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 9 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 9 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


tion of the accusation. Moreover, at the court-martial the oral evidence
and the explanations brought out by the defence reduced this entire por-
tion to nothing. (5) Moral causes — gaming, and women. I can only
refer to my own declaration, in opposition to which no serious proof was
given, no signed deposition. The court upheld none of the atrocious anony-
mous documents which had been appended to the dossier. In a letter to
the Minister of Justice a few months ago I asked, in the name of the im-
prescriptible rights of truth and justice and in the interests of my wife and
children, that a serious inquiry should be made to elucidate definitively
all the anonymous gossip and reports. To sum up, I appeal. Monsieur le
Ministre, to General de Boisdeffre's loyalty and to that of those who ob-
tained my condemnation, that it may be made known that at the court-
martial, where the minister was represented, the accusation, save for the
first document — of which I had no knowledge, and which was communi-
cated therefore solely to the judges — the accusation was reduced by dis-
cussion to a presumption as to handwriting.

No. 1 in this letter refers to M. Bertillon's theory that the bordereau
was both in Captain Dreyfus's hand and in that of his brother.

The following letter was written by Dreyfus to President Faure. It is
dated February 14, 1897, but was never finished nor sent:



DREYFUS'S FINAL APPEAL FOR JUSTICE 109

I venture once more to appeal to your high justice. For more than
two years, innocent of an abominable crime the very thought of which
revolts my whole being, I have been undergoing the most frightful torture
imaginable. I cannot possibly tell you, Monsieur le President, how I have
suffered ; my heart alone knows. Another pen than mine is needed to
describe tortures such as these. And if I have lived, holding down my
heart, keeping myself in check, swallowing insults and affronts, it is be-
cause I would have wished to be allowed to die tranquil, knowing that I
should be leaving to my children a pure and honored name. But, alas ! I
have been too great a sufferer. I can endure it no longer. Ah ! Mon-
sieur le President, I know not how to find words to tell you how I suffer,
to describe the horrors of every minute in every hour of the day, horrors
against which I succeeded in bearing up only in the supreme hope of be-
holding once more for my dear children the day when honor will be
restored to them. And in this profound distress of my whole being, in
this agony of my whole strength, it is to you, Monsieur le President, to
the Government of my country, that I throw again this supreme cry of
appeal, sure that it will be heard. And this supreme cry of appeal from
a Frenchman, a father, who now for more than two years has lain on a
bed of torture, is ever the same — namely, for the truth of this terrible
drama, for the unmasking of the man or men who committed the infamous
crime. . . .

On January 6, 1898, Dreyfus wrote to the Governor of Guiana:

I venture to send you the enclosed letter, asking you if it would not
be possible to have it transmitted at my expense by telegraph to the
President of the Republic.

The enclosed letter was as follows :

Not having received any letters from my family now for two months,
my brain maddened, I onco more afhrm to you that I never was, that I am
not, and that I cannot possibly be the culprit.

The following is the letter written by Dreyfus to the head of the local
penitentiary service in October, 1896, on learning that he was to be put
in irons :

I have just been warned that I shall be put in irons at night. I
should be very grateful to you if you would tell me what fault I have



110 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

committed. Since I have been here I believe that I have strictly obeyed
all the rules, all the orders. All that has been told me I have executed in
its integrity. I take the liberty, therefore, of asking you what I must do
to avoid so terrible a punishment. I have been living only out of duty to
my wife and children. If I am to die, the sooner the better.



OPENING OF THE SECOND DREYFUS COURT-MARTIA.L 111



Chapter XXVI,

OPENING OF THE SECOND DREYFUS COURT-MARTIAL

The second trial by court-martial of the prisoner of Devil's Island
opened at 7:10 a.m., on Saturday, August 7th, in the Lyc^e, at Rennes,
France.

The Prefect of Police and the Chief of the Secret Police, M. Viguier,
arrived at the Lyc^e shortly before 6 a.m., and began superintending the
police measures. At that hour only half a dozen gendarmes were visible
about the building. They were stationed about the entrance of the Lyc^e
and inside the garden in front of it. The garden is separated from the
sidewalk of the Avenue de la Gare, on which the Lycee is situated, by a
high iron railing, within which no one was allowed to pass until Dreyfus
was transferred from his quarters in the military prison to a room within
the Lyc^e building, where he awaited the summons to appear before the
court.

Strong detachments of gendarmes, mounted and on foot, began to arrive
at about six o'clock, and took up positions in the side avenues about the
Lyc^e and in all the by-streets leading to the Avenue de la Gare.

