“THE PERMANENT glamour of France” was a phrase used by an Englishman of the nineties, Sir Almeric Fitzroy, secretary to the Duke of Devonshire. He felt that every child of Western civilization owed a debt to the country from which “came the impulse that dissolved the old world in agony and gave life and passion to the present.” For two years, from the summer of 1897 to the summer of 1899, the agony of that old dissolution returned. Rent by a moral passion that reopened past wounds, broke apart society and consumed thought, energy and honor, France plunged into one of the great commotions of history.
During those “two interminable years” of struggle to secure the retrial of a single individual unjustly convicted, “life was as if suspended,” wrote Léon Blum, a future premier, then in his twenties. It was as if, in those “years of tumult, of veritable civil war … everything converged upon a single question and in the most intimate feelings and personal relationships everything was interrupted, turned upside down, reclassified.… The Dreyfus Affair was a human crisis, less extended and less prolonged in time but no less violent than the French Revolution.”
It “would have divided the angels themselves,” wrote the Comte de Vogüé, on the opposite side from Blum. “Above the base motives and animal passions, the finest souls in France flung themselves at each other with an equal nobility of sentiments exasperated by their fearful conflict.”
The protagonists felt a grandeur in the storm that battered them. Decadence was exorcised in the violence of their feelings and they felt conscious again of “high principles and inexhaustible energies.” Hate, evil and fear encompassed them as well as courage and sacrifice. Their combat was epic and its issue was the life of the Republic. Each side fought for an idea, its idea of France: one the France of Counter-Revolution, the other the France of 1789; one for its last chance to arrest progressive social tendencies and restore the old values; the other to cleanse the honor of the Republic and preserve it from the clutches of reaction. The Revisionists, who fought for retrial, saw France as the fount of liberty, the country of light, the teacher of reason, the codifier of law, and to them the knowledge that she could have perpetrated a wrong and connived at a miscarriage of justice was insufferable. They fought for Justice. Those on the other side claimed to fight in the name of Patrie for the preservation of the Army as the shield and protector of the nation and of the Church as the guide and instructor of its soul. They assembled under the name of Nationalists and in their ranks sincere men were partners of demagogues and succumbed to methods that were reckless and brutal and terms that were foul, so that the world watched in wonder and scorn and the name of France suffered. Locked in mutual ferocity and final commitment the contenders could not disengage, although their struggle was splitting the country and fostering opportunity for the enemy at their frontiers, which every day the enemy measured.
“We were heroes,” proclaimed Charles Péguy, who transmuted and exalted the political movements of his day in mystical terms inherited from Joan of Arc. In 1910 he wrote, “The Dreyfus Affair can only be explained by the need for heroism which periodically seizes this people, this race—seizes a whole generation of us. The same is true of those other great ordeals: wars.… When a great war or great revolution breaks out it is because a great people, a great race needs to break out, because it has had enough, particularly enough of peace. It always means that a great mass feels and experiences a violent need, a mysterious need for a great movement,… a sudden need for glory, for war, for history, which causes an explosion, an eruption …” If the values and forces Péguy saw in the Affair were large, it was because they were those of that time and that experience. The Affair made men feel larger than life.
The casus belli was condemnation of a Jewish army officer for treason in behalf of Germany; the object of the battle was on the one hand to prevent, on the other to obtain, a reopening of the case. Because it was weak, the Government employed all its weight on the side of its would-be destroyers to brace and support the original verdict. It was not the stable, respected, solidly embedded government enjoyed by the English, but insecure, thinly rooted in public confidence, flouted and on the defensive. Twice since 1789 the Republic had gone down under resurgent monarchy. Emerging as the Third Republic after 1871, France had revived, prospered, acquired an Empire. She nourished the arts, gloried in the most cultivated capital, and raised, on the hundredth anniversary of the Revolution, the tallest structure in the world, the daring, incredible Tower that soared above the Seine, a signal flag of her vitality and genius.
Always, however, in political life the nation was at odds with itself, galled from within by the unreconciled, unsubdued adherents of the ancien régime and Second Empire, oppressed from without by the superior strength of Germany and the sense of unfinished war between them, hankering for revanche without the means to achieve it. In 1889 discontent with the Republic came to a head in the attempted coup d’état of General Boulanger supported by all the elements of Counter-Revolution who made up the collective Right—the Church, the two hundred families of business and finance, the displaced aristocracy, the royalists and the followers and sympathizers of these groups. Boulanger’s attempt ended in fiasco memorable for the remark of the Premier, Charles Floquet, “At your age, General, Napoleon was dead.” Nevertheless his attempt shook the Republic and stirred up both the expectations and the frustrations of the Right.
The arrest, trial, conviction and sentencing of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an artillery officer assigned to the General Staff, which took place in the months October to December, 1894, was not a deliberate plot to frame an innocent man. It was the outcome of a reasonable suspicion acted on by dislike, some circumstantial evidence and instinctive prejudice. Evidence indicated betrayal of military secrets to Germany by some artillery officer on the General Staff. Dreyfus, besides fitting the requirements, was a Jew, the eternal alien: a natural suspect to absorb the stain of treason. As a person he was not liked by his brother officers. Stiff, silent, cold and almost unnaturally correct, he was without friends, opinions or visible feelings, and his officiousness on duty had already attracted unfavorable attention. These characteristics appeared sinister as soon as he came under suspicion. His appearance, the reverse of flamboyant, seemed the perfect cover for a spy. Of medium height and weight, medium brown hair, and medium age, thirty-six, he had a toneless voice, and unremarkable features distinguished only by rimless pince-nez, the fashionable form of eyeglasses in his milieu. His guilt was immediately presumed. When motive and material proof could not be found, the officers who were charged with the inquiry, especially Major Henry and Colonel du Paty de Clam, made up for it by helpful construction and fabrication. Certain that they were dealing with a vile traitor who had sold secrets of military defence to the traditional enemy, they felt justified in supplying whatever was needed to convict him. The dossier they assembled, later to be known as the “Secret File,” was persuasive enough to cause the General Staff chiefs sincerely to believe Dreyfus guilty, but it lacked legal proof. Knowing this, and dealing in a case particularly sensitive because of the involvement of Germany, and fearing the blackmail of the press, the then Minister of War, General Mercier, ordered, and the Government of which he was a member permitted, Captain Dreyfus’ court-martial to be held in camera. When the questions of the five military judges indicated their doubts, the Secret File was submitted to them and withheld from the defence. Convinced by these documents, the judges reached a unanimous verdict of guilty. The death penalty for political crimes having been abolished in 1848, the sentence was life imprisonment. On the prisoner’s refusal to confess and persistence in maintaining his innocence, he was ordered confined to Devil’s Island, one of three prison islands off the coast of South America used for desperate criminals. A barren rock two miles long and five hundred yards wide, it was cleared of all but guards to accommodate Dreyfus alone, in a stone hut under perpetual surveillance. The unanimity of the military court seemed confirmed by a published rumor that Dreyfus had confessed, which, as it passed from journal to journal, acquired the force of an official statement and satisfied the public.
The next three years were marked by intense efforts both to uncover and to conceal the truth. The long, painful struggle for judicial review, or “Revision,” as it was known, originated in the doubts of a few scattered individuals uneasy about the closed trial, who suspected a miscarriage of justice. They uncovered the illegality of the trial—on the basis of material not having been shown to the defence—and accumulated evidence pointing to the probable true culprit, a raffish and exotic officer, Major Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy. Their pressures and pryings caused the officers originally responsible for constructing the case against Dreyfus to try to strengthen its weaknesses. Major Henry of the Counter-Espionage Bureau, which by nature dealt in forgery and extra-legal procedures, forged a letter, supposedly from the Italian military attaché, Major Panizzardi, to his German colleague, incriminating Dreyfus after the event, and on this letter, thereafter, the Army’s case hung. Each move in the campaign for Revision set off renewed efforts inside the General Staff to shore up the case and cover past fabrications in the Secret File by new ones. Officers succumbed to the mood of conspirators. There were secret meetings, warnings and black-mailings, clandestine relations between Paty de Clam and Esterhazy, disguises in false beards and dark glasses, and various melodramatic enterprises so deeply entangling the Army in acts it could never explain that by now it could not afford to face a reopening of the case. Anyone agitating for Revision or raising a question of Dreyfus’ lawful conviction became ipso facto the Army’s enemy and by extension the enemy of France.
The Army was not political, not particularly clerical, not exclusively aristocratic or royalist, not necessarily anti-Semitic. Although many of its officers were all these things, the Army as a body was part of the Republic, not, like the Church, its antagonist. Despite the anti-Republican sentiments of individual officers, it accepted its role as an instrument of the state. The Republic, needing the Army, was working to make it a more serious, professionally trained body than the operatic corps of the Second Empire, which from the Crimea to Sedan plunged into battle with more dash than staff work. As a whole, the officer corps was still dominated by the graduates of St-Cyr who came largely from county families still mentally barricaded against the ideas of the Revolution. Its cult was that of a class distinct from civilians, little concerned with or aware of what was going on in the rest of the nation. It was a club loyal to its membership and cultivating its distinctiveness of which the visible mark was the uniform. Unlike British officers, who never wore uniform off duty, French officers before 1900 never wore anything else. Poorly paid, slowly promoted, drearily garrisoned for long stretches in some provincial town, their recompense was prestige: the honors, immunities and cachet of their caste; in short, the esteem in which they were held.
The esteem was great. In the eyes of the people the Army was above politics; it was the nation, it was France, it was the greatness of France. It was the Army of Revolution as of Empire, the Army of Valmy in ’92 when Goethe, watching, said, “From this day forth commences a new era in the world’s history.” It was the Army of Marengo, Austerlitz and Wagram, the Grande Armée that Lavisse proudly called “one of the most perfect instruments of war history has ever seen”; the Army of the cuirasse and saber, of the képi and pantalons rouges, of Sebastopol and the Malakoff, of Magenta and Solferino, the Army that had made France the greatest military power in Europe until the rise of Prussia, the Army of tragedy as of glory, the Army of the Last Cartridges at Sedan, of the wild cavalry charge that evoked the German Emperor’s cry, “Oh, les braves gens!” Twenty-five years later, under the never-absent shadow of Germany, the Army was both defender of the nation and instrument of revanche. It was the means of restoring, someday, the national glory. Men lifted their hats when the colonel and the colors at the head of a regiment marched by. In the words of a character whom Anatole France was satirizing—though not misrepresenting—the Army “is all that is left of our glorious past. It consoles us for the present and gives us hope of the future.” The Army was les braves gens.
In the course of the Affair it became the prisoner of its friends—clericals, royalists, anti-Semites, Nationalists and all the anti-Republican groups who made its honor the rallying cry of their own causes, for their own purposes. Caught in the trap of its early commitment to Dreyfus’ guilt, and of the forgeries and machinations by its officers to establish that guilt, the Army’s honor became synonymous with maintenance of the original verdict. It was a fort to be defended against Revision.
Resistance to Revision was grounded in the belief that to reopen the trial was to discredit the Army and a discredited Army could not fight Germany. “Revision means War,” proclaimed the royalist Gazette de France and a war fought with a disorganized Army is “la Débâcle,” the name given to the defeat of 1870. How could soldiers go into battle under officers they had been taught to despise? asked the royalist Comte d’Haussonville. Although he thought the idea of an innocent man in prison “intolerable” and the campaign against the Jews “revolting,” nevertheless the Dreyfusard campaign against the Army was worse because it destroyed confidence in the officer corps. It was this fear of what would happen if the Army were weakened by distrust that intimidated the Chamber and turned the populace against Revision. The Army was their guarantee of peace. “France loves peace and prefers glory,” it was said, and this sentiment too was mauled by Revision. By casting doubt on the infallibility of the General Staff Revision was equivalent to sacrilege against la gloire militaire and anyone favoring it was pro-German if not a traitor.
Mystified by the complexities of documents, facsimiles, trials and the Secret File, the people could not reconcile the idea of forgeries deliberately prepared to convict an innocent man with their idea of the Army which meant parades, uniforms, boots, epaulets, guns and flags. How could officers who rode proudly past on horseback, sword in hand, to the sound of music and drums, be imagined bent over tables in stuffy offices carefully forging handwriting and piecing letters together with scissors and glue? There was nothing brave or military about this, therefore it could only be calumny. The people were patriotic and Republican, believed what they read in the newspapers, loved the Army and hated and feared the “others”—sans-patrie, incendiaries, church-burners, Dreyfusards—who, they were told, were sworn to destroy it. They shouted “Vive l’Armée!” and “Vive la République!” “Down with Dreyfusards!” “Down with the Jews!” “Death to traitors!” “Vive Mercier!” and any other form of incantation that would serve to banish evil and reassure their faith.
The Army was personified in terms of the Affair by General Auguste Mercier, who as Minister of War in 1894 had originally ordered Dreyfus’ arrest and through the consequence of that act became the idol of the Army’s supporters and the symbol of its cause. At parties of the haut monde, ladies rose to their feet when General Mercier entered the room. Sixty-one, tall, thin, straight and well groomed, he had strongly carved features, a curved nose framed by the sharp upturned points of a “Kaiser” moustache, and expressionless eyes, usually half-closed except when they opened for a cold, direct glance. A veteran of the campaigns in Mexico and at Metz in 1870, he was welcomed by the Staff, on his appointment as War Minister in 1893, as a true soldier who was not a politician. When the Anarchist, Vaillant, had thrown his bomb in the Chamber, Mercier had sat through the smoke and uproar without moving a muscle except to catch a fragment which had bounced off the seat behind him and hand it to the deputy sitting there, saying without expression, “You can have it back.” In character firm, decisive and thoughtful, in manner urbane and reserved, he was invariably polite and never abandoned, as the combat grew vicious, the usage Monsieur where others used “sale bête” or “ce salaud” as prefix to the name of a despised opponent.
In 1894 faced with the existence of treason on his Staff and realizing the legal weakness of the evidence collected against Dreyfus, he had ordered his arrest in the hope of extracting a confession. When this was not forthcoming and while the investigating officers were desperately seeking evidence to strengthen the case, the arrest was leaked to the anti-Semitic paper, La Libre Parole, which asserted that Dreyfus would not be tried because Mercier was in the pay of the Jews. Under the goading of this and other papers, Mercier had summoned the military editor of Figaro and told him what he sincerely believed: that he had had from the beginning “proofs that cried aloud the treason of Dreyfus” and that his “guilt was absolutely certain.” He thereby, before the trial, tied the Army to Dreyfus’ guilt and locked the terms of the Affair into a position that could never be broken. The issue was instantly recognized at the time. “Today one must be either for Mercier or for Dreyfus; I am for Mercier,” said his parliamentary aide, General Riu, to reporters. “If Dreyfus is acquitted, Mercier goes,” wrote the royalist editor, Cassagnac, in l’Autorité, adding, since Mercier was a member of the Government, “If Dreyfus is not guilty then the Government is.” Thereafter every repetition of the choice only hardened the issue.
At the trial, it was General Mercier who authorized submission of the Secret File and its withholding from the defence—the act that made the trial illegal. Fully recognizing the decisive nature of what he had done, Mercier lived up to it during the next two years, through all the mounting evidence of forgeries and false conviction, with increasingly arrogant and positive assertions of Dreyfus’ guilt. Once Dreyfus had been convicted on false evidence, any reopening of the case would reveal the Ministry of War, the General Staff and himself as dishonored; in short, as a colleague said, if in a retrial “Captain Dreyfus is acquitted, it is General Mercier who becomes the traitor.” Through every reinvestigation and taking of testimony, the trial of Esterhazy, the trial of Zola, the inquiry of the Court of Appeals, the final trial at Rennes, he beat back the forces of Revision and held the citadel of the false verdict. Angular, haughty, icy-faced, never wavering in self-control even when the whole structure he had built was tottering, he reminded an observer of the character in Dante’s Inferno who looked around him with disdain, “as if he held Hell in great contempt.”
