It’s Coming up to the 100th anniversary of Emile Zola fleeing his persecution for Defending Dreyfuss from False imprisonment by the French State It seems Somehow relevant to the Current Pack of Sophists in the Mainstream Media, The Anti Semitism Bed wetting and general all-round Debauchery in our Civil Society, In the Uk ; France and the Eu generally.
“Next plung’d a feeble, but a desp’rate pack,
With each a sickly brother at his back:
Sons of a Day! just buoyant on the flood,
Then number’d with the puppies in the mud.
Ask ye their names? I could as soon disclose
The names of these blind puppies as of those.”(B 305–310)
Pope The Dunciad.
Zola was brought to trial for criminal libel on 7 February 1898, and was convicted on 23 February and removed from the Legion of Honor. The first judgment was overturned in April on a technicality, but a new suit was pressed against Zola, which opened on 18 July. At his lawyer’s advice, Zola fled to England rather than wait for the end of the trial (at which he was again convicted). Without even having had the time to pack a few clothes, he arrived at Victoria Station on 19 July, the start of a brief and unhappy residence in London, living at Upper Norwood from October 1898 to June 1899.
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Zola was brought to trial for criminal libel on 7 February 1898, and was convicted on 23 February and removed from the Legion of Honor. The first judgment was overturned in April on a technicality, but a new suit was pressed against Zola, which opened on 18 July. At his lawyer’s advice, Zola fled to England rather than wait for the end of the trial (at which he was again convicted). Without even having had the time to pack a few clothes, he arrived at Victoria Station on 19 July, the start of a brief and unhappy residence in London, living at Upper Norwood from October 1898 to June 1899.
|Monsieur le Président,
Me permettez-vous, dans ma gratitude pour le bienveillant accueil que vous m’avez fait un jour, d’avoir le souci de votre juste gloire et de vous dire que votre étoile, si heureuse jusqu’ici, est menacée de la plus honteuse, de la plus ineffaçable des tâches ?
Vous êtes sorti sain et sauf des basses calomnies, vous avez conquis les coeurs. Vous apparaissez rayonnant dans l’apothéose de cette fête patriotique que l’alliance russe a été pour la France, et vous vous préparez à présider au solennel triomphe de notre Exposition Universelle, qui couronnera notre grand siècle de travail, de vérité et de liberté. Mais quelle tâche de boue sur votre nom — j’allais dire sur votre règne — que cette abominable affaire Dreyfus ! Un conseil de guerre vient, par ordre, d’oser acquitter un Esterhazy, soufflet suprême à toute vérité, à toute justice. Et c’est fini, la France a sur la joue cette souillure, l’histoire écrira que c’est sous votre présidence qu’un tel crime social a pu être commis.
Puisqu’ils ont osé, j’oserai aussi, moi. La vérité, je la dirai, car j’ai promis de la dire, si la justice, régulièrement saisie, ne la faisait