lies ; terroriz-
ing and insulting those who contradicted them, imposing with the inso-
lence of their stripes and their plumes upon a tribunal knuckling down
to this invasion of their chiefs, visibly annoyed at seeing them in crimi-
nal posture, acting in obedience to a peculiar mental process ; a grotesque
Public Prosecutor, who enlarges the bounds of imbecility and leaves to
future historians a charge whose stupid and murderous emptiness will be
an eternal cause of wonder; a man of such senile and obstinate cruelty
that it seems to be irresponsible, born of a human animal not yet classed ;
a defence which it was at first endeavored to assassinate, which was after-
ward made to sit down every time it became troublesome, and which
finally was refused permission to produce the decisive proof which it de-
manded, the only witnesses who know.

And this abomination lasted for a whole month, in face of the innocent
— that piteous Dreyfus, the poor shreds of whose humanity would make
the very stones weep. And his former comrades came and kicked him,
and his former chiefs came and crushed him with their rank so as to save
themselves from the galleys. And there was never a cry of pity, never a
throb of generosity in those shameful souls !

And it is our sweet France that has given this spectacle to the world !



344 DEEYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

When the complete report of the Eennes trial is published there will
exist no more execrable monument of human infamy. This is beyond all.

Never will a document of such wickedness have been furnished to
history. Ignorance, folly, cruelty, falsehood, crime are displayed there
with an impudence that will make future generations shudder. There are
in that collection avowals of our baseness at which human nature will
blush.

And it is this that makes me tremble, for in order that such a trial
should have been possible in a nation, that a nation should lay itself open
to the world for such a consultation upon its social and intellectual condi-
tion, it must be undergoing a terrible crisis.

Is it death that is approaching? And what bath of truth, of purity,
of equity will save us from the poisonous mud in which we are agonizing ?

As I wrote in my letter to the President of the Republic after the scan-
dalous acquittal of Esterhazy, it is impossible for a court-martial to undo
what a court-martial has done. That would be contrary to discipline, and
the judgment of the Eenues court-martial — that judgment which in its
Jesuitical embarrassment has not the courage to say yes or no — is the
plain proof that military justice is powerless to be just, since it is not free,
since it defies evidence almost to the point of again condemning an inno-
cent man rather than cast doubt upon its own infallibility. Military jus-
tice is seen to be nothing more than a weapon of execution in the hands
of the commander. Henceforward it can but be an expeditious form of
justice in time of war — it must disappear in time of peace. The moment
it showed itself incapable of equity, of simple logic, and of mere common
sense it condemned itself.

Has thought been given to the atrocious situation in which we are
made to stand among the civilized nations?

A first court-martial, deceived in its ignorance of the law and its want
of skill in sifting evidence, condemns an innocent man. A second court-
martial, which likewise was deceived by a most impudent conspiracy of
lies and frauds, acquits a guilty man. A third court-martial, when light
has been thrown on the matter, when the highest magistracy of the coun-
try consents to leave to it the glory of making reparation for an error,
dares to deny the full daylight, and a second time finds the innocent
guilty.

This is irreparable. The last crime has been committed. Jesus was
condemned but once.

But let final ruin come, let France fall a prey to faction, let the coun-
try be aflame and perish in the embers, let the army itself lose honor



INDIGNATION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD 345

rather than confess that some members of it made a mistake, and that cer-
tain generals were liars and forgers. The ideal shall be crucified; the
sabre must remain king !

And so we find ourselves in this glorious condition before Europe, be-
fore the world ! The whole world is convinced of the innocence of Drey-
fus. If a doubt had remained in the minds of some far-away race the
blinding glare of the Eennes trial would have carried the full light there.
All the courts of the Powers that are our neighbors are well informed,
know the documents, have proof of the worthlessness of three or four of
our generals and of the shameful paralysis of our military justice.

A moral Sedan has been lost — a Sedan a hundredfold more disastrous
than that other one where only blood was spilt.

And I repeat, what fills me with dread is that this defeat of our honor
seems irreparable, for how are we to quash the judgments of three courts-
martial ? Where shall we find the heroism to confess our fault, to march
onward with head uplifted proudly? Where is the government with
courage to be a government of public safety? Where are the chambers
that will understand and act before the inevitable final crash ?