All the strength, except truth, was on his side. Each time the Dreyfusards brought forward new evidence which they were certain this time must force a retrial, it was quashed, suppressed, thrown out or matched with new fabrications by the Army, supported by the Government, by all the bien-pensants or right-thinking communicants of the Church, and by the screams and thunders of four-fifths of the press. It was the press which created the Affair and made truce impossible.
Variegated, virulent, turbulent, literary, inventive, personal, conscienceless and often vicious, the daily newspapers of Paris were the liveliest and most important element in public life. The dailies numbered between twenty-five and thirty-five at a given time. They represented every conceivable shade of opinion, calling themselves Republican, Conservative, Catholic, Socialist, Nationalist, Bonapartist, Legitimist, Independent, absolutely Independent, Conservative-Catholic, Conservative-Monarchist, Republican-Liberal, Republican-Socialist, Republican-Independent, Republican-Progressist, Republican-Radical-Socialist. Some were morning, some evening, some had illustrated supplements. Of four to six pages, they covered, besides the usual political and foreign affairs, news of the haut monde, of le turf, of fashions, of theatre and opera, concerts and art, the salons and the Academy. All the most admired writers, among them Anatole France, Jules Lemaître, Maurice Barrès, Marcel Prévost, contributed columns and critiques and their novels ran serially across the bottom of the front page. Editors on important issues contributed signed editorials of passionate invective. The press was daily wine, meat and bread to Paris. Major careers and a thousand minor ones were made in journalism. Everyone from Academicians to starving Anarchists made a supplementary living from it. Prominent politicians when out of office turned to journalism for a platform and an income.
Newspapers could be founded overnight by anyone with energy, financial support and a set of opinions to plead. Writing talent was hardly a special requirement, because everyone in the politico-literary world of Paris could write—and did, instantly, speedily, voluminously. Columns of opinion, criticism, controversy, poured out like water. Le Temps, Olympian and responsible, led all the rest. Its outsize pages were read by everyone in public life, its reviews decided the fate of a play, its editorials on foreign affairs written by André Tardieu were of such influence that the German Foreign Minister, Von Bülow, remarked, “There are three Great Powers in Europe—and M. Tardieu.” Only Le Temps in its eminence remained above the battle, although inclining gradually toward Revision. Figaro, following it in importance, proved vulnerable. Its editor, Fernand de Rodays, after hearing Dreyfus cry out his innocence on the occasion of his military degradation, believed him. Three years later he published the first evidence against Esterhazy as well as Zola’s first articles. Although he was a father and father-in-law of officers, his enraged colleagues of the Nationalist press denounced him as a traducer of the Army and organized a campaign to cancel subscriptions to Figaro. The management succumbed and De Rodays was ousted, an affair of such moment that Paris gossip said he had been paid 400,000 francs to support Dreyfus and the management 500,000 to get rid of him.
The blackmail of the Nationalist press, wrote Zola, who suffered its extremes, afflicted France like a “shameful disease which nobody has the courage to cure.” The mischief-makers were the privately supported organs of special interests or of individual editors who were likely to be men either of rabid principles or none at all. There was Ernest Judet of Le Petit Journal, who led the campaign to smear Clemenceau with the mud of Panama and who, when Clemenceau became Premier in 1906, barricaded his villa at Neuilly as if to defend it against a siege. Devoured by a perpetual terror of Freemasons, Judet carried a loaded revolver and a leaded cane weighing twelve pounds. There was the old royalist, Paul de Cassagnac, who started the fashion in journalism for abuse and insult, and attacked everyone and everything from habit regardless of consistency. There was Arthur Meyer, a converted Jew, son of a tailor, grandson of a rabbi, an ardent Boulangist and royalist who was editor of LeGaulois, which specialized in the doings of the haut monde.It was the paper read by the world of the “Guermantes.” Meyer’s wholehearted adoption of that world’s opinions and prejudices took a certain courage or a thick skin, for he was no Charles Swann who melted into his surroundings, but in appearance resembled the anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews. He nevertheless had married into the Faubourg—a dowerless daughter of the Comte de Turenne—was accepted into the circle of the Duchesse d’Uzès, became friend, adviser and confidant of the late Pretender, the Comte de Paris, and set masculine style by the cut of his morning coat and the fold of his cravats.
Henri, Comte de Rochefort, of l’Intransigeant, was the kind of journalist whose capacity for mischief is unfettered by doctrine: the more unsettled his convictions, the more brilliant and scathing his pen. A constitutional “anti” described by a friend as “a reactionary without knowing it,” a bright-eyed cynic and “aristo” with a pointed white beard and an exuberant laugh, Rochefort combined in his person almost every tendency, no matter how opposite, of the Third Republic. His Adventures of My Life filled five volumes. He had been everything from an antagonist of Napoleon III to an associate of General Boulanger and his daily column was the delight of the most impressionable and excitable portion of the public.
Approached by the early Dreyfusards on the theory that he would relish a challenge to prove innocent a condemned man whom everyone believed guilty, Rochefort had been cordial, but was dissuaded from the adventure by his manager, Ernest Vaughan, on the ground that public opinion would not stand for disrespect of the Army. Rochefort found the other side just as exciting and when Vaughan meanwhile changed his mind, they quarreled, with the historic result that Vaughan departed to found his own paper,l’Aurore, and to provide an organ for the Dreyfusards which they had hitherto lacked. Rochefort retaliated with the most mischief-making story of the Affair. He informed his readers that a letter from the Kaiser to Dreyfus existed which the President of the Republic had been forced by threat of war to return to the German Ambassador, Count Münster, but not before it had previously been photographed. L’Intransigeant could say with “absolute certainty” on the authority of a high military personage that this was the “secret document” on which Dreyfus had been convicted.
So befuddled was the public mind by the fumes of mystification and intrigue rising from the Affair that the story was widely believed. It haunted efforts for Revision at every turn. It added fuel to the argument that Revision meant war. What acted on public opinion in the Affair was never what happened but what the Nationalist press and whispered rumor said happened. Intervention by Count Münster had indeed taken place for the purpose of officially denying any contact with Dreyfus but the view the public had of this incident was of a virtual ultimatum. The generals, whose thinking for good reason was dominated by the problem of Germany, used this as their excuse for not reopening the verdict and argued it so convincingly they convinced themselves. General Mercier testified he had sat up until midnight with the President and Premier after the interview with Count Münster waiting “to learn if war or peace would be the issue.” General Boisdeffre, Chief of General Staff, angrily said to Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, when she argued the innocence of Dreyfus, “How can you say such a thing to me who has seen and held in his hands Dreyfus’ own letters to the German Emperor?” Furious, the renowned hostess shouted, “If you have seen such letters they can only be apocryphal. You cannot make me believe in such a thing.” Whereupon Boisdeffre strode out of the room in a rage and the Princess, letting out a sigh of relief, exclaimed, “Quel animal, ce général!”
What was truth and what people persuaded themselves was truth became hopelessly blurred. The German Government’s several denials of any knowledge of Dreyfus were ignored on the ground that Berlin would not know the names of spies its agents dealt with. On the other hand, the Nationalist papers pictured Germany as affronted to the point of threatening war by France’s condemnation of Dreyfus in the face of its denials. Any willingness to consider Revision was denounced as cowardly submission to German pressure—and proof of the power of the “Syndicate.”
A creation of the anti-Semitic press, the “Syndicate” represented the Right’s idea of evil. It was supposed to be a subterranean fellowship of the Jews, a black and sinister conspiracy whose forces were mobilized to reverse the conviction of Dreyfus and to substitute a Christian as the traitor in his place. Any development in the case unfavorable to the Nationalists could be ascribed to the “Syndicate.” Any prominent or respected person who proclaimed himself in favor of Revision was in the pay of the “Syndicate.” Evidence of the Army’s forgeries was itself forged by the “Syndicate.” The Nationalists said it had spent ten million francs since 1895 for corrupting judges and handwriting experts, suborning journalists and ministers. They said its funds supplied by the great Jewish bankers were deposited in the vault of an international bank in Berlin. They said its German adviser was Pastor Günther, the Kaiser’s personal chaplain. Its aim was to break down the nation’s faith in the Army, reveal its military secrets and, when defenceless, open its gates to the enemy. It was personified by the cartoonists as a fat Jewish-featured figure in rings and watch chains wearing an expression of triumphant malevolence, standing with one foot on the neck of a prostrate Marianne. As the animus of the Affair grew, the “Syndicate” swelled in Nationalist eyes into a monstrous league not only of Jews but of Freemasons, Socialists, foreigners and all other evilly disposed persons. It was said to be drawing on funds from all France’s enemies, who were using Dreyfus as an excuse to discredit the Army and divide the nation. The humiliation suffered at Fashoda at the hands of England was seen as engineered by the “Syndicate.” The “Syndicate” was everywhere; it embodied the hates and fears of the Right. It was the Enemy.
The sudden and malign bloom of anti-Semitism in France was part of a wider outbreak. As a social and political force anti-Semitism emerged in the late Nineteenth Century out of other expanding forces which were building tensions between classes and among nations. Industrialization, imperialism, the growth of cities, the decline of the countryside, the power of money and the power of machines, the clenched fist of the working class, the red flag of Socialism, the wane of the aristocracy, all these forces and factors were churning like the bowels of a volcano about to erupt. “Something very great—ancient, cosmopolitan, feudal, agrarian Europe,” as a contemporary said, was dying and in the process creating conflicts, fears and newfound strengths that needed outlet.
A classic outlet was anti-Semitism. As scapegoat to draw off discontent from the governing class, it appeared in Germany under Bismarck in the seventies and in Russia in the eighties. The pogroms of 1881 and the subsequent disabling May Laws awoke in Jews a recognition of Mazzini’s dictum, “Without a country you are the bastards of humanity.” Anti-Semitism served equally as scapegoat for the propertied class, and its virulence at this time reflected a profound unease under a sense of impending breakup of the old order. Old values were giving way. Anarchist assaults, Socialist agitation, the growing self-consciousness of labour were threatening position and property, and nothing so generates hostility as a threat to possessions. In the West the new antipathy afflicted cultivated men like Balfour’s secretary, George Wyndham, and Theodore Roosevelt’s particular friend, the English diplomat Cecil Spring-Rice. Henry Adams expressed it rabidly and incessantly: he lived only in the wish to see the end of “infernal Jewry” and all “gold-bugs”; “we are in the hands of Jews who do what they please with our values”; “I read with interest France juive, Libre Parole and all”; “I pass the day reading Drumont’s anti-Semitic ravings.”
In men of this class the sentiment sprang from hatred of the new power of money (although nothing concerned Adams himself more than money), that is, of new “gold-bug” money deriving from stocks and shares and financial operations, in place of the acceptable form deriving from land and rents. The Jewish problem, explained the Duc d’Orléans during the Affair, was one of economic war. The day was approaching when all persons with attachment to the land and thus to their country would have to defend themselves against “the anonymous and vagabond” fortunes of the Jews, who had gorged themselves on the ruin of the Union Générale with the Government as their accomplice. The Union Générale was a Catholic bank founded with the blessing of Pope Leo XIII with the express purpose of attracting the investments of the faithful. On the advice of their priests, the aristocracy invested in it their capital, and modest Catholic families their savings. When, owing to the superior resources and shrewd maneuvers of its rivals, including the Rothschilds, the Union Générale collapsed in 1882, rich and poor Catholics alike lost their funds. The Jews were blamed. The Jewish “question” began to be discussed in the clerical and royalist papers. Secret plots and malignant powers were attributed to them. All the arguments which the Jew had inspired as the perennial stranger who persisted in retaining his own identity were revived. Jews were not Frenchmen; they were aliens within the French body, probably conspiring against France, certainly against the Church; they were promoters of the anti-clerical movement and enemies of Catholic bien-pensants.
French anti-Semitism, like its virulent appearances elsewhere in history, required the juncture of an instigator with circumstance. The instigator in this case was the previously unknown Edouard Drumont, who in the wake of the collapse of the Union Générale wrote a two-volume book, La France Juive, published in 1886 to instant success. It was a polemic compounded of Rothschilds and ritual murder, not a philosophical treatise like Gobineau’s earlier Essay in Racial Inequality, which had its greatest appeal across the Rhine where the inhabitants were engaged in constructing a theory of a master race. Drumont’s central theme was the evil power of Jewish finance. The book was widely read and reprinted and its author, a hearty, red-faced, thick-bodied man with a bushy black beard, thrived. In 1889 in association with the Marquis de Morès he founded the National Anti-Semitic League to fight “the clandestine and merciless conspiracy” of Jewish finance which “jeopardizes daily the welfare, honor and security of France.” At its first big public meeting the Duc d’Uzès, the Duc de Luynes, Prince Poniatowski, the Comte de Breteuil and other members of the aristocracy felt gratified at finding themselves seated next to real workmen from the butcher shops and slaughterhouses who in turn were delighted to find themselves sharing their opinions with noblemen.
After the success of the book and the League, Drumont’s next step was inevitably a newspaper. In 1892 he founded La Libre Parole, just at the time when the anger of bilked investors in the Panama loan fell upon its two leading promoters, Cornelius Herz and the Baron de Reinach, both Jews. Drumont’s paper in foaming philippics and raging pursuit of the evildoers, became a power. It undertook at the same time a campaign to drive Jewish officers out of the Army as a result of which two of them fought duels with Drumont and the Marquis de Morès. The Marquis went to the unusual length of killing his opponent and was charged with foul play but acquitted in court.
When Dreyfus was condemned, La Libre Parole explained his motive to the public: revenge for slights received and the desire of his race for the ruin of France. “A mort! A mort les juifs!” the crowd howled outside the railings of the parade ground where the ceremony of his degradation took place.
The cry was heard by the Paris correspondent of the Vienna Neue Freie Presse, Theodor Herzl, who was standing amongst the crowd. “Where?” he wrote later. “In France. In republican, modern, civilised France, a hundred years after the Declaration of the Rights of Man.” The shock clarified old problems in his mind. He went home and wrote Der Judenstaat, whose first sentence established its aim, “restoration of the Jewish state,” and within eighteen months he organized, out of the most disorganized and fractional community in the world, the first Zionist Congress of two hundred delegates from fifteen countries. Dreyfus gave the impulse to a new factor in world affairs which had waited for eighteen hundred years.
The first Dreyfusard was Bernard Lazare, a left-wing intellectual and journalist who edited a little review called Political and Literary Conversations while he earned a living on the staff of the Catholic and Conservative Echo de Paris. An Anarchist in politics, a Symbolist in literature, and a Jew, he wore bifocals over shortsighted eyes whose gaze, said his friend Péguy, “was lit by a flame fifty centuries old.” Suspecting the verdict from the start, he had learned from the commandant of the prison that Dreyfus, far from having confessed, had never ceased to declare his innocence. With the help of Mathieu Dreyfus, who was convinced of his brother’s innocence, and after a prolonged search for evidence, hampered by silence, obfuscation and closed doors, Lazare finally brought out a pamphlet entitled, A Judicial Error; the Truth About the Dreyfus Case. Although three thousand copies had been distributed to ministers, deputies, editors, journalists, and other opinion-makers, it had been ignored. Lazare’s and Mathieu Dreyfus’ visits to men of influence succeeded no better. “They bore us with their Jew,” said Clemenceau. Comte Albert de Mun, the eminent Catholic social reformer, refused to see them and the Socialist leader, Jean Jaurès, was cold. The Socialist paper, La Petite République, reviewing Lazare’s pamphlet, reached the required Marxist conclusion that “strikers are unjustly condemned every day without having committed treason and deserve our sympathies more than Dreyfus.” Socialists could see no cause for concern in the Affair. Under the conditions of class war, the misfortunes of a bourgeois were a matter of indifference to them. Their traditions were anti-militarist, and Dreyfus, besides being a bourgeois, was an Army officer. Miscarriage of justice as applied to a member of the ruling class was a twist they were more likely to appreciate than deplore.