At 6:15 A.M., the Prefect gave orders to close the Avenue de la Gare
for three hundred yards in front of the Lyc^e, and also to close all the
streets leading into the avenue. Consequently, gendarmes were imme-
diately drawn up across the avenue, and the space mentioned was cleared
of all spectators.

A detachment of infantry was then stationed across the avenue in two
double lines, leaving between them a passage for Dreyfus to cross the ave-
nue from the prison to the entrance to the Lyc^e. The crowd, which by
that time had increased to a few hundreds, was kept by gendarmes at a
distance of one hundred and fifty yards on either side of this passage.

Dreyfus soon afterward emerged from the military prison escorted by a
lieutenant and four gendarmes. The party crossed the roadway quickly



112 DKEYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

and disappeared within the Lyc^e, the hedges of soldiers hiding the pris-
oner from view.

From 6:30 to 7 a.m., the principal personages participating in the
court-martial arrived. The various generals interested passed into the
building, with hardly a cheer from the spectators, General Mercier (who
was Minister of War when Dreyfus was originally convicted) alone being
greeted with a few cries of " Vive 1' Armee ! " " Vive Mercier ! " as he drove
up in a closed carriage.

Colonel Picquart (the former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Bureau of
the French army, whose favorable attitude toward the prisoner did so much
to bring about a revision of the latter's sentence) arrived at the Lycee on
foot, at 6 :40, wearing a high silk hat and a black frock coat, with the red
ribbon of the Legion of Honor in his buttonhole. There was no demon-
stration when he appeared, but Picquart seemed to be in a most cheerful
mood, smiling and chatting with his friends.

The scene inside the court-room was most animated. Every inch of
space was filled a quarter of an hour before the proceedings opened.

The large, airy, well-lighted room in which the trial took place was in
the form of a concert hall, with a stage and proscenium. The platform
of the stage had been brought forward beyond the footlights. The room
was painted a light brown. The names of famous Bretons, such as Le
Sage, Kenan, and Chateaubriand were inscribed in golden letters on an
ornamental band about midway between the floor and ceiling. A long table
covered with dark-blue cloth was ranged in front of the stage, behind
which were the seats of the members of the court-martial, a higher-backed
armchair having been provided for the president. The seats were of pol-
ished mahogany, and were upholstered in dark-red cloth.

Behind the members of the court sat the Supplementary Judges, who
must attend all sittings and be able to replace any member who may be ill
or otherwise be unable to be present. Behind the Supplementary Judges
were a few privileged members of the public.

On a portion of the stage extending in front of the proscenium was
placed the bar at which the witnesses were heard. The bar had a wooden
frame of light polished oak. It stood out prominently against the dark
cloth-covered table of the judges.

On the right end of this extended platform stood a table for the use of




1






Sg!W^





-5






i



"^^
fc









:2i

o

o

I— I



■73









.f e~^ — r









\Xm



V



^%






1




K



y-t



■f.

X






2:



<;

X
X




^KSjSSSfS^3




KETLKX UF DREYFUS: ARRIVAL ON BOARD THE "SFAX."




RETURN OF DREYFUS: LEAVING THE TRAIN AT RABLAIS NEAR RENNES.




SOME OF THE PRINCIPAL PERSONAGES IX THE DREYFUS CASE.
M. Scheurer-Kestner, vice-president of tlie Senate. — 2. M. Ranc, senator for the Seine. —
3. General Billot, War Minister. — 4. M. Darlan, Minister for Justice. — 5. M. de Castro, who
was the first to assert that the bordereau was written by Major Esterhazj-. — 6. Maitre Leblois,
counsel for Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart. — 7. Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart. — 8. Colonel
Panizzardi, Italian military attach^ in Paris. — 9. M. IMathieu Dreyfus, brother of Alfred
Dreyfus. — 10. Lieutenant-Colonel Henry. — 11. Colonel Schwartzkoppen, German military
attach^ in Paris. — 12. M. Henri Rochefort, director of the Intranskjeant. — 13. M. Castelin,
deputy for the Aisne. — 14, 15, 16, and 17, MM. Gobert, Pelletier, Charavay, and Cr^pieux-
Jamin, handwriting experts.



OPENING OF THE SECOND DREYFUS COURT-MARTIAL 113

Maitres Labori and Demange, counsel for the prisoner, and their two secre-
taries. At the left side was placed a table for Major Carriere, the Gov-
ernment Commissary", or official representative of the Government, and his
assistants,

MM. Labori and Demange, on entering, were greeted with warm
handshakes from numerous friends in the court-room.