The worst of it all is that we have come to a reckoning day of glor}\
France desires to celebrate its century of labor, of science, of struggle for
liberty, for truth and for justice. No century that has passed has been
marked by more superb effort; this will be seen later on. And France
has called together in her capital all the peoples of the earth to glorify her
victory, liberty won, truth and justice promised to earth.

Thus, a few months hence the peoples will come ; and what they will
find will be the innocent twice condemned, truth trampled upon, justice
assassinated. We have fallen beneath their contempt; and they will
come and laugh at us in our very faces. They will drink our wines, they
will kiss our maid-servants, as people do in the low-class inn which is
not above that sort of thing. ,

Is all this possible? Are we going to allow our Exhibition to be the
foul, despised place where the whole world is willing to seek its pleasures
only?

No ! a thousand times no ! We must have, and that at once, the fifth
act of the monstrous tragedy, even if we have to lose our flesh and blood
in the effort. We must have our honor restored before we salute the
visiting peoples in a France healed and regenerated.

This fifth act haunts me, and I am ever recurring to it. I am work-
ing on it; I build it up in my imagination.

Has it been noticed that this Dreyfus affair, this gigantic drama whicb



346 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

moves the universe, seems to be staged by some sublime dramatist desirous
of making it an incomparable masterpiece? I "will not recall the extraor-
dinary incidents that have stirred our souls. At every fresh act passion
has swollen, horror has grown more intense. In this living piece it is
Fate that has genius. Destiny is there, actuating the players, determining
the incidents under the tempest it imchains ; and assuredly it wants the
masterpiece to be complete, and is preparing for us a fifth act — a super-
human act which will make France glorious once again and replace her in
the forefront of the nations.

For you may be sure of this — it was Fate that decreed the supreme
crime — the second condemnation of the innocent. The crime had to be
committed for the sake of the tragic grandeur, the sovereign beauty, the
expiation, perhaps, which will allow of the apotheosis, the final transfor-
mation scene.

And now that we have sounded the uttermost depths of horror, I
await the fifth act, which will end the drama by delivering us, by restor-
ing us to health and fresh youth.

I will now speak plainly of my fear. It has always been, as I have
allowed it to be understood on several occasions, that the truth, the deci-
sive, overwhelming proof should come to us from Germany. We must
look the possibility of Germany bringing out the fifth act of the drama in
a thunderclap squarely and courageously in the face.

Here is my confession.

Previous to my trial, in January, 1898, I learned with certainty that
Esterhazy was the traitor; that he had supplied M. de Schwartzkoppen
with a large number of documents ; that many of these documents were in
his handwriting, and that a complete collection of them was to be found
in the War Office at Berlin.

From that time on I have, as a good Frenchman, been in constant
dread. I thought with terror that Germany, our enemy of to-morrow,
would perhaps slap us in the face with the proofs in its possession. Ac-
cordingly, with Labori, I decided to cite as witnesses the foreign military
attaches. We were well aware we were not likely to bring them to the
bar, but we desired to let the Government know we knew the truth, in the
hope that it would take action.

No heed was taken. Mock was made of us. The weapon Germany
has in her hands was left there, and matters remained unchanged up to
the time of the Eennes trial.

On my return to France I hurried to see Labori. I insisted, with the
energy of despair, on steps being taken to bring the matter before the Cab-



INDIGNATION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD 347

inet, to demonstrate the dreadful character of the situation, and to ask if
the Government would not intervene, so as to obtain the documents for us.
That was certainly a most delicate matter. Then there was that unfortu-
nate Dreyfus to be saved, so that we were prepared to make every conces-
sion for fear of irritating public opinion, already at a high pitch of excite-
ment. If the court-martial acquitted Dreyfus, it thereby deprived the
documents of their nocuous virus ; it shattered in the hands of Germany
the weapon she might have used. The acquittal of Dreyfus meant the
recognition of an error and its reparation.

My patriotic torment grew more intolerable when I felt that a court-
martial was about to aggravate the danger by again condemning the inno-
cent — the man whose innocence would one day be cried aloud by the pub-
lication of the documents in Berlin.

That is why I have never ceased to act, begging Labori to demand the



Online LibraryW. (William) HardingDreyfus: the prisoner of Devil's Island, a full story of the most remarkable military trial and scandal of the age → online text (page 29 of 35)