But the ripples of doubt started by Lazare spread and the Dreyfusard movement was launched. It caught up Lucien Herr, librarian of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, heart of the academic world. Here the keenest students in the country were prepared by the most learned professors for careers as the future teachers of France. Herr was a believer in Socialism, a friend and preceptor of the student world. During the summer vacation of 1897 he used to ride over every afternoon to discuss ideas with his young friend, Léon Blum. One day he said point-blank, “Do you know that Dreyfus is innocent?” It took Blum a moment to place the name; then he remembered the officer convicted of treason. He was startled, having like most of the public accepted the report of Dreyfus’ confession as the official version. Herr’s influence was pervasive. “He directed our conscience and our thought,” wrote Blum. “He perceived truth so completely that he could communicate it without effort.”
Elsewhere men who had been collaborators of Gambetta in the founding of the Third Republic, and to whom the principles for which it stood were sacred, stirred and felt uneasy. Two especially became active: Senator Ranc, a leading Radical and a member of the first Government of the Republic, and the younger Joseph Reinach, who in his twenties had been Gambetta’s chief secretary. As the nephew and son-in-law of the venal Baron de Reinach of Panama ill-fame, he had cause for extra sensitivity, although it was less Jewish sympathies than concern for French justice that moved him. They found their champion in a man universally respected, Senator Scheurer-Kestner, Vice-President of the Senate, a founder of the Republic and onetime editor of Gambetta’s paper La République Française.
As a native of Alsace who after 1871 had chosen to live in France, he had been appointed Senator for life and was regarded as the embodiment of the lost province. A dignified gentleman of substance, old family and quiet elegance, he represented the aristocracy of the Republic. When a reporter from La Libre Parole came to interview him and sat himself down in an armchair, “the Duc de Saint-Simon himself,” it was said, “could not have been more scandalized” than Scheurer-Kestner, who was outraged at anyone from such a paper entering his house. When he learned that the Army had suppressed evidence showing the man on Devil’s Island to be innocent and Esterhazy to be the real author of the document used to convict him, he was horrified.
This evidence had been discovered by an Army officer, Colonel Picquart, who had been appointed new chief of the Counter-Espionage Bureau some months after Dreyfus’ conviction. When he presented his findings to the Chief and Assistant Chief of the General Staff, Generals Boisdeffre and Gonse, he met a wall of refusal either to prosecute Esterhazy or release Dreyfus. When Picquart insisted, Gonse asked him why he made such a point of bringing Dreyfus back from Devil’s Island.
“But, General, he is innocent!” Picquart replied. He was told that this was “unimportant,” the case could not be reopened, General Mercier was involved, and the evidence against Esterhazy was not definitive. When Picquart suggested that matters would be worse if the Dreyfus family, known to be investigating, turned up the truth, Gonse replied, “If you say nothing no one will know.”
Picquart stared at him. “That is abominable, General. I will not carry this secret to my grave,” he said, and left the room. Trained as a soldier, as loyal and obedient to the service as any other officer, with no ax to grind, no personal motive, nothing to gain in public notoriety as was to move later actors in the Affair, Picquart acted then and thereafter, at certain risk to his career, from purely abstract respect for justice. He was, if anything, anti-Semitic, and on one occasion, when asked to take Reinach, who was a reserve officer, on his staff during maneuvers, had objected, saying, “I can’t stand the Jew.” For Dreyfus he cared no more than for Reinach. It was the fact that the Army could knowingly condone punishment of an innocent man that he could not stomach. When he would not desist in his pressure he was transferred to an infantry regiment in Tunisia. Subject to Army discipline he could make no public disclosures, but he contrived a brief return to Paris on leave during which he disclosed the facts to a friend who was a lawyer, and left a sealed report to be given in the event of his death to the President of France. Subsequently, when his disclosure became known, he was recalled, arrested, tried and convicted of misconduct, discharged from the Army, later rearrested and imprisoned for a year.
Meanwhile his information had been given by his lawyer to Scheurer-Kestner, a personal friend, who instantly spoke out, asserting Dreyfus’ innocence to fellow Senators and demanding a judicial review. He bore down upon the Government, harassed the Ministers of War and Justice, repeatedly interviewed the Premier and President. They stalled, put him off and promised “inquiries.” National elections were due in May, 1898, only eight months off. A retrial would raise a howl by the mischief-making press and involve a public inquiry into Army affairs that, once started, could lead anywhere, with undesirable effects both on Russia, with whom France had recently concluded a military alliance, and on Germany. These matters of state, foreign and domestic, outweighed a question of justice for a solitary man on a distant rock; besides, to men who want to stay in office, the nature of justice is not so clear as to those outside. The ministers allowed themselves to be persuaded by the General Staff, on the strength of Major Henry’s forged letter, which they had no reason to suspect, that Dreyfus must be guilty after all and Esterhazy probably an accomplice, or some other sort of unfortunate complication not justifying the terrible disturbance of a retrial.
Scheurer-Kestner hammered in vain. He thereupon published a letter in Le Temps informing the public that documents existed “which demonstrate that the culprit is not Captain Dreyfus,” and demanding a formal inquiry by the Minister of War to “establish the guilt of another.”
At the same time, Figaro published letters from Esterhazy to a cast-off mistress, one in facsimile, written during the Boulangist era, which expressed disgust for his own country in startling terms. “If I were told that I would die tomorrow as a Captain of Uhlans sabering Frenchmen, I should be perfectly happy,” he had written, and added a wish to see Paris “under a red sun of battle taken by assault and handed over to be looted by 100,000 drunken soldiers.” These extraordinary effusions of venom and hate for France in the handwriting of the bordereau* on which Dreyfus’ guilt hung seemed to the Dreyfusards like a miracle. They thought their battle won. But they learned, as Reinach wrote, that “justice does not come down from heaven; it must be conquered.” The journals of the Right immediately denounced the letters as forgeries fabricated by the “Syndicate.” Esterhazy himself, a gambler in debt, a speculator on the Bourse, a fashionable and witty scoundrel, married to the daughter of a marquis, a man of sallow and cadaverous countenance with a crooked nose, a sweeping black Magyar moustache, the “hands of a brigand” and the air, wrote an observer, “of an elegant and treacherous gipsy or a great wild beast, alert and master of itself,” was now transformed by the Nationalist press into a hero and his innocence made an article of faith.
To the same degree, Scheurer-Kestner was vilified and the public encouraged to demonstrate on the day he was to make a statement in the Senate. Tall, upright, pale, with high forehead, white beard and the austere air of a Huguenot of the Sixteenth Century, he walked to the tribune with measured step, as if he were mounting a scaffold. Outside in the foggy winter afternoon, crowds filled the Luxembourg Gardens howling against a man of whom they knew nothing. He read his appeal to reason in a slow heavy voice to antagonistic Senators who punctuated his speech with boos and insulting laughter. His reminder that he was the last deputy of French Alsace, which at any other time would have moved them, was met with cold silence, and, when he finished, hostile looks followed his return to the floor. A month later in the annual re-election for officers of the Senate he was defeated for the vice-presidency, the office he had held for nearly the life of the Republic.
His battle aroused the formidable support of Clemenceau, the government-breaker, l’homme sinistre, as the Conservatives called him, fearsome in debate, in opposition, in journalism, in conversation and in duels with pistol or épée. He fought a duel with Paul Déroulède over Panama and with Drumont over the Affair. He was a doctor by training, a drama critic who promoted Ibsen, an old and intimate friend of Claude Monet, whose work, he wrote in 1895, was guiding man’s visual sense “toward a more subtle and penetrating vision of the world.” He commissioned Toulouse-Lautrec to illustrate one of his books and Gabriel Fauré to write music for one of his plays. “Only the artists are on the right path,” he said at the end of his life. “It may be they can give this world some beauty but to give it reason is impossible.”
Out of office and Parliament since Panama, Clemenceau, when persuaded of the facts about Dreyfus by Scheurer-Kestner, saw the shape of a great cause and seized upon it, though not only as a vehicle of political ambition. To Clemenceau the menace of Germany was the dominant fact of political life. “Who”—he demanded, enraged by Esterhazy’s vision of Prussian Uhlans sabering Frenchmen—“who among our leaders has been associated with this man? Who is protecting Esterhazy?… To whom have the lives of French soldiers and the defense of France been surrendered?” After Germany came anti-clericalism. “The French Army is in the hands of the Jesuits.… Here is the root of the entire Dreyfus case.” Every day in l’Aurore he cut and thrust at the issues of the Affair, writing 102 articles on it in the next 109 days, and altogether nearly five hundred over the next three years, enough, when collected, to fill five volumes. Through all rang the bell of justice. “There can be no patriotism without justice.… As soon as the right of one individual is violated, the right of everyone is jeopardized.… The true patriots are we who fight to obtain justice and to liberate France from the yoke of gold-braided infallibility.”
The Dreyfusard cause, too, had its opportunists. Urbain Gohier, an ex-monarchist who now professed to be a Socialist, lashed at the Army in l’Aurore. Its officers were “generals of debacle,” “Kaiserlicks” who knew nothing but “flight and surrender” and brought no victories except over the French; they were “the cavalry of Sodom” with retinues’ of kept women. “One half of France is slinging invective at the other,” worriedly wrote the French-born Princess Radziwill, née de Castellane, from Berlin. Married to Prince Anton Radziwill, the Prussian member of an international family of Polish origin who “loves to talk English while his brother, a Russian, talks French,” she had dedicated herself to a goal of Franco-German rapprochement. “No one can see how it will finish,” her letter continued, “but it cannot go on like this without real moral danger.”
The danger was more than moral. Germany watched carefully the internal conflict that absorbed all France’s attention. Her periodic denials of dealings with Dreyfus were designed less in the interest of justice than of aggravating French dissension. Happy in the consciousness of innocence, the Kaiser was not reluctant to inform visitors and royal relatives that France had convicted an innocent man. Through the family international of European royalty the word spread. In St. Petersburg in August, 1897, when the case had not yet become the Affair in France, Count Witte, the leading Russian minister, said to a member of a visiting French mission, “I can see only one thing that could cause great trouble in your country. It is this business of a captain condemned three years ago who is innocent”
The assumption so carelessly taken for granted in St. Petersburg was passionately rejected in the French Chamber in December by a sincere and honorable man of lofty ideals. To Comte Albert de Mun the innocence or guilt of Dreyfus was infused with another meaning; transformed, no less than the bread and wine of the sacrament, into another nature. Belief in Dreyfus’ guilt was belief in God.
The fusion of these ideas lay in the condition of chronic war between the Church and the Republic. Since the Revolution, the Church had been on the defensive against the purpose of the Republic in the words of Jules Ferry, “to organize mankind without God or King.” The religious orders, furiously resisting the effort of the Republic to displace them from control of education, saw their hope of survival in restoration of the Catholic monarchy. This was what brought the Church in France into position in the Affair. It was the ally of the Army in its own mind as well as in Republican propaganda, which always linked “the Sword and the Censer.” In the Jesuits the Republic saw the militant and aggressive general staff of clericalism who pulled the strings which moved the Dreyfus plot. The Jesuit leader was Father du Lac, confessor of both General Boisdeffre and the Comte de Mun, who were regarded as his mouthpieces.
To Pope Leo XIII, a realist looking on from outside, it seemed possible the Republic was here to stay. After the collapse of the Boulanger coup he could no longer believe that restoration of the monarchy was a serious possibility. Besides, he needed French support in his struggle with the Italian state. In the Encyclical of 1892 he urged French Catholics to reconcile themselves to the Republic, to support, infiltrate and ultimately capture it, in a policy called the Ralliement. Catholic progressives rallied, others did not and the Left did not trust the policy. “You accept the Republic,” said Léon Bourgeois, leader of the Radicals to a meeting of Ralliés. “Very well. Do you accept the Revolution?” De Mun was one who never had.
When, in the midst of the Affair, de Mun arrived at the peak of a French career—election to the French Academy—he chose Counter-Revolution as the theme of his address. The Revolution, he proclaimed, was “the cause and origin of all the evils of the century”; it was “the revolt of man against God.” He believed the ancient ideals and ideas were about to “reappear in our time with irresistible evolution” and revive “the social concepts of the Thirteenth Century.” To heal the wounds of social injustice under which the working class suffered and re-Christianize the masses alienated by the Revolution had been the goal of his political career.
As a young cavalry officer out of St-Cyr, de Mun first became acquainted with the lives and problems of the poor through the charitable work of the Society of St-Vincent de Paul in his garrison town. During the Commune, as an aide to General Galliffet, who commanded the battalion that fired on the insurgent Communards, he saw a dying man brought in on a litter. The guard said he was an “insurgent,” whereupon the man, raising himself up, cried with his last strength, “No, it is you who are the insurgents!” and died. In the force of that cry directed at himself, his uniform, his family, his Church, de Mun had recognized the reason for civil war and vowed himself to heal the cleavage. He blamed the Commune on “the apathy of the bourgeois class and the ferocious hatred for society of the working class.” The responsible ones, he had been told by one of the St. Vincent brothers, were “you, the rich, the great, the happy ones of life who pass by the people without seeing them.” To see and discover them de Mun had worked among the poor. “It is not enough to perceive the wrong and know its cause,” he said. “We must admit ourselves responsible and confess that society has failed in its duty toward the working class.” He determined to enter politics but his candidacy for the Chamber and his activities had been resented in the Army. Forced to choose, he had resigned his commission and broken his sword.
Yet in the Chamber his love for the Army remained and formed the theme of his most stirring speeches. Delivered with the adoration of a disciple and the fire of a champion, they made him known as le cuirassier mystique. He was the finest orator of his side, “the Jaurès of the Right,” who brought to perfection the carefully taught art of the spoken word. A tall figure of dignified bearing, controlled gestures and exquisite manners, he was incomparable in authority when he rose to his feet. He spoke with force of conviction and conscious architecture of phrase, using his voice like a violin, sonorous and vibrant or muted and trembling, in long harmonious rhythms, sudden broken stops and eloquent perorations. His oratorical duels against two major opponents, Clemenceau and Jaurès, were spectacles of style and drama which audiences attended as they would Sarah Bernhardt playing l’Aiglon.
Although diehards accused him of being a Socialist and of encouraging subversive ideas and disturbing the established order, his essential loyalties were those of his class. He had been a supporter of Boulanger and until 1892 a royalist of sufficient stature to have the Comte de Chambord * as godparent for one of his children. When Leo XIII, however, called for the Ralliement, although most French royalists were stunned and rebellious, de Mun renounced royalist politics—if not sympathies—to become a leader of the Ralliés. Although his aim was social justice, he rejected Socialism as the “negation of the authority of God while we are its affirmation.… Socialism affirms the independence of man and we deny it.… Socialism is logical Revolution and we are Counter-Revolution. There is nothing in common between us and between us there is no place for liberalism.”
His words defined the chasm, and his position on one side of it was inevitable. It led him in the Affair to embrace the brigands and fight on the terms established by Drumont. It was he who introduced the “Syndicate” into the first debate on the Affair in the Chamber. “What is this mysterious occult power,” he demanded, looking directly at Reinach, “that is strong enough to disrupt the entire country as it has for the last two weeks and to throw doubt and suspicion on the leaders of our Army who”—here he stopped as if choked by his strength of feeling—“who may one day have to lead the country against the enemy. This is not a question of politics. Here we are neither friends nor opponents of the Government; here there are only Frenchmen anxious to preserve their most precious possession … the honor of the Army!”
His proud manner and thrilling voice brought the deputies to their feet in transports of applause. Reinach felt the entire Chamber swept by an overmastering emotion and incapable of individual reflection. “I felt on my head the hatred of three hundred hypnotized listeners. I crossed my arms; one word, one movement would have transformed this frenzy into fury. How struggle against a whirlwind?” Jaurès was silent and many of the Left were applauding from “the enthusiasm born of fear.” Imperiously de Mun demanded from the Government an unequivocal statement confirming Dreyfus’ guilt. The Minister of War, General Billot, obeyed, declaring “solemnly and sincerely, as a soldier and leader of the Army, I believe Dreyfus to be guilty.” The Premier followed with an appeal to all good Frenchmen, in the interests of the country and the Army, to support the Government “struggling with such difficulties and harassed by such furious passions.” The passions were at once expressed in a duel between Reinach and Alexandre Millerand, a Socialist, who in unprecedented support for the Government by one of his party, denounced the Dreyfusard accusations of the Army as “disloyal.”
Other members of the nobility besides de Mun also served as deputies, but always as royalists in opposition. None took any share in the actual business of governing under the Republic. Among them was the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, representing the older nobility ante-dating the Empire, whose money came from Pommeroy champagne and Singer sewing machines and who, as president of the Jockey Club, was the acknowledged leader of the gratin, or “crust,” of French Society. Others were the Marquis de Breteuil, representing a district in the Hautes-Pyrénées, and his friend the Comte de Greffulhe, whose yellow beard and air of combined rage and majesty caused him to resemble the king in a pack of cards. Possessor of one of the largest fortunes in France and a wife who was the most beautiful woman in Society, he and she served as Marcel Proust’s models for the Duc and Duchesse de Guermantes. Another deputy was Count Boni de Castellane, the dandy and arbiter of taste of his circle. Tall and slim, with pink skin, blue eyes and small neat golden moustache, he had married the dour American heiress Anna Gould, and with her dowry built a marble mansion furnished with precious antiques to exhibit the perfection that taste endowed by money could reach. At the party to celebrate its opening a footman in a scarlet cloak was stationed at the curve of the staircase, and when the Grand Duke Vladimir asked, “Who is that Cardinal over there?” the host replied, “Oh, he is only there to make an agreeable effect of color against the marble.” Count Boni’s assessment of the Affair was that the Jews “in their insensate desire to save a co-religionist” were arrogantly interfering with judicial process and simultaneously, or alternatively, were making Dreyfus “the pretext for a campaign against the Army which doubtless originated in Berlin.” In either case they were “insupportable to me.” This on the whole represented the view of the gratin, who in the words of a notable apostate among them, the Marquis de Galliffet, “continue to understand nothing.”
Some among them had literary or other distinctions. Comte Robert de Montesquiou, aesthete extraordinary, lavished on himself silks of lavender and gold, wrote elaborately symbolist poems and epitomized decadence to both Proust and Huysmans in their characters, the Baron de Charlus and des Esseintes. Montesquiou was what Oscar Wilde would have liked to have been if he had had more money, less talent and no humor. The Prince de Sagan, another notorious pederast who wore a perpetually fresh boutonniere and a perfectly waxed moustache, vied with his nephew, Count Boni, as the high priest of elegance and fought a duel with Abel Hermant, in whose satirical novels of the life of the rich and libertine he considered himself libelled. The Comtesse Anna de Noailles wrote poetry and glided through her lovely rooms in long white floating garments like “the ghost of something too beautiful to be real.” At her parties everything was required to focus on her. She did not trouble much about her guests, “merely smiled upon them when they arrived and softly sighed when she saw them going away.” The Comte de Vogüé, novelist and Academician, influenced the course of French literature by his studies of Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevski which brought the great Russians to French attention.
These were the outstanding members. The bulk of the other one thousand or so who made up the gratin were chiefly distinguished, as one of them said, by “the certitude of a superiority that existed despite appearances to the contrary.” Comte Aimery de La Rochefoucauld was noted for “the almost fossil rigidity of his aristocratic prejudices.” Disgusted at improper protocol in a certain household, he said to a friend of his own level, “Let us walk home together and talk about rank.” Of the Duc de Luynes he remarked that his family were “mere nobodies in the year 1000.” Of the same breed was the Duc d’Uzès, whose ancestor, when the King expressed surprise that none of his family had ever been Marshal of France, replied, “Sire, we were always killed in battle too soon.”
The gratin were not hospitable; some families however wealthy “never offered so much as a glass of lemonade to their friends.” The men considered themselves the only ones of their sex who knew how to dress or make love and exchanged tributes from the famous courtesans. They took their orders from the ranking members of their class and were ardently Anglophile in manners and customs. The Greffulhes and Breteuils were intimates of the Prince of Wales, le betting was the custom at Longchamps, le Derbywas held at Chantilly, le steeplechase at Auteuil and an unwanted member was black-boulé at the Jockey Club. Charles Haas, the original of Swann, had “Mr” engraved on his calling cards.
At the château of the Duc de Luynes at Dampierre, an English visitor found a veneer of modernity in the automobiles, the billiard room, the London clothes of the men and the chatter of women, “but under this thin glaze a deadness of the Dead Sea. All the books are safe under lock and key in the library outside the house. In the house there is no book, no newspaper, no writing paper and only one pen.” Two sisters—the Duchesses de Luynes and de Brissac—and their friend, the Comtesse de Vogüé, all on the point of becoming mothers, were “splendid creatures,” very easy to get on with if one talked of nothing but sport. The host was Lord Chamberlain to the current Pretender. Their kind “are children, arrested in intelligence, who hate Jews, Americans, the present, the past two centuries, the Government, the future and the fine arts.”
Under the law of the Republic all Pretenders to the throne lived in exile. Bonapartist hopes were lodged in Prince Victor Napoleon, grandson of Jerome Bonaparte, while legitimist allegiance went to a grandson of Louis-Philippe, the Comte de Paris, of whom Thiers said, “From a distance he looks like a Prussian, from close up like an imbecile.” On his death in 1894 he was succeeded by his son, the Duc d’Orléans, a hare-brained young man who in 1890 had dashingly appeared in France with declared intent to “share the French soldier’s gamelle [mess],” that is, to do his military service. Being equally celebrated for his romance with the prima donna, Nellie Melba, he was irreverently known thereafter as “Gamelba,” a name coined by Rochefort. Before the Affair, his cause seemed moribund; but in the Affair the royalists found a new rallying point, new hope and excitement and in the anti-Semites, new partners and energy. Anti-Semitism became the fashion, although with certain unwanted effects on Society, for parvenus were able to force their way in by virtue of the degree of warmth with which they espoused the new cause. “All this Dreyfus business is destroying society,” complained the Baron de Charlus, and the Duchesse de Guermantes found it “perfectly intolerable” that all the people one had spent one’s life trying to avoid now had to be accepted just because they boycotted Jewish tradesmen and had “Down with Jews” printed on their parasols.
Important neither in government nor in culture, the gratin were important only in providing the background, motive, stimulus and financial backing to reaction. In the Affair the only serious leader to emerge from their class was de Mun. It was he who forced the Government to prosecute Zola for libel of the Army in his public letter, J’Accuse, and thus brought on the trial which made the case a national, no longer containable, issue. Had the Government had its way it would have taken no action, for discussion and testimony and above all cross-examination were to be avoided. But led by de Mun, the Right in its wrath demanded revenge and his authority exercised a spell. When no one from the Ministry of War was present in the Chamber to reply to Zola’s attack, de Mun demanded that the session be suspended until the Minister of War could be summoned so that nothing should take precedence over defence of the Army’s honor. A deputy suggested that the matter could wait while other business continued. “The Army cannot wait!” de Mun declared haughtily. Obediently the deputies filed out until the Minister arrived and afterward, swept up in a passionate oration by de Mun, voted to proceed against Zola.
“A colossus with dirty feet, nevertheless a colossus,” Flaubert had called Zola. Although he was probably the most widely read and best-paid French author of the time, the brutal realism of his novels had aroused the disgust and resentment of many. He dug mercilessly into the base, sordid and corrupt elements of every class in society, from the slums to the Senate. Peasants, prostitutes, miners, bourgeois businessmen, alcoholics, doctors, officers, churchmen and politicians were exposed in gigantic detail. Worse, the supposedly beneficent Nineteenth Century itself was exposed in his picture of the terrible impoverishment brought upon the masses by industrialization. The doors of the Academy never opened to him. His account of 1870 in La Débâcle infuriated the Army and after Germinal he was classed as a champion of the workers against the established order. He was an agnostic who believed in science as the only instrument of social progress. Already, however, a literary reaction against realism and the “bankruptcy of science” was taking place.
In the year before Dreyfus’ arrest, Zola’s fame had reached its peak upon publication of the final novel in his immense twenty-volume panorama of French life. At a party given by his publisher to celebrate the occasion on the Grand Lac in the Bois de Boulogne, writers, statesmen, ambassadors, actresses and beauties, celebrities of every kind from Poincaré to Yvette Guilbert, were present. Where was he to go from here? The Dreyfus case opened a new road to greatness, but only to a man capable of taking it. It required courage to challenge the State, the training and genius of a great writer to compose J’Accuse, and sympathy with suffering to inspire him to act. Zola had known suffering: In his youth he had spent two unemployed years in the garret of a shabby boardinghouse, often so hungry that he set traps for sparrows on the roof and broiled them on the end of a curtain rod over a candle.
His first article on the Affair, after summarizing the evidence against Esterhazy—the handwriting, the petit bleu, the Uhlan letters—had asserted, “Truth is on the march and nothing will stop it.” When a month later the Army ordered Esterhazy’s court-martial, the Dreyfusards, believing this was a roundabout way of succumbing to Revision, were exuberant. In fact, it was a device for dealing with the Esterhazy problem through a trial whose verdict the Army could control. Esterhazy was acquitted and acclaimed by the mob as the “martyr of the Jews.” The verdict “came upon us like the blow of a bludgeon,” wrote Blum. It was as if Dreyfus had been condemned a second time. The march of truth had, after all, been stopped.
The only way to force the evidence onto the record was to provoke a civil trial. This was the purpose of Zola’s open letter addressed to the President of France. He conceived it on the day of Esterhazy’s acquittal with deliberate intent to bring himself to trial. He told no one but his wife and did not hesitate. Locking himself in his study, he worked without stopping for twenty-four hours, mastered the intricacies and mysteries of what by now had become one of the most complex puzzles in history and wrote his indictment in four thousand words. He took it over to l’Aurore on the evening of January 12, and it appeared next morning under the title suggested by Ernest Vaughan (or, according to another version, by Clemenceau): J’ACCUSE! Three hundred thousand copies were sold, many to Nationalists who burned them in the streets.
In separate paragraphs, each beginning “I accuse,” Zola specifically named two Ministers of War, Generals Mercier and Billot, one “as accomplice in one of the greatest iniquities of the century,” and the other of “possessing positive proofs of the innocence of Dreyfus and suppressing them.” He accused the Chiefs of the General Staff, Generals Boisdeffre and Gonse, as accomplices in the same crime, and Colonel du Paty de Clam (he knew nothing about Major Henry) as its “diabolical author.” He accused the War Ministry of conducting an “abominable campaign” in the press to mislead the public and conceal its own misdeeds. He accused the first court-martial of conducting an illegal trial and the Esterhazy court-martial of covering that illegal verdict “on order” as well as of the judicial crime of knowingly acquitting a guilty person. The accusations were made in full awareness of the law of libel “to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. Let them bring me to court. Let the inquiry be in broad daylight. I wait.”
The public was aghast; such charges flung at the military leaders of the nation seemed equivalent to an act of revolt. Many Revisionists felt Zola had gone too far. He had inflamed an already heated situation almost unbearably by frightening and angering the middle classes and increasing their support of the Army and their dislike of the Dreyfusards. Following de Mun’s resolution next day, the Government announced that Zola would be prosecuted. Hatred, filth and insults were spewed on him by the press and in songs sold on the streets. He was viciously caricatured. “Pornographic pig” was polite among the names he was called. Packages of excrement were mailed to him. He was burnt in effigy. Placards were distributed reading, “The answer of all good Frenchmen to Emile Zola: Merde!” Evoking one of the major emotions of the Affair, the attacks denounced him as a “foreigner,” in reference to his Italian father. In fact, Zola had been born in Paris of a French mother and brought up in the home of her parents in Aix-en-Provence.
The Government’s suit, filed in the name of General Billot as Minister of War, ignored all the accusations relevant to Dreyfus and confined itself to the single charge that the court-martial of Esterhazy had acquitted him “on order.” By this device the presiding judge could exclude any testimony not bearing precisely on that point. In a fiery protest against this procedure, Jaurès thundered in the Chamber at the Government, “You are delivering the Republic to the Jesuit Generals!” at which a Nationalist deputy, the Comte de Bernis, assaulted him physically, causing such an uproar that the military guard was required to restore order.
J’Accuse drew world attention to the Affair and gave it the proportions of heroic drama. That the French Army could be accused of such crimes and the French author best known to the foreign public be attacked in such terms were equally astounding. The world watched with “stupor and distress,” wrote Björnstjerne Björnson from Norway. When the trial opened, the Dreyfusards were conscious of that audience. “The scene is France; the theatre is the world,” they said. The trial transformed the Affair from the local to the universal.
The writer of his time who most truly touched the universal, Chekhov, was profoundly stirred by Zola’s intervention. Staying in Nice at the time, he followed the trial in growing excitement, read all the verbatim testimony and wrote home, “We talk here of nothing but Zola and Dreyfus.” He found the anti-Semitic and anti-Dreyfus tirades of the St. Petersburg New Times, the leading daily which had published most of his own stories, “simply repulsive” and quarreled with its editor, his old and intimate friend.
Foreign opinion, except as conditioned by feeling about the Jews, saw the issue chiefly as one of Justice and could not understand the obstinate refusal of the French to allow Revision. Foreign hostility itself became a factor in the refusal. “French papers ask why foreign countries take such an interest in the Affair,” wrote Princess Radziwill, “as if a question of justice did not interest the whole world.” It did, but in France the Affair was not only that. It was not a struggle of the Right against the Left, because men like Scheurer-Kestner and Reinach, Clemenceau and Anatole France, were not men of the Left. It was fought in terms of justice and patriotism, but fundamentally it was the struggle of the Right against Reason.
Zola’s trial opened on February 7, 1898, and lasted sixteen days. The atmosphere at the Palais de Justice on the Ile de la Cité “smelled of suppressed slaughter,” said a witness. “What passion on people’s faces! What looks of hatred when certain eyes met!” The courtroom was crammed to the window sills with journalists, lawyers, officers in uniform, ladies in furs. Marcel Proust climbed every day to the public gallery, bringing coffee and sandwiches so as not to miss a moment. Outside the windows Drumont’s claque, paid at forty sous a head, hooted and jeered. All the Army officers concerned in the trials and investigations of Dreyfus, Esterhazy and Picquart stood up and swore to the authenticity of the documents, including specifically the Panizzardi letter which was declared to be “positive proof of Dreyfus’ guilt. (The Foreign Minister, already advised by the Italians that it was a forgery, had wanted to call off the trial but the Government had not dared for fear of an Army revolt.) General Mercier, upright, haughty, unmoved, “entrenched in his own infallibility,” affirmed on his honor as a soldier that Dreyfus had been rightfully and legally convicted. Attempts by the defence to cross-examine were met over and over again by the presiding judge with the sharp order, “The question will not be put.” Statements by Zola or by his lawyer, Maître Labori, or by Clemenceau, who, though not a lawyer, was appearing for l’Aurore, were met by inarticulate roars from the packed audience. Zola, appearing nervous and sullen, kept his temper until, tormented beyond endurance, he spat out “Cannibals!”—the word used by Voltaire in the Calas affair. Esterhazy, called to testify, was greeted by the crowd with shouts of “Gloire au victime du Syndicat!” On the steps of the court, Prince Henri d’Orléans, cousin of the Pretender, shook the hand of the author of the Uhlan letters and saluted in him the “French uniform.”
“Paris palpitated,” wrote an English visitor, and he felt a lust for blood in the air. Mobs broke the windows of Zola’s house and of the offices of l’Aurore. Shops closed, foreigners departed. A wave of anti-Semitic riots organized by Drumont’s lieutenant, Jules Guérin, erupted in Le Havre, Orléans, Nancy, Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseilles and smaller towns, and reached a peak in Algiers where the looting and sack of the Jewish quarter lasted for four days, with many beaten and in some cases killed. In Paris an employment office opened where toughs were hired at five francs a day or two francs for an evening to shout, “Down with the Jews! Long live the Army! Spit on Zola!” When Zola left the court on one occasion, in company with Reinach, the crowd flew at them, yelling, “Drown the traitors! Death to the Jews!” and they had to be rescued by police. Thereafter, mounted police escorted Zola’s carriage to and from the court every day, and were sometimes forced to charge the screaming mob threatening to assault it. Zola’s friend Desmoulins, acting as bodyguard, carried a revolver.
In the Court, despite obstructions and jeers, truth was advancing. Neither Labori, young and vehement, of whom it was said, “He is not an intellect, he is a temperament,” nor Clemenceau, hard, merciless, invincible in debate, could be bullied or silenced. The jury was rumored to be inclining toward acquittal. General Boisdeffre, taking the stand, warned, “If the nation does not have confidence in its Army chiefs … then they are ready to transfer to others their heavy task. You have only to say the word.” It was a threat of collective resignation by the General Staff if the jury acquitted. Boisdeffre made it plain: Zola or us. This was the issue, not the guilt or innocence of Dreyfus, which the jury had to decide. Its members came mostly from the petty bourgeoisie: a tanner, a market gardener, a wine-dealer, a clerk, a landlord and two workmen. With implied threat La Libre Parole published their names and business addresses and letters from readers warning of vengeance if the “Italian” were acquitted.
In his closing speech, Zola, constantly interrupted by boos and hissing, swore by his forty years of labour and forty volumes of French literature that Dreyfus was innocent. He had acted to save his country from “the grip of lies and injustice” and though he were condemned, “France will one day thank me for having helped to save her honour.” Clemenceau concluded, “Your task, gentlemen of the jury, is to pronounce a verdict less upon us than upon yourselves. We are appearing before you. You will appear before history.”
Zola was condemned by a vote of 7–5 and the wonder was that five jurors had the courage to vote for acquittal. Outside, the Place Dauphine was black with people screaming in triumph. “Listen to them, listen to them!” said Zola as he was preparing to leave. “They sound as if they were waiting for someone to throw them meat.” Clemenceau told a friend that in case of acquittal he was “quite certain not a single Dreyfusard in the court or corridors would have escaped with his life.” Zola received the maximum penalty, a year’s imprisonment and a fine of three thousand francs and on rejection of an appeal was persuaded by the insistence of his friends to escape to England. He should have been sent “to join his friend Dreyfus on Devil’s Island” was Henry Adams’ comment, “with as much more French rot as the island would hold, including most of the press, the greater part of the theatre, all the stockbrokers and a Rothschild or two for example.” The sentiments were his own, not paid for like those of the Paris mob which they so accurately reflected.
The trial was a tornado that whirled all the vocal elements of society into its vortex. “Every conscience is troubled,” wrote Le Petit Parisien. “No one reasons any more; no discussion is possible; everyone has taken up a fixed position.” Families divided and even servants. In the most famous of the Caran d’Ache cartoons the father of a large family at dinner commands, “No one is to speak of it!” The next panel shows a wild melee of overturned table, knives and forks flying and chairs used as weapons, under the title, “They spoke of it!”
Organizing their efforts the Dreyfusards formed the League for the Rights of Man, which sponsored protest meetings and sent lecturers around the country. They drew up a petition for Revision which made the schism in society visible and inescapable. Called the “Protest of the Intellectuals,” it began appearing day by day in l’Aurore with successive signatures. It cut jagged divisions between those who signed and those who refused. The organizers were Marcel Proust and his brother Robert (whose father refused to speak to them for a week in consequence), Elie Halévy and his brother Daniel and their cousin Jacques Bizet, son of the composer, all in their late twenties. Almost the first signature they obtained was their greatest coup: that of “the ultimate flower of Latin genius” andleader of Academicians, Anatole France. “He got out of bed to see us, in his slippers with a head cold,” wrote Halévy. “ ‘Show it to me,’ he said, ‘I’ll sign, I’ll sign anything. I am revolted.’ ” He was a rationalist, revolted by unreason. A cynic and a satirist of human folly, he had sympathy neither for crusades nor for Dreyfus as an individual who, he perceptively suggested, was “the same type as the officers who condemned him; in their shoes he would have condemned himself.” But he hated the crowd and out of contradictory spirit was usually to be found against the Government.
He wrote prose clear as a running brook. He had lived in the home and adorned the salon of his mistress, Mme Arman de Caillavet, since 1889, when, after a final quarrel with his wife, he walked out in dressing gown and slippers, carrying on a tray, quill pen, inkstand and current MS, and proceeded down the street to a hotel, sent for his clothes and never went home. Mme Arman exercised over him the tyranny of devotion and when he was lazy locked him up to make him write. His series of novels about the current day centering around M. Bergeret had been appearing serially in the violently right-wing Echo de Paris since 1895 and continued to appear there through the Affair, in ironic commentary on the print around them. France’s signature enchanted the Revisionists and astonished both sides. He was “altogether one of us”; he should have never sided with “them,” lamented Léon Daudet.
On its first appearance the Protest of the Intellectuals had 104 signers and within a month 3,000, among them André Gide, Charles Péguy, Elisée Reclus, Gabriel Monod, scholars, poets, philosophers, doctors, professors and one painter, Claude Monet, from sympathy with Clemenceau. The only political action of Monet’s life, his signature caused a quarrel with Degas and they did not speak again for years. Now almost blind, Degas used to have La Libre Parole read to him each morning, and regarded with contempt the arrivistes of the Republican era. “In my time,” he said disdainfully, “one did not arrive.”
Artists and musicians, though on the whole politically indifferent, tended if anything toward the Nationalist camp. Debussy sat with Léon Daudet’s circle at the Café Weber in the Rue Royale. Puvis de Chavannes was another Nationalist sympathizer.
Professors and teachers from the Sorbonne, the Ecole Normale, the Faculty of Medicine, the secondary schools and provincial universities, signed; many were opposed, many refrained for fear of reprisals. “If I sign,” said a school principal to Clemenceau, “that ass Rambaud [the Minister of Education] will send me to rot in the depths of Brittany.” The distinguished scientist Emile Duclaux, successor to Pasteur, signed immediately, saying that if they were afraid of revision in the laboratory, truth would never be reached except by accident. Following his lead, scientists entered the Affair and some suffered for it. Professor Grimaux of the Polytechnic, who both signed and testified at Zola’s trial, was removed from the chair of chemistry. Heated arguments arose as to whether such great masters as Hugo, Renan, Taine or Pasteur would or would not have signed. Pupils and teachers were at odds, students divided, committees were formed for and against, especially in the provinces where the faculties were under Catholic influence.
Like an ice floe cracking, the intellectual world split over the Protest, and as the Affair progressed, the two halves spread wider and wider apart. Former friends passed each other in silence and any words they might have said “would never have carried across the worlds that lay between them.” When Pierre Louÿs, author of Aphrodite, took the opposite side from his friend Léon Blum, without further communication they never saw each other again. When the Protest was being circulated, three journalist friends of Léon Daudet tried to persuade him, appealing for three hours over lunch to “my patriotism, my intelligence, my heart.” Before the Affair he had dined at the home of the Laboris, where Madame sang the songs of Schumann and no evening could have been more delightful; “he robust and eloquent, she full of talent, charm and good will.” He was welcome too in the charming house on the Pont-de-l’Arche of Octave Mirbeau, who owned Van Gogh’s “Field of Iris” and where Madame welcomed one with “affectionate and sumptuous hospitality” and the cuisine was incomparable “from the butter to the wine, from the cooking oil to the soup.” After the Affair the word “Nationalist” was to Mirbeau a synonym for “assassin,” and Democracy was to Daudet “the poisoned terrain.” Soon after Zola’s trial Daudet was writing weekly diatribes of unexampled ferocity for La Libre Parole and Le Gaulois.
Maurice Barrès, the brilliant novelist who combined literature with a political career, was another whom his friends expected to be a Revisionist. Léon Blum asked for his signature feeling perfectly certain of him, but Barrès said he wanted to think it over and when he wrote it was to refuse. Though professing friendship and respect for Zola he said he felt doubtful and in his doubt chose “the instinct of patriotism.” Within months he was to find the mystic answer in terms of blood and soil; to explain Zola as a “denaturalized Venetian” and the Jews on the same principle: that they “have no country as we understand it. For us our country is the earth of our ancestors, the land of our dead. For them it is the place of their best interest.” Becoming the intellectual leader of the Nationalists, Barrès supplied them with words to pre-empt patriotism for the Right.
A new recruit, small but wickedly effective, in the form of a four-page weekly of caricatures called Psst!, was brought out by Forain and Caran d’Ache, who composed it sitting together at a table in the Café Weber. Caran d’Ache drew comic strips of inspired simplification. Forain was an artist whose sharp views of Parisian society were incisive and brilliant in black and white, although his oils evoked Degas’ deadly comment, “He paints with his hands in my pockets.” His cover design of a Prussian officer standing behind a dark and cynical figure representing the Syndicate and manipulating in front of its face the mask of Zola, compressed in one picture all the elements of the Affair as the Nationalists saw it. Reinach, the favored target of Psst!, was usually pictured as an orangutang in a top hat with heavily Jewish features going repeatedly to Berlin to confer with spike-helmeted Prussians. Scheurer-Kestner and other Revisionists appear as hook-nosed Jews in bankers’ fur-collared coats, paying out German funds, using the Army képi for a football or picking weeds from the grave of Ravachol as a “bouquet for Zola.” Throughout appears a stalwart wooden soldier, standing straight and brave, unwincing among the villains, forever valiant—the Army. The Intellectual is a lanky figure with oversized head, the star of David on his brow and carrying a pen bigger than his body, who registers his “disgust with everything French.” The only variation in subject is the occasional appearance of “Oncle Sam” as the “New Gargantua” making a meal of Spain, Hawaii, Porto Rico and the Philippines.
The Affair pervaded life at all hours and places. Going to a new dentist, Léon Blum found a young man with the manner and bearing of a cavalry officer who suddenly said as his patient sat down, “All the same, they will not dare touch Picquart!” Gaston Paris, the scholarly medievalist and Academician, concluded an erudite article on Philip the Good with a stirring invocation to justice which at once categorized him. Paul Stapfer, doyen of the Faculty of Letters at Bordeaux, was suspended because in a funeral oration for a colleague he made a discreet allusion to the Revisionist opinions of the deceased. A tempest blew up in the Légion d’Honneur when it “suspended” Zola and succeeded in angering both the military members who had demanded his ouster and those members who were his partisans. Anatole France and others removed the red ribbon from their coats. At the cafés. Nationalists and Revisionists sat at different tables on opposite sides of the terraces. Whole villages took sides. A resident of Samois, fourteen miles from Paris, said everyone in his village was Dreyfusard while at Francoville, three or four miles away, everyone almost without exception was anti-Dreyfusard.
In February, 1898, at the Dîner Bixio, a dining club of the elect who met for the pleasure of each other’s conversation, the Affair found everyone “troubled and grieved”; in March the Marquis de Galliffet said he would not go out or visit on account of it; in May conversation turned for a while to the question, “Did the Americans blow up the Maine themselves?” otherwise talk was only of the Affair; in November everyone was depressed: “I cannot remember a dinner so black,” wrote one member in his diary.
The opening night of Romain Rolland’s play Les Loups was a battlefield. He had written it in six days to show the world that France was torn by “one of the most redoubtable problems that can engage the human conscience, a dilemma worthy of Corneille: whether to sacrifice country or justice.” The presence of Colonel Picquart in a box and of Colonel du Paty de Clam in the orchestra brought the audience to a peak of excitement. Picquart after his first arrest had just been discharged from the Army, and came to the theatre as the guest of Edmond Rostand, whose Cyrano de Bergerac, produced a few months earlier, had raised him to the height of celebrity. For a decade French theatregoers had languished under the skepticism, symbolism and Ibsenism of the Théâtre Libre. “We needed reassurance, ideals, panache,” wrote a critic, “and then came Cyrano! Our thirst was assuaged.” Cyrano’s spirit was there that night.
When the character representing Picquart in the play confronted his opponent, the audience exploded before he could be heard. “The whole theatre shook from floor to roof.” The usual Vive!’s and A bas!’s reached a fury in which someone was moved to cry, “A bas la patrie!” and a thirteen-year-old Anarchist in the balcony squealed, “Down with Christianity!” Rolland thought to himself, “My ideas are lost, but no matter, the play doesn’t count. The real spectacle is there in the audience. This is history being acted!”
The carnage continued next day. Echo de Paris and La Presse dismissed their drama critics, the Collège Stanislas canceled a reception for Mme Rostand, and two papers opened a campaign to boycott Cyrano, whose popularity, however, proved stronger than its author’s association with Picquart. In his diary Rolland wrote, “I would rather have this life of combat than the mortal calm and mournful stupor of these last years. God give me struggle, enemies, howling crowds, all the combat of which I am capable.”
It was the same sentiment Péguy voiced: boredom with peace. Others shared it. That summer, Senator Ranc recalled, one was constantly expecting some surprise attack. “One day we would be warned not to sleep at home for fear of assault by anti-Semitic gangs, the next for fear of arrest by the police. It was exciting; one felt alive; nothing is so good as a time of action, and combat in the consciousness of a cause.”
From the day early in the Affair when Joseph Reinach announced to the guests at Mme Emile Straus’s salon that Dreyfus had been wrongfully convicted, the polarization of the salons began. Heretofore they had linked the worlds of fashion and intellect, bridged the sharp political divisions between classes and coteries. They were to France what the country-house party was to England. They were the market-place of ideas, the stock exchange of social and political favors united by one absorbing concern: who would obtain the next seat in the Academy, who would don the dark-green uniform and, watched by the elite of Paris, deliver his eulogy of the defunct Immortal whose place he was taking? Now they began to pull apart into separate units, frustrating the unifying and mixing process that had been their greatest contribution.
As a rule each salon had its grand homme. Mme Aubernon, doyenne of the hostesses, began with Dumas fils and finished with D’Annunzio. Mme Emile Straus, on the other hand, the beautiful Geneviève of the liquid black eyes and ardent glance, attracted too many to concentrate on one. Daughter of the composer Halévy and widow of Georges Bizet before she married Straus, leaving disconsolate a train of adorers, she had assembled at her salon the soul and salt of Paris before the ravages of the Affair. Henri Bergson the philosopher, Réjane the actress, Lord Lytton when he was British Ambassador, Professor Pozzi the surgeon, Henri Meilhac, the librettist of Offenbach’s operas, Jules Lemaître, Marcel Prévost, Forain, Proust, and the Princesse Mathilde, who held her own salon on Wednesdays, all came to her Saturday afternoons on the Boulevard Haussmann, bringing still hot the happenings of the Chamber, the Quai d’Orsay, the theatres and the editorial offices. After Reinach’s announcement, Lemaître left, allowing himself from then on to adorn only the right-wing salon of the Comtesse de Loynes. Other separations followed.
Mme Arman de Caillavet’s Sunday salon on the Avenue Hoche where Anatole France was the permanent star was the Revisionist center. Clemenceau, Briand, Reinach, Jaurès and Lucien Herr were regulars. Mme Arman wanted only writers and politicians and snubbed the nobility except for Mme de Noailles, who was a Dreyfusard and would appear “like an Oriental princess descending from her palanquin … to set ablaze the torrent of her words by the fire of her glance.” Anatole France’s books lay on all the tables and the Master himself stood in the midst of a crowd coming and going and gathering around him while he discoursed on a chosen theme, interrupting himself to greet arriving guests, bowing to left and right, introducing one to another, bending to kiss the hand of a pale feline figure wrapped in chinchilla, and keeping up the flow of his talk on the poetry of Racine, the paradox of Robespierre or the epigrams of Rabelais.
The Affair superseded Rabelais. At Mme Aubernon’s, where guests of both camps were still invited, discussions that touched upon it immediately became impassioned. “This petition of the so-called ‘Intellectuals’ is preposterous and impertinent,” declared Ferdinand Brunetière, editor of the magisterial Revue des Deux Mondes. “They have coined the name to exalt themselves above others as if writers, scientists and professors were better than anyone else.… What right have they to meddle in a matter of military justice?” Victor Brochard, Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the Sorbonne, replied heatedly, “Justice is based not on courts but on law.… To convict a man on evidence not shown to him is not only illegal; it is judicial murder.… Today it is not the Generals or Rochefort or the brawlers of La Libre Parole or Esterhazy or your Duc d’Orléans who represent the French conscience. It is we, the intellectuals.”
Headquarters of the Right was the salon of Mme de Loynes on the Avenue des Champs Elysées, where Jules Lemaître reigned. After an initial career as a demi-mondaine she had married the elderly Comte de Loynes, become a recognized power in the making of Academicians and, in the course of time, governess, mother, sister and presumably mistress to Lemaître, although some unkind gossip said their friendship was platonic. Her guests met at dinner on Fridays in a room furnished in plush with a nude marble Minerva on the mantel and what Boni de Castellane described as a “shoddy” Meissonier on the wall. Lemaître, the celebrated drama critic of the Journal des Débats, was an immensely prolix writer who could turn his hand to plays, poetry, short stories, critical essays, biographies and assorted speeches, political pieces, opinion and polemics. His works, when ultimately collected, filled fifty volumes. Though essentially dilettante in spirit, he had saved the French theatre in a famous cry of alarm in the Revue des Deux Mondes from being inundated by the heavy waves rolling in from the north—Ibsen, Hauptmann, Sudermann and Strindberg—and had duly entered the portals of the Academy. The fruits of democracy and manhood suffrage he found disillusioning. “The Republic cured me of the Republic,” he wrote; “life had already cured me of romanticism.” Disenchanted as well with “literary games,” he craved the role of a man of action, the restorative of a cause that not merely fluttered the pages of reviews but moved live men to passion. With ceremony and cheers in Mme de Loynes’ dining room he was named president of the Ligue de la Patrie Française, organized by the Nationalists to unite the intellectuals of the Right against the “enemies of la patrie.” Its Committee included among others de Vogüé, Barrès, Forain, Mistral the poet of the Provençal revival, Vincent d’Indy the composer and Carolus Duran the painter. The Ligue de la Patrie attracted 15,000 to its first meeting and gained 30,000 members in the first month. Lemaître was chosen president in order to have an Academician equal to Anatole France, but, given to mockery and grumbling, he lacked the spirit of a leader and after five minutes of argument, if he failed to impose his views, would drop out of the discussion.
As vice-president, the gentle poet François Coppée was no more effective. More or less bludgeoned by his friends into accepting the post, he was wrapped in nostalgia for the past and wrote verse romances about the humble of earlier times. When asked by an English friend, “Que faites vous, Maître, dans cette galère?” (“What are you doing in with that bunch?”), he replied, “To tell you the truth, I am not quite sure.” He was able to explain, however, a vague feeling that the religion and patriotism which had made France great were vanishing and unless revived would disappear in the rising tide of materialism.
The real energy and leadership of the League was supplied by Barrès, Drumont, Rochefort and Déroulède, leader of the older Ligue des Patriotes. At policy sessions Drumont would laugh uproariously and say, “Those fellows will be the death of me.” Rochefort, who listened only to himself, would say impatiently after a long discussion, “Yes, yes, it’s sickening—what canaille!” and then tell some anecdote that enchanted Coppée. “Each one of us is serious individually,” Lemaître confessed to Mme de Loynes, “but together we become frivolous.”
Yet they felt the cause was deadly serious. Behind all the disputes over the bordereau and petit bleu, wrote Léon Daudet, “could be heard the tramp of the barbarian legions.” Dreyfusism was the foreigner at the gates. It was revolution. It was Jews, Freemasons, freethinkers, Protestants, Anarchists, Internationalists. Everyone saw in it his own enemy. Barrès saw everything that was “un-French”; Arthur Meyer saw “an alliance of Anarchism and Dreyfusism” of which “twice monstrous cult” the two priests were Anatole France and Octave Mirbeau. Brunetière saw “individualism … the great malady of our time … the Superman of Nietzsche, the Anarchist, the culte de moi.”
The strong man of the Radical Government which took office after the elections of May, 1898, was its Minister of War, Godefroy Cavaignac, a civilian. He was a man of rigid Republican righteousness, a “sea-green incorruptible,” who regarded himself as the chastiser of parliamentary corruption. He had initiated the Panama inquiry and loathed Clemenceau. As Minister of War for a six months’ tenure in 1895, he had accepted the honesty of the Secret File and firmly believed Dreyfus guilty. The outgoing Premier, Méline, had attempted to deal with the case by denying that any case existed after the rendering of a verdict, but Cavaignac decided to face the issue squarely. He reinvestigated the documents and convinced himself that although Esterhazy was involved, the Dreyfus verdict had been just. He thereupon ordered the arrest of both Esterhazy and Picquart and went to the Chamber determined to bury Revision for good. Grim and commanding, he told the members that Esterhazy had been wrongfully acquitted and would be dealt with as an accomplice but that “I am completely certain of Dreyfus’ guilt.” He went back over the entire history of the case, rebuilt the structure which the Dreyfusards had bit by bit proved false and in final proof cited Dreyfus’ supposed confession and the Panizzardi letter which Méline, who had been Premier until two weeks ago and was sitting in the audience, knew from the Italians was a forgery. When Cavaignac finished the Chamber was on its feet cheering. He had lifted the terrible burden and they voted 545–0 (with nineteen abstentions including the silent Méline) for a national affichage, or “posting,” of his speech outside every town hall in France. “Now the odious case is buried,” said de Vogüé that night at his club. “Now Dreyfus is nailed to his rock until he dies!”
For the Dreyfusards it was an unbelievable blow, an “atrocious moment.” A journalist came hot from the Chamber to bring the news to Lucien Herr, who was in his study with Léon Blum. They were struck mute; tears were close to the surface; they sat immobilized by consternation and despair. Suddenly the doorbell rang and Jaurès burst in, brushed aside the gesture of his friends inviting him to mourn and berated them in a tone of triumph. “What, you too?… Don’t you understand that now, now for the first time we are certain of victory? Méline was invulnerable because he said nothing. Cavaignac talks, so he will be beaten.… Now Cavaignac has named the documents and I, yes I, tell you they are false, they feel false, they smell false. They are forgeries.… I am certain of it and will prove it. The forgers have come out of their holes; we’ll have them by the throat. Forget your funeral faces. Do as I do; rejoice.”
Jaurès went out and wrote Les Preuves (The Proofs), a series of articles beginning that week in the Socialist paper, La Petite République, which stunned its readers and marked the first collaboration of Socialism with a cause of the bourgeois world. Through the Affair the bridge of class enmity was crossed.
Jaurès himself had been a declared Dreyfusard since before Zola’s trial. Short, stocky, strong, red-faced and jovial, he radiated the joy of battle. With his big head, rough beard and careless clothes finished off by drooping white socks, he looked like the accepted image of a labour leader. He was not, however, of working-class origin but came from the poorer branch of a respectable bourgeois family, and had been a student at the Ecole Normale, where he excelled in Greek and Latin and the humanities and was a friend and classmate of Henri Bergson and his rival for the highest honors. When waiting to testify at Zola’s trial he had paced up and down the corridors with Anatole France reciting Seventeenth Century poetry. In the Chamber when he climbed with heavy, purposeful steps to the tribune and tossed off a glass of red wine before speaking, auditors tensed with expectancy, either worshipful or hostile. He spoke with a “splendid amplitude” in a voice almost too loud which he could easily have lowered and still have been heard in the last rows of any hall but which, as Rolland said, was a sensual pleasure to him when he let it out to the full. He could speak at this pitch for an hour and a half to two hours at a time. Using no notes, he could not be fazed by interruptions which served only to supply him with new inspirations. When heckled he played with his opponent “like a huge cat with a mouse, caressing him, making him jump this way and that,… and then with a sharp blow, flattened him with a final word.”
He was never a sectarian who put a particular orthodoxy ahead of the ultimate goal, a habit which afflicted the Socialist movement. For Jaurès, who led the Carmaux strike in person, the ultimate aim of working-class power was not a theory but a realizable goal and Socialist unity a necessity for its achievement. Once persuaded of Dreyfus’ innocence by Lucien Herr and others, he believed that Socialism, by abstaining from combat against injustice, would diminish itself. By making the cause of justice its own it would place its mark on the ultimate victory, open to itself a new path to power and cover itself with moral glory. The Affair, as he saw it, could become the catalyst of a united front of the Left which the Socialists should lead.
His colleagues in the Socialist party shared his enthusiasm not at all. Moderates like Millerand and Viviani did not want to be mixed up in this “obscure and dangerous” business; the extremists led by Jules Guesde, while personally Dreyfusard, opposed party action as an effort diverting working-class strength from a cause not its own. At a caucus of the party after J’Accuse, to decide what action to take if the Right demanded the prosecution of Zola, the moderates squirmed, preferring discretion to valor on the eve of the election. “Why risk our re-election for Zola?” they said. “He is not a Socialist;… he is after all nothing but a bourgeois.” As the factions argued, Guesde in impatient disgust threw open the window with an ostentatious gesture for fresh air and cried, “Zola’s letter is the greatest revolutionary act of the century!” But it was no more than a gesture and he signed the manifesto which declared, “Leave it to the bourgeoisie to tear themselves to bits over patrie, law, justice and other words that will remain empty of meaning as long as capitalist society endures.” The iniquity of the Affair should be used as a weapon with which to beat the bourgeoisie, not as a cause to “mobilize and immobilize the proletariat behind one faction of the bourgeois world.” The Dreyfus case was nothing but a power struggle between two bourgeois factions: on the one hand the clericals and on the other the Jewish capitalists and their friends. Socialists could not support one side against the other without violating the class struggle. “Between de Mun and Reinach,” proclaimed Guesde, “keep your complete freedom.”
But as de Mun had said, between the two sides there was no room for freedom. “You can hardly imagine how tormented I am!” Jaurès said to Péguy. “Our enemies are nothing—but our friends! They devour me because they are all afraid of not being elected. They pull at the back of my coat to keep me from going to the tribune.” Shaking them off, Jaurès refused to remain silent and did indeed lose his seat in the election of May, 1898, although more because of industrialist opposition in his district than because of the Affair. Turning instead to La Petite République for a platform, as Clemenceau had to l’Aurore, he wrote a daily political column. When he began Les Preuves class hatred was so rooted in Socialist tradition that in order to rally the Left in the fight for justice it was necessary to de-class Dreyfus. “He is no longer an officer nor a bourgeois,” Jaurès wrote. “In his misery he has been skinned of all class character.… He is simply a living witness to the crimes of Authority.… He is nothing less than mankind itself.” He tore into the evidence, took up each one of Cavaignac’s arguments and documents, separated rumor and blackmail, tracked down forgery. The impact of his logic and his strenuous seriousness revived the Dreyfusards. Cavaignac was enraged. At a dinner of the Cabinet he proposed to arrest all the leading Revisionists on a charge of conspiracy against the state and named Mathieu Dreyfus, Bernard Lazare, Ranc, Reinach, Scheurer-Kestner, Picquart, Clemenceau; Zola and others. When one of his colleagues asked sarcastically, Why not the lawyers too, Cavaignac replied, “Of course,” and added Labori and Dreyfus’ lawyer, Demange.
Nevertheless Les Preuves had shaken him. To answer certain of Jaurès’ charges, he ordered yet another examination of the documents, this time by an officer not previously involved in the case. Working at night by the light of a lamp this officer noticed that the writing paper of the crucial Panizzardi letter was gummed together from two halves of the same brand of paper ruled in lines of faintly different colors. Colonel * Henry had used the blank parts of two real letters from Panizzardi to construct his document. The crucial letter was a forgery. Alerted by this find, the investigating officer looked further, was led down dark warrens of discrepancies and dutifully reporting his discoveries, laid ruin in the lap of the Minister of War.
Cavaignac, conqueror of the Affair, saw the whole of the case he had presented to the Chamber and the country shattered like glass. Its crux was a fraud; the statement on which he had won national acclaim was a fraud. For a man of his principles, to hush up the discovery was impossible; he had to face the tragedy of being wrong. Not being of the Army made it easier. He ordered the arrest of Colonel Henry, who was taken to Cherche Midi where Dreyfus had been lodged. That night, August 31, 1898, Colonel Henry committed suicide with the razor they had left for him.
Army officers, when they heard the news, were aghast; some wept. It was a stain on the Army’s honor “worse than Sedan,” said one. Léon Blum, vacationing in Zurich, opened the door of his hotel room at 10 P.M. to the porter who brought the news. “I don’t think that ever in my whole life have I felt an equal excitement.… The immense, the infinite joy that rushed through me had its sources in the triumph of reason. The truth had actually won.” This time, at last and for certain, it seemed to the Dreyfusards they had accomplished their task. In a sense they had, for the truth was now disclosed. To impose it was another matter.
Cavaignac resigned and within two weeks his successor, the sixth Minister of War since Dreyfus’ arrest, also resigned. The Government, surrendering to what was now unavoidable, submitted the case to the Cour de Cassation (literally, “Court of Breaking”), whose task was to decide whether a given verdict should be upheld or broken. The action, taken as mistrust of the Generals, caused another War Minister to resign. Awaiting the Court’s decision whether or not to accept the case, Paris boiled with excitement. If the Court took the case, the Secret File must come under civilian review, which the Army was committed to prevent. In England the sober Spectator thought the logic of the situation must lead to an Army coup d’état. In Paris the royalists and wild men of the Rightist leagues, hoping to provoke exactly that, spread rumors of a plot, called meetings, sent out their hired bands to shout in the streets. It was Déroulède’s longed-for hour.
An irrepressible agitator, a poet and a deputy, long-legged and long-nosed like Don Quixote, Déroulède saw windmills to charge in every aspect of the Republic. A veteran of 1870, he had founded his Ligue des Patriotes in 1882 to keep alive the spirit ofrevanche. It bore the legend “1870–18—–” with the second date left significantly blank and a motto of noble meaninglessness, France Quand Même. Déroulède wrote patriotic verse, loathed the royalists as much as the Republic and had “the political vision of a child.” To foment a crisis he now joined forces with Jules Guérin, active head of the Anti-Semitic League, which was receiving a subsidy from the Duc d’Orléans, who hoped to ride in on the tail of the crisis. Tension grew when a strike of 20,000 construction workers on the site of the Exposition of 1900 caused the Government to bring in troops to occupy the railroad stations and patrol the boulevards. Word spread of a coup planned for the reopening of the Chamber on October 25. Déroulède and Guérin called for a huge protest meeting in front of the Palais Bourbon to demonstrate “confidence in the Army and abhorrence of traitors.”
The Socialists, or a part of them, suddenly discovered the Republic was worth saving. However dedicated to overthrow of the existing system, they did not want it overthrown by the Right. Besides, they were discovering from their local committees that their neutrality in the Affair was compromising them with some of their constituents. “Because we seem to oppose all forms of bourgeois republicanism,” wrote a party worker from the provinces, “many people take us for the allies of monarchist reactionaries.”
The Socialist leaders, sending out notices by pneumatique, called an emergency meeting of their several groups to organize a united front in face of the peril, and such seemed the urgency of the moment that they succeeded in forming a joint, if temporary, Committee of Vigilance. Following proper revolutionary procedure, it decided to hold meetings every night and call upon the people for mass demonstrations. Clashes with the Rightist leagues, riots, even civil war loomed. In awful anxiety the Dreyfusard League for the Rights of Man called upon all Republicans to disdain fracas in the streets, but Jaurès saw Socialist opportunity: “Paris is trembling with resolve … the proletariat is organizing.” Warned, however, by Guesde that to provoke an outbreak would be playing the game of the Generals, who were believed to be waiting for a riot to seize power, the Committee of Vigilance had second thoughts. Socialists would provoke nothing, it announced. “Revolutionary groups are ready to act or abstain, according to the circumstances.”
So certain were the royalists of “the day” that André Buffet, chef de cabinet for the Duc d’Orléans, telegraphed the Pretender that his presence in nearby Brussels on October 24 was “indispensable.” The Duke, who was hunting in Bohemia, replied, “Should I come at once or can I wait here? Urgent business.” Adamant, Buffet wired back, “Approach frontier necessary,” but the Duke, better advised, stayed away.
The day came, crowds surrounded the Chamber, filled the Place de la Concorde and nearby streets, slogans were shouted, red flags waved. “It seemed like the eve either of a new Commune or of a coup by a dictator.” The atmosphere was threatening: troops and police were everywhere. The day passed, however, and the Republic still stood, for the Right lacked that necessary chemical of a coup—a leader. It had its small, if loud, fanatics; but to upset the established government in a democratic country requires either foreign help or the stuff of a dictator. As Clemenceau had harshly said when Boulanger shot himself on the grave of his mistress, inside the “Man on Horseback” was only “the soul of a second lieutenant.”
Events rushed on. On October 29 the Cour de Cassation announced it would accept the case and begin its inquiry, VICTOIRE! proclaimed l’Aurore in the same type as J’ACCUSE! Revisionists hailed the decision as re-establishing civil power over the military. Then the Court demanded the Secret File. The Minister of War refused and resigned. The Government fell. For the next seven months the Court became the focus of the battle. From this point on, the Right was on the defensive and the Affair entered its period of greatest frenzy. The Court was excoriated by the Nationalist press as the “sanctuary of treason,” a “branch of the synagogue,” the “lair of Judas,” a “combination of Bourse and brothel.” The judges were variously “hirelings of Germany,” “valets of the synagogue” and “rogues in ermine.” Pressures of all kinds were exerted, both sides were accused of corrupting the judges, and the Nationalists succeeded in forcing the case out of the Criminal Chamber, which was considered too favorable, to the united Court of three chambers, which was considered more susceptible to pressure.
A Dreyfusard tempest raged at the same time over Picquart. To keep him from testifying before the Cour de Cassation the Army had transferred him to Cherche Midi preliminary to a court-martial. The League for the Rights of Man organized public protest meetings every night, in the provincial cities as well as in Paris. Jaurès’ name and prestige drew 30,000 to a meeting in Marseilles. He, Duclaux the scientist, Anatole France, Octave Mirbeau and Sebastian Faure were the favorite speakers. Workers and bourgeois, students and professors, working women and Society women crowded the halls and overflowed onto the sidewalks, applauded the famous orators and marched together to shout “Vive Picquart!” under the prison walls of Cherche Midi. Signatures for a protest on Picquart came in this time not by hundreds but by thousands, including thirty-four members of the Institut de France, a measure, as Reinach said, of the distance covered by truth on the march. Among the new names were Sarah Bernhardt and Hervé de Kerohant, editor of Soleil, formerly against Revision, who signed the protest as “Patriot, Royalist, Christian.” The historian and Academician Ernest Lavisse felt strongly enough to act, and as his gesture of personal protest, resigned his chair at St-Cyr.
Even the Anarchists, hitherto resolutely contemptuous and indifferent, were swept into the cause. Formerly they had denounced the Dreyfus “parade,” in the words of their newspaper, Le Père Peinard, as a “bunch of dirty types” led by Clemenceau and by “the old exploiter Scheurer-Kestner, the toad Yves Guyot [editor of Le Siècle], the hideous Reinach, three malefactors who helped to concoct the lois scélérates.” Now, however, when their bourgeois enemies cried out the sufferings of the two martyred prisoners of Devil’s Island and Cherche Midi, the Anarchists did the same for their own martyrs sent to forced labour in French Guiana. With a new interest in these cases the League for the Rights of Man succeeded in obtaining pardons for five of them.
Some on the Right could no longer keep their heads turned from the truth. Mme de Greffulhe, goddess of the gratin, becoming secretly convinced of Dreyfus’ innocence, wrote to the Kaiser asking to visit him to ascertain if the Germans really had employed Dreyfus as a spy. The only answer she received was a large basket of orchids. Proust chronicles the change in his character, the Prince de Guermantes, who confesses to Swann that after Colonel Henry’s suicide he has begun to read Le Siècle and l’Auroresecretly every day. He and his wife, unknown to each other, have asked the Abbé to say a mass for Dreyfus and his family, and discovered to each other’s astonishment that the Abbé too believes him innocent. Meeting the maid on the staircase carrying breakfast to the Princesse and concealing something under the napkin, the Prince discovers it to be l’Aurore.
Below the trapped obstinacy of the Generals, some in the Army were deeply troubled. “Just among ourselves with no outsiders present,” an officer said to Galliffet while riding in a train, “we are not as anti-Revisionist as people think. On the contrary we too would like to see the light and see the culprits punished so that if wrongs have been committed the Army will not bear the responsibility.” He felt that if Picquart were tried and convicted public opinion would turn against the Army.
The Army’s cup of bitterness was filled when in the same week that the Cour de Cassation began its inquiry the order was given withdrawing Colonel Marchand from Fashoda. Jaurès lashed at the imperialist adventure as a crime of capitalism which had frivolously imperiled peace without preparing for the consequence of challenging England. As if his already strong intuitive perceptions had been sharpened by the Affair, he wrote with foreboding, “Peace has been left to the whim of chance. But if war breaks out it will be vast and terrible. For the first time it will be universal, sucking in all the continents. Capitalism has widened the field of battle and the entire planet will turn red with the blood of countless men. No more terrible accusation can be made against this social system.” In his time it was still possible to suppose the fault lay in the system, not humanity.
The Affair continued in its frenzy. When Reinach wrote a series of articles in Le Siècle accusing Colonel Henry of having had a “personal interest” in ruining Dreyfus, Drumont persuaded Mme Henry to sue him for libel and opened a public subscription in her behalf which became the rallying point for Nationalists of every degree. A banner reading “For the Widow and Orphan of Colonel Henry against the Jew Reinach” was stretched across the windows of the offices of La Libre Parole on the Boulevard Montmartre and lit up at night. Within a month fifteen thousand persons had contributed 130,000 francs. Their names and comments provided a history of the Right—of that or any time. Five hundred francs, the top sum, was subscribed by the Countess Odon de Montesquiou, née Bibesco, and thirty sous by a lieutenant “poor in money but rich in hate.” There were all varieties of hate, chiefly for Jews, expressed in suggestions for skinning, branding, boiling in oil, burning with vitriol, emasculation and other forms of foul or physical punishment. There was hate for foreigners and intellectuals and even a “500-year-old hate for England” but there were many who gave their francs out of love or pity for the widow and child. An abbé contributed for “defence of eternal law against Judaeo-Christiandeceit,” a music professor for “Frenchmen against foreigners,” a civil servant “who wants God in the schools,” an anonymous donor “ruined by a Jew after six months of marriage,” a workingman as “the victim of the anarchist capitalists Jaurès and Reinach.” There were innumerable “true patriots” and one “Frenchman sick at heart.” There were Vive!’s for Drumont, Rochefort, Déroulède, Guérin, Esterhazy, the Duc d’Orléans, l’Empereur, le Roi, the Heroes of Austerlitz and Jeanne d’Arc. Reinach was the chief target; Dreyfus received hardly a mention. General Mercier subscribed a hundred francs without comment; the poet Paul Valéry three francs “not without reflection.”
Suddenly and strangely on top of all the excitement, the President of France, Félix Faure, died. The public sensed something unexplained and the truth in fact was too embarrassing to be told. Proud of his amatory prowess, President Faure died in the performance thereof in a ground-floor room of the Elysée. An aura of something hushed up was added to the atmosphere already charged with aggression and suspicion.
In the election of a new president, held in the midst of hysterical battle over jurisdiction of the Court, Emile Loubet, President of the Senate, a steady, simple Republican and product of peasant stock, won over the Conservative Méline. As Premier at the time of the Panama scandal, Loubet was despised by the Nationalists. They called his election an “insult to France,” a “challenge to the Army,” a “victory for Jewish treason.” Their hired mobs sent to hoot his progress from the Gare St-Lazare to the Elysée raised such a clamor that even the band playing the “Marseillaise” could not be heard. “The Republic will not founder in my hands,” said Loubet calmly. “They know it and it maddens them.”
The Right in a state of ungovernable excitement was prepared to make it founder. “In a week we will have driven Loubet from the Presidency,” boasted Jules Lemaître. The state funeral of Faure was fixed on as the occasion for a coup d’état. The Army must be persuaded to save the country. The “Leaguers” thought they could do it by a cry, a gesture, an occasion, and did not concern themselves with serious organization. Their plan was to intercept the military escort of the cortege while it was returning from the cemetery to its barracks in the Place de la Nation, and lead it to seize the Elysée. Déroulède joined by Guérin led a band of two hundred patriots into the streets, caught hold of the bridle of General Roget, commander of the escort, shouting, “To the Elysée, General! Follow us, General, follow us! To the Place Bastille! To the Hotel de Ville! To the Elysée! Friends await us. I beg you, General, save France, establish a Republic of the people, kick out the parlementaires!” The General kept his head and kept moving, the crowd, ignorant but willing, shouted, “Save France! Vive l’Armée!”, the troops sweeping Déroulède and his followers with them, marched on to the barracks and entered. Déroulède, throwing open his coat to reveal his deputy’s scarf, emblem of parliamentary immunity, was nevertheless carted off to the police station to be indicted for insurrection and provide at his trial one more cause for combative passions. The fiasco did nothing to daunt the expectations of the Right. In the following month the Anti-Semitic League received 56,000 francs from the Duc d’Orléans and 100,000 from Boni de Castellane.
Hardly had breath been drawn when the verdict that all France was awaiting was announced by the Cour de Cassation. Forty-six judges in scarlet and ermine declared for Revision. A cruiser was sent to bring Dreyfus back from Devil’s Island for retrial. Zola returned from England with an article which l’Aurore headlined in the now familiar type, JUSTICE! He saw all factional and party lines now dissipated in one great division separating France into two camps: the forces of reaction and the past against the forces of justice and the future. This was the logical order of battle to complete the task of 1789. With the unquenchable optimism of their age the Dreyfusards hailed the Court’s decision as the herald of social justice for the century about to be born. A great burden of shame seemed lifted and replaced by pride in France. “What other country,” wrote a correspondent of Le Temps at The Hague where the Peace Conference was assembled, “has had the privilege of making the world’s heart beat faster as we have for the last three years?” Revision meant not only the triumph of justice but of “the liberty of mankind.” Others beside Frenchmen felt this universality. William James, traveling in Europe, wrote as he saw daylight breaking through the Affair, “It may be one of those moral crises that become starting points and high water marks and leave traditions and rallying cries and new faces behind them.”
The Nationalists were flung into paroxysms of wrath. Caran d’Ache drew a cartoon showing Dreyfus with a smirk and Reinach with a whip ordering, “Come here, Marianne.” On the facing page he drew Zola emerging from a toilet bowl holding a toy Dreyfus, with the caption, “Truth Rising from Its Well.”
Fury at the Court’s decision was vented the next day on the head of President Loubet when he attended the races at Auteuil. It was the Sunday of le Grand Steeple, the most fashionable event of the season. When the President’s carriage drove up to the grandstand, groups of well-dressed gentlemen wearing in their buttonholes the white carnation of the royalists and the blue cornflower of the anti-Semites, and brandishing their canes, shouted in pounding rhythm, “Dé-mis-sion! [resign] Pa-na-ma! Dé-mis-sion! Pa-na-ma!” Through the howls and threats Loubet took his seat. Suddenly a tall man with a blond moustache, wearing a white carnation and white cravat, later identified as the Baron Fernand de Christiani, detached himself from the group, dashed up the steps two at a time and struck the President on the head with a heavy cane. Ladies screamed. A sudden silence of general stupor followed, then an uproar as the assailant’s companions rushed to rescue him from the guards. As some were arrested others converged on the police in yelling groups, striking with their canes. The scene was “un charivari infernal.” General Zurlinden, Governor of Paris, telephoned for reinforcements of three cavalry detachments. Loubet, though shaken, apologized for the disturbance to Countess Tornielli, the Italian Ambassadress, in the seat beside him. “It was a place of honor,” she replied.
In Loubet’s top hat the Republic itself had been assaulted and the public was startled and indignant. Telegrams from committees and municipal councils all over France poured in expressing a loyalty deeper than might have been supposed from the experience of the last years. Loubet announced that as an invited guest he intended to appear at next Sunday’s races at Longchamps. Forewarned, the leagues and newspapers of both sides called for demonstrations and assembled their battalions. The Government took extraordinary precautions. Thirty squadrons of cavalry and a brigade of infantry in battle dress were lined up along the route from the Elysée to Longchamps, while at the racecourse itself dragoons of the Garde Républicaine armed with rifles were stationed at every ten yards around the course and at every betting window. Mounted police guarded the lawn. More than 100,000 people turned out along the route and at the racecourse, many wearing the red rose boutonniere of the Left. Again the threat of the Right brought out the workers, less, perhaps, to defend the bourgeois state than to defy the representatives of the ruling class. The presence of more than six thousand guardians of the law prevented a major outbreak, but throughout the day demonstrators clashed, private riots and melees erupted, cries and counter-cries resounded, hundreds were arrested, reporters and police as well as demonstrators were injured. As the crowds flowed back to Paris in the evening the turbulence swept through the cafés; “Vive la République!” met “Vive l’Armée!” Bottles and glasses, carafes and trays were hurled, tables and chairs became weapons, police charged; anger, broken heads and national animosities mounted. Even outside Paris, in a pension in Brest where officers and professors boarded, “these young men equally animated by love of France” could no longer talk to or understand each other without coming to the point of a duel. It was time, urged Le Temps, for a “truce of God.”
But it was not to be had. When again the Government fell in the week after Longchamps, the fears and difficulties to be faced in office were now so great that for eight days no one could form a Government. In the vacuum the man who came forward with intent to “liquidate” the Affair was able to impose conditions that would otherwise have been unacceptable. He was René Waldeck-Rousseau, fifty-three, the leading lawyer of Paris and a polished orator, known as the “Pericles of the Republic.” A Catholic from Britanny, wealthy and wellborn, he was impressive in manner and British in appearance, with cropped hair and moustache, a taste for hunting and fishing, a talent for watercolors and impeccable clothes. Rochefort called him Waldeck le pommadé because he was so well groomed. Admired by the Radicals and approved by the Center, he represented the juste milieu.
With the retrial of Dreyfus ahead, the Affair was moving toward climax. To retain office under the terrible buffeting he could expect, Waldeck deliberately chose to form a Government which, by being equally obnoxious to both sides, would cancel the blows of either. He selected a Socialist, Millerand, as Minister of Commerce and a military hero, the Marquis de Galliffet, “butcher” of the Commune, as Minister of War. The tumult in press and parliament that greeted this remarkable expedient was unequalled. “Pure madness … absolute lunacy … monstrous … infamous!” came from both sides. The appointment of Millerand not only infuriated the Right; his acceptance created a scandal and a schism in his own party and in the Socialist International of major proportions and historic significance. Acceptance of office in a capitalist Government was a betrayal comparable to that of Judas. Profoundly saddened, Jaurès begged Millerand to shun the offer, but Waldeck had knowingly selected a man to whom the lure of office was strong. The Socialists now had to face the choice whether or not to support the Waldeck Government when it came to the Chamber for a vote of confidence. If the Government lost, the prospect was chaos. Jaurès was persuaded by Lucien Herr’s argument: “What a triumph for Socialism that the Republic cannot be saved without calling on the party of the proletariat!” The Guesde faction, however, clung to the class struggle. Socialists, stated Guesde, “enter Parliament as though we were in an enemy State only in order to fight the enemy class.” Jaurès warned that if Socialsm persisted in this attitude it would sink to the level of “sterile and intransigent anarchism,” but he did not prevail. The Union Socialiste broke apart; twenty-five of the parliamentary members agreed to support the Government; seventeen refused. Guesde enchanted his group with the exciting suggestion that it should greet the new Government’s appearance in the Chamber with cries of “Vive la Commune!” but, so as not to find themselves allied with the Right, abstain when it came to a vote.
For ten minutes next day they stood hurling “Vive la Commune! A bas les fusilleurs! A bas l’assassin!” at the new ministers. The object of it all, General the Marquis de Galliffet, Prince de Martigues, nearly seventy, with red-bronze face and bright eyes, looked mockingly on the scene, half-gratified, half-disgusted. He had fought in the Crimea, Italy, Mexico, Algeria and at Sedan, where he had led his regiment into the last cavalry charge with the reply to his commanding officer, “As often as you like, Sir, as long as one of us is left.” Impressed by the great Gambetta’s patriotism and fighting spirit, Galliffet became and remained a loyal Republican and openly despised Boulanger. The eyes in his highly colored face were sunk on either side of a nose like the beak of a bird of prey, but his figure was vigorous and young and he still wore “the same air that had made his fortune, as of a bandit chief who feared nothing or a grand seigneur who cared for nothing.” Despite a silver-plated stomach and a limp from old wounds, he played tennis in the Tuileries Gardens and his love affairs, recounted with sparkle and ribaldry, were the delight of the Bixio. He told how Mme de Castiglione showed him her nude portrait by Baudry, and when he asked if she was really as beautiful as that, she disrobed and posed on the sofa. “The picture was better,” Galliffet concluded. He was called the sabreur de la parole because he told stories “as if he were charging at the head of his squadron.” Devoted to the fighting efficiency of the Army and to Picquart who had served under his command, he had become a Revisionist. For this sin he was cut at the Jockey, and after he became a Minister, resigned from the Cercle de l’Union, less because of his own opinions than because of “imbecile” members who got themselves arrested at Auteuil; as he said, “It’s not possible to belong to a club if one has to arrest the members; it’s not sociable.” Caustic and eccentric, proud of having nothing to live on but his pension after having once been rich, he possessed “courage, effrontery, intelligence, contempt for death and thirst for life.”
He needed all these to become Minister of War at the peak of the Affair. Confronting the taunts of the Guesde extremists in the Chamber, he suddenly stood up and barked, “L’assassin, présent!” The din became general. Nationalists, Radicals, Center, were shouting insults and shaking fists. Millerand, a lawyer like Waldeck, with gray hair en brosse, a lorgnon, a neat black moustache and a precise, aggressive manner, was wilting. His moustache trembled and he looked “like a huge cat caught in a downpour.” Galliffet was observed taking down names and explained later, “I thought I’d better invite those chaps to dinner.” Waldeck, trying to speak, stood at the tribune for an hour without being heard for more than ten minutes. He fought desperately and succeeded in establishing the Government by a majority of twenty-six.
Galliffet joined it “without illusions,” he wrote to Princess Radziwill, because of its promise to pacify France, “if that is still possible. The Rightist papers beg me to do another Boulanger and those of the Left want me to cut off the heads of all the Generals who displease them. The public is an idiot. If I touch a guilty general I am accused of massacring the Army; if I abstain I am accused of treason. What a dilemma. Pity me.” Actually, although he found Loubet “too bourgeois,” he was pleased to be a Minister and was very “gay and amusing” at the next meeting of the Bixio. He told a lively story of a rather large but lovely lady of forty-five who visited him at his office to propose a little deal involving 20,000 horses to be bought for the Army. There would be a million in it for him. “A million,” he said to her. “That’s not much considering the twenty-five million I got from the Syndicate as everyone knows. Go to see Waldeck. He is jealous of me because he only got seventeen million.”
Six weeks later, on August 8, 1899, the retrial of Dreyfus by a new court-martial was scheduled to open in the garrison town of Rennes, a Catholic and aristocratic corner of traditionally Counter-Revolutionary Brittany. France quivered in expectation; as each week passed bringing the moment closer, the tension grew. The world’s eyes were turned on Rennes. All the important foreign newspapers sent their star correspondents. Lord Russell of Killowen, the Lord Chief Justice of England, came as an observer. All the leading figures in the Affair, hundreds of French journalists and important political, social and literary figures crammed the town. The Secret File was brought from Paris in an iron box on an artillery caisson. No one anywhere talked of anything but the coming verdict. Acquittal would mean for the Dreyfusards vindication at last; for the Nationalists it would be lethal; an unimaginable blow not to be permitted. As if on order they returned to the theme of the first blackmail: Dreyfus or the Army. “A choice is to be made,” wrote Barrès in the Journal; Rennes, he said, was the Rubicon. “If Dreyfus is innocent then seven Ministers of War are guilty and the last more than the first,” echoed Meyer in Le Gaulois. General Mercier, leaving for Rennes to appear as a witness, issued his Order of the Day: “Dreyfus will be condemned once more. For in this affair someone is certainly guilty and the guilty one is either him or me. As it is certainly not me, it is Dreyfus.… Dreyfus is a traitor and I shall prove it.”
At six o’clock on the morning of August 8 the Court convened with an audience of six hundred persons in the hall of the lycée, the only room in Rennes large enough to accommodate them. In the front row, next to former President Casimir-Périer, sat Mercier, his yellow lined face as expressionless as ever, and nearby, the widow of Colonel Henry in her long black mourning veil. Dignitaries, officers in uniform, ladies in light summer dresses and more than four hundred journalists filled the rows behind. Colonel Jouaust, presiding officer of the seven military judges, called out in a voice hoarse under the pressure of the moment, “Bring in the accused.”
At once every chattering voice was stilled, every mouth closed, people seemed to hold their breath as with one movement every head in the audience turned toward a small door in the wall on the right. Every gaze fastened on it with a kind of shrinking awe as if fearful to look upon a ghost. For the accused was a ghost, whom no one in the room had laid eyes on for almost five years, whom no one there beyond his family, lawyers and original accusers had ever seen at all. For five years he had been present in all their minds, not as a man but as an idea; now he was going to walk through the door and they would look on Lazarus. A minute passed, then another while the waiting people were gripped in silence, an agonized silence, “such a silence as never before could have overtaken a crowd.”
The door opened, two guards were seen; between them came forward a thin, worn, desiccated figure, a strange shred of humanity, seeming neither young nor old, with a shrunken face and dried-out skin, and a body looking almost hollowed out but holding itself erect as if not to falter in the last few yards between the door and the witness box. Only the pince-nez familiar from the pictures had not suffered. A movement of “horror and pity” passed through the watchers, and the look bent on him by Picquart whose life he had changed beyond repair was so intense it could be felt by the people in between. Others present whose careers he had changed or broken—Clemenceau, Cavaignac—saw him for the first time.
For four and a half years Dreyfus had hardly spoken or heard a spoken word. Illness, fever, tropical sun, periods of chains and brutality when the frenzy in France was reflected by his gaolers, had enfeebled him. He could barely speak and only slowly understand what was spoken to him. Mounting the three steps to the tribune he staggered momentarily, straightened himself, saluted with impenetrable face, raised his gloved hand to take the oath, removed his hat, revealed the hair turned prematurely white. He remained a statue. He knew nothing of the Affair, the battle of the press, the duels and petitions, riots, street mobs, Leagues, trials, libel suits, appeals, coups d’état; nothing of Scheurer-Kestner, Reinach, the arrest of Picquart, the trial of Zola, the court-martial of Esterhazy, the suicide of Colonel Henry, the attack on the person of the President of France. During the trial, the impression he made on many was unfavorable. Rigidly determined to allow nothing to show that would appeal to pity, he antagonized many who came prepared to pity. G. A. Henty who came like most of the English, believing him to have been framed, left voicing doubts. “The man looked and spoke like a spy … and if he isn’t a spy I’ll be damned if he oughtn’t to be one.” Henty spoke for the last romantics who expected abstract concepts like Justice to be unequivocal and people who behaved oddly to be spies.
In the end it was not the impression Dreyfus made that determined the outcome any more than it was he who made the Affair: it was the dilemma Mercier had formulated long ago and it was General Mercier among the hundreds of witnesses who dominated the trial. Cold in authority, haughty in self-assurance, he took full responsibility for the original order withholding the Secret File from the defence, which he said was a “moral” decision. When on the witness stand he refused to answer questions he did not like; when not on the stand he intervened without being asked. When the Secret File was under examination he ordered the public excluded and the Court obeyed him. When questioned on the Army’s suppression of evidence, the cynicism of his answers, Reinach confessed, “was almost admirable,… as if crime might be the source of a kind of beauty.” Mercier “has become hallucinated,” wrote Galliffet. “He thinks France is incarnated in his person … but all the same he is an honorable man.”
As the weeks of examination and testimony dragged on with the succession of witnesses personally and passionately involved, the contention of lawyers, the disputes of journalists and observers, the heated feelings of the town, suspense as to the verdict became almost insupportable. In Paris rumors of another coup d’état planned for the day Mercier was to testify caused the Government to raid the homes of a hundred suspects and arrest sixty-five in their beds, including Déroulède but missing Guérin, who got away, barricaded himself in a house in the Rue Chabrol with a cache of munitions and fourteen companions, where he held out against a somewhat lackluster police siege for six weeks. “I don’t budge from my office from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. seven days a week, in order to be prepared for anything,” wrote Galliffet.
On August 14 the too eloquent and aggressive Maître Labori, who “looked like Hercules and pleaded like a boxer,” was shot outside the court, but not killed, by a young man with red hair who ran away shouting, “I’ve just killed the Dreyfus! I’ve just killed the Dreyfus!” The name again had become an abstraction. The attack raised the temperature to the level of madness. Since the assailant had run away with Labori’s briefcase and had not been caught, it seemed to the Dreyfusards a deliberate plot and one more proof that the Nationalists would stop at nothing. They denounced their opponents as “murderers,” a “General Staff of criminals” and swore that “for every one of ours we shall kill one of theirs—Mercier, Cavaignac, Boisdeffre, Barrès.” Wrote Princess Radziwill to Galliffet, “My God, what an end to the century!”
The end of the trial came on September 9 and all the world gasped at the unbelievable verdict. By a vote of 5–2 Dreyfus was condemned again with “extenuating circumstances” which permitted a sentence of five years, already served, instead of a mandatory life sentence. Since there could obviously be nothing extenuating about treason, the rider was provocative to both sides. It had been devised by the prosecution, which realized that it would be easier to obtain a verdict of guilty if the judges did not have on their consciences the prospect of sending Dreyfus back to Devil’s Island.
The effect of the verdict was as of some awful disaster. People were stunned. Queen Victoria telegraphed Lord Russell, “The Queen has learned with stupefaction the frightful verdict and hopes the poor martyr will appeal it to the highest judges.” “Iniquitous, cynical, odious, barbarous,” wrote The Times correspondent, bereft of sentence structure. Like an angry Isaiah, Clemenceau demanded, “What remains of the historic tradition that once made us champions of justice for the whole of the earth? A cry will ring out over the world: Where is France? What became of France?” World opinion suddenly became an issue, more acutely because of the coming International Exposition of 1900. At Evian on Lake Geneva, where many of the gratin spent their summer holidays, Proust found the Comtesse de Noailles weeping and crying, “How could they do it? What will the foreigners think of us now?” In the Nationalist camp the same thought was cause for rejoicing. “Since 1870 it is our first victory over the foreigner,” exulted Le Gaulois.
Strength of feeling everywhere was made plain; the whole world cared. Excitement in Odessa was “simply extraordinary”; there was intense indignation in Berlin, “disgust and horror” in far-off Melbourne, protest meetings in Chicago and suggestions from all quarters for boycott of the Exposition. In Liverpool copies of The Times were bought out in minutes and soon sold at a premium. From Norway the composer Grieg wrote refusing an invitation to conduct his music at the Théâtre Chatelet because of his “indignation at the contempt for justice shown in your country.” The English, riding at the time a wave of anti-French feeling because of Fashoda, were most indignant of all. Hyde Park rang with protest meetings, newspapers denounced the “insult to civilization,” industrial firms and cultural societies urged boycott of the Exposition as a means of bringing pressure on the French Government, travelers were urged to cancel proposed visits, a hotel-keeper in the Lake District evicted a honeymooning French couple and one writer to the editor asserted that even the question of the Transvaal “pales into insignificance before the larger questions of truth and justice.” The Times, however, reminded readers that many Frenchmen had risked “more than life itself” to prevent the defeat of justice and could not be expected to abandon the struggle to redress the wrong of Rennes.
The fight did in fact go on, but public opinion was worn out. The Affair was one of those situations for which there was no good solution. Waldeck-Rousseau offered Dreyfus a pardon which, despite the fierce objections of Clemenceau, was accepted on grounds of humanity—since Dreyfus could go through no more—and with the proviso that it would not terminate the effort to clear his name. Galliffet issued to the Army an Order of the Day: “The incident is closed.… Forget the past so that you may think only of the future.” Waldeck introduced an Amnesty Bill annulling all pending legal actions connected with the case and angering both sides: the Right because Déroulède was excluded; the Dreyfusards because Picquart, Reinach and others who had suffered injustice or had been sued could not clear themselves. Waldeck was adamant. “The amnesty does not judge, it does not accuse, it does not acquit; it ignores.” Debate nevertheless continued furious and lasted for a year before the bill became law. Animosities did not close over. Positions taken during the Affair hardened and crystallized. Lemaître, who had entered it more for sensation than from conviction, became a rabid royalist; Anatole France moved far to the left.
The battle shifted from the moral to the political; from Dreyfus to the Dreyfusian Revolution. It remained the same battle but the terms changed. The issue was no longer Justice and Revision but the effort of the Government under Waldeck and his successor, Combes, to curb clericalism and republicanize education and the Army. The fight was waged as fiercely as ever over Waldeck’s Law of Associations directed against the Religious Orders and over the affair of General André and the fiches when it was disclosed that the overzealous Minister of War in 1904 was using reports from Masonic officers on Catholic brother-officers to guide him in matters of promotion. Persistent and unrelenting efforts by Mathieu Dreyfus, Reinach and Jaurès succeeded against all obstacles in achieving a final Revision and a “breaking” of the Rennes verdict by the Cour de Cassation. On July 13, 1906, the eve of Bastille Day, almost twelve years after Dreyfus’ arrest and seven years after Rennes, a bill restoring Dreyfus and Picquart to the Army was carried in the Chamber by 442–32, with de Mun still among the negatives. Dreyfus, decorated with the Légion d’Honneur, was promoted to Major and Picquart to General, the ranks they would have reached by the normal course of events. In 1902 Drumont failed of reelection to the Chamber; La Libre Parole declined and in 1907 was offered for sale with no takers. Zola died in 1902 and at his funeral Anatole France spoke the just and noble epitaph of the man who “for a moment,… was the conscience of mankind.” In 1908 Zola’s ashes were transferred to the Panthéon. In the course of the ceremony a man named Gregori shot at Dreyfus, wounding him in the arm, and was subsequently acquitted in the Assize Court. In 1906 Clemenceau became Premier and named Picquart his Minister of War. Picquart in the seat of Mercier, “that’s something to see!” said Galliffet. “There are some things to console one for not being able to decide to die.”
Rennes was the climax. After Rennes neither the fight for Justice nor the struggle of the Right against the Republic was over, but the Affair was. While it lasted, France exhibited, as in the Revolution, political man at his most combative. It was a time of excess. Men plunged in up to the hilt of their capacities and beliefs. They held nothing back. On the eve of the new century the Affair revealed what energies and ferocity were at hand to greet it.
* The document recovered from the wastebasket of the German military attaché which was the original evidence of treason. It was a list of the information supplied.
* The last Bourbon Pretender, grandson of Charles X, who styled himself Henri V and died in 1883.
* He had been promoted.