Former President Casimir-Perier entered shortly before seven. An
officer met him at the door, and conducted him to the velvet- covered chairs
reserved for witnesses. The ex-President found himself between Generals
Billot and Chanoine, both in parade uniform. Other ex-Ministers of
War — Generals Mercier and Zurlinden, and M. Cavaignac — were seated
in a row behind them.

The widow of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry, dressed in deep mourn-
ing, was present in court, and replied to her name in the roll-call of
witnesses.

M. Mathieu Dreyfus and Dreyfus's father-in-law, M. Hadamard, were
among the audience.

On either side of the hall was a solid mass of newspaper men, for
whom rough pine tables and benches had been provided.

In the centre of the hall were placed chairs for the witnesses. Behind
these was another batch of the privileged public, and then a row of sol-
diers, in parade uniform, drawn across the hall, with fixed bayonets.

A narrow space between the troops and the back of the hall was filled
with the "general public," which consisted of a few journalists and detec-
tives, with gendarmes sprinkled among them. Back of the stage hung a
crucifix, before which the witnesses took the oath. Facing this, at the
back of the hall, was an emblem of the Eepublic, with the letters " E. F."
(R^publique Francaise).

At seven o'clock MM. Labori and Demange and Major Carriere, with
their assistants, took their seats, and the witnesses followed. Then sharp
words of command rang out from the officer in charge of the row of sol-
diers at the back of the court:

" Carry arms ! "

" Present arms ! "

There was a rattle of arms, and a moment later Colonel Jouaust, fol-
lowed by the other members of the court, walked on to the stage from a
8



114 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

room behind and took seats at the table. Deep silence fell upon the audi-
ence, who up to then had been engaged in a buzz of conversation.

Colonel Jouaust and his colleagues were in full parade uniform, with
plumes in the front of their peaked shakos. Colonel Jouaust's aigrette
was white ; the others were tri-color. On the right hand of Colonel Jou-
aust sat Lieutenant- Colonel Brongniart, Major de Breon, and Captain
Parfait, all of the artillery. On his left hand were Majors Profillet and
Merle and Captain Beauvais, also of the artillery.

An interesting figure, seated behind the judges, was the famous and
mysterious lady known as La Dame Blanche (the White Lady), who never
absented herself from any of the proceedings connected with the Dreyfus
affair, including all sessions of the Esterhazy, Zola, and Picquart trials,
and the proceedings of the Court of Cassation. All the actors in the
drama are known to her. She is a pronounced Dreyfusarde, very rich,
and wears splendid pearls. She was dressed that day in a " picture " hat
with black and white trimmings and a pink bodice. Her name is IVIlle.
Blanche de Comminges, whose salon Colonel Picquart frequented, and
whom Henry and Du Paty de Clam attempted to implicate in an alleged
plot of the Dreyfusards to substitute Esterhazy for Dreyfus as the author
of the bordereau.

The splendid, gold-laced uniforms of the generals summoned as wit-
nesses, and the uniforms of the judges, soldiers, and various officers pres-
ent, combined to light up the dark tints with which the walls of the hall
were painted, and gave a bright appearance to the court-room.

Immediately after Colonel Jouaust was seated he gave the order to
bring in the prisoner. All eyes were then turned to the right of the stage,
beside which was a door leading to the room in which Dreyfus was await-
ing the summons. Almost everybody but the most prominent officers
stood on his feet. Some mounted on benches to obtain a better view.

There were subdued cries of "Sit down," amid which the door opened
and Captain Alfred Dreyfus, preceded and followed by a gendarme, emerged
into the court-room. His features were deathly pale and his teeth were
set, with a determined but not defiant bearing. He walked quickly, with
almost an elastic step, and ascended the three stepb leading to the platform
in front of the judges. There ho drew himself up erect, and brought his
right hand sharply to the peak of his k^pi, or military cap, giving the mili-



OPENING OF THE SECOND DKEYFUS COURT-MARTIAL 115

tary salute in a fashion that showed that years of incarceration of Devil's
Island and terrible anguish of body and mind had not impaired his sol-
dierly instinct and bearing.

The prisoner then removed his k^pi and took the seat placed for him,
facing his judges, just in front of his counsel's table, and vs^ith his back
to the audience. Behind him sat a gendarme holding a sheathed sabre in
his hand. Dreyfus, in a new uniform of captain of artillery, dark blue
with red facings, fixedly regarded the judges, with immovable features and
without stirring hand or foot, scarcely even moving his head during the
whole course of the proceedings, except when he entered and left the
court-room.

Dreyfus answered the formal question of the President of the Court,
Colonel Jouaust, as to his name, age, and other matters, in a clear, deter-
mined voice. He sat facing the members of the court, with his hands
resting on his knees, an apparently impassive figure.

After the formal proceedings, which occupied a couple of hours. Colo-
nel Jouaust began the examination of Dreyfus respecting the famous bor-
dereau, and what Dreyfus did with or could have known of its contents.

When Dreyfus, wearing eyeglasses, rose from his seat for examination,
he stood erect, holding his k^pi in his hand before him. He looked Colo-
nel Jouaust straight in the face during the whole interrogatory

After the court had decided not to adjourn on account of the absence
of certain witnesses, the clerk of the court was ordered to read M. d'Or-
mescheville's bill of indictment of 1894, which he did in a loud voice,
Dreyfus, in the mean while, listening unmoved as the old charges against
him were read.

This is the famous Acte d' Accusation first made public in Le Siecle
of Paris, January 8, 1898. It accused Dreyfus of writing the bordereau,
and of transmitting it, together with the documents therein mentioned, to
the agent of a foreign power. It also made serious reflections upon his
personal character.

Colonel Jouaust then said :

" It results from the documents just read, that you are accused of hav-
ing brought about machinations or that you held relations with a foreign
power, or with one or more of its agents, in order to procure it means, by
delivering to it documents indicated in the incriminating bordereau, to



116 DREYFUS: THE PRISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

commit hostilities or undertake war against France. I notify you that
you will be allowed to state during the course of these proceedings any-
thin that appears to you useful for your defence."

Colonel Jouaust then added, as he handed the prisoner a long slip of
cardboard upon which the bordereau was pasted:

" Do you recognize this document ? "

Dreyfus replied, with a passionate outburst:

"No, Colonel! I am innocent! I declare it here as I declared it in
1894. I am a victim "

His voice here was choked with sobs, which must have stirred every
spectator in court. The voice of the prisoner did not seem human. It
resembled the cry of a wounded animal, as he ended his reply with the
words, " Five years in the galleys ! My wife ! My children I My God ! I
am innocent ! "

Colonel Jouaust said :

"Then you deny it?"

Dreyfus replied :

"Yes, Colonel."

On the court proceeding to the roll-call of witnesses, the most notable
absentees being Esterhazy, Du Paty de Clam, and Mile. Pays, Dreyfus
half turned his head toward the seats of the witnesses, especially when
the clerk of the court called Esterhazy. But when no response was re-
ceived, Dreyfus returned to his previous attitude, looking straight in front
of him at Colonel Jouaust.

Esterhazy at the time was in London. Du Paty de Clam was recently
released from Cherche-Midi prison, where he was confined pending an in-
vestigation to ascertain whether in shielding Esterhazy in 1897-98 he had
acted on his own initiative or by orders of his superior officers.

Mile. Pays is a friend of Esterhazy, who plotted with him to ruin
Picquart.

The court afterward retired to deliberate upon the case of the absentee
witnesses, the soldiers in the court-room, in response to the word of com-
mand of the lieutenant in charge, carrying and presenting arms, the judges
leaving and re-entering to the rattle of rifles, as the line of soldiers
brought their weapons, like a piece of machinery, smartly to the " Pre-
sent ! " and then dropped the butts heavily to the floor.



OPENING OF THE SECOND DREYFUS COURT-MARTIAL 117

This performance was repeated every time the court retired.

Dreyfus was withdrawn into an inner room during the court's retire-
ments.

On the final return of the court, Major Carriere said he thought the
absence of Esterhazy ought not to prevent the trial proceeding.

"Let him come or not," he said, "it matters nothing to me."

Colonel Jouaust then proceeded to question Dreyfus as to his knowl-
edge of the "120 brake," a hydro-pneumatic attached to an improved
French field-piece. The prisoner, in brief, said he had only a general idea
of the brake.

The court then questioned the prisoner about his knowledge of the
covering of troops, and Dreyfus replied that he had no knowledge of this
question in 1894, though he had certain documents concerning the provi-
sioning and conveying of troops.

Colonel Jouaust then turned to the note referring to Madagascar,
and said : " You could have obtained this document from the corporal's
desk?"

Dreyfus — That is not usual.
Colonel Jouaust — No, but it could be done. The copying was finished
on the 28th, and the bordereau dates from several days later. Now for
the fifth document — the proposed Firing Manual for Field Artillery.
Did you know the contents of the manual?

Dreyfus (emphatically) — No; never!

Colonel Jouaust — A witness said you communicated it to him.

Dreyfus (vehemently) — No; never!

Colonel Jouaust — A major lent you this Firing Manual?

Dreyfus — No, Colonel. I deny it absolutely.

Dreyfus then entered into an explanation of dates, but his memory
failed him.

Colonel Jouaust then took up the famous phrase, " I am starting for
the manoeuvres." He said:

" You had never been to the manoeuvres, because it was the custom
only for probationers to go. But at the date of the bordereau you did not
know you would not go ? "

Drevfus — There had been fresh orders given.

Originally it was alleged that the bordereau was written in April,



118 DEEYFUS: THE PKISONER OF DEVIL'S ISLAND

1894. It was subsequently discovered that Dreyfus knew as early as
March that he was not to attend the spring manoeuvres. The real date
was then given, August, 1894. But Dreyfus did not attend the fall ma-
noeuvres of that year.

Colonel Jouaust — At the Military School you were reproached for
saying the Alsatians were happier as Germans than as Frenchmen?

Dreyfus — No ; I never uttered such words.

General de Dionne, who was at the head of the War School in 1892,
where Dreyfus was a pupil, made this charge against the prisoner before
the Court of Cassation. Thereupon the general was confronted with a
report written by him in 1892, in which he spoke of Dreyfus in the high-
est terms.

Colonel Jouaust — How do you account for the bad note against you
written by a certain general?

Dreyfus — He said he wanted no Jews on the General Staff.

Colonel Jouaust — In 1892 you went to Mulhouse, Alsace. What
did you do there?

Dreyfus — I went there three times, by way of Basle, without a pass-
port. Once I arrived at my house, I never went out.

Colonel Jouaust — You went there in 1886?

Dreyfus — Yes, possibly.

Colonel Jouaust — Did you follow the German manoeuvres?

Dreyfus — No.

Colonel Jouaust — Did you converse with German officers?

Dreyfus — I deny it absolutely.

Colonel Jouaust — What was your object in going to Alsace?

Dreyfus — For instruction.

Colonel Jouaust — You wrote certain information respecting the man-
ufacture of the Robin shell. You said this information was requested by
a professor of the Military School. This was false. I am told you asked
officers indiscreet questions.

Dreyfus — It is not true.

Colonel Jouaust — Had you relations with a lady living in the Eue
Bizet?

Dreyfus — I had no intimate relations with her.

Colonel Jouaust — I do not mean from a moral point of view, but



OPENING OF THE SECOND DREYFUS COURT-MARTIAL 119

from a military point of view. This woman was suspected of spying.
Why did you visit her?

Dreyfus — I only learned that at my trial, in 1894, Major Gendrion
introduced me to her, and as Gendrion belonged to the Inquiry Bureau he
ought to have known if she was suspected.

Colonel Jouaust — Passing through the Champs Elys^es in 1891 you
remarked : " Here lives a certain lady. Suppose we call on her. I have
lost heavy sums at her house."

Dreyfus — It is false. I have never gambled. Never ! Never !

Colonel Jouaust — Did you know Colonel Du Paty de Clam?

Dreyfus — No.

Colonel Jouaust — Did you know Lieutenant-Colonel Henry?

Dreyfus — No.

Colonel Jouaust — You have no motive for animosity against them ?

Dreyfus — No.

Colonel Jouaust — And Colonel Picquart?

Dreyfus — I don't know him.

Colonel Jouaust — And Lieutenant-Colonel Esterhazy?

Dreyfus — I don't know him.

Colonel Jouaust — Colonel Du Paty de Clam said that your writing at
his dictation was less firm when he made you undergo a trial on the day
of your arrest.

Dreyfus — My writing has not much changed.

Here a non-commissioned officer who was standing in front of Major
Carriere crossed the platform and handed Dreyfus his writing on the day
of his arrest.

Dreyfus replied by insisting there was nothing to show any percepti-
ble change in his handwriting.

Here occurred one of the most dramatic scenes in the examination.
Dreyfus, tremendously excited, swayed to and fro for a moment, and then
all his pent-up emotion and indignation burst forth, and he cried in a pierc-
ing voice, heard throughout the court and even by those standing outside :

" It is iniquitous to condemn an innocent man. I never confessed any-
thing ! Never ! "

Dreyfus, as he uttered the words, raised his right, white-gloved hand
and held it aloft as if appealing to Heaven to vindicate him.



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 9 of 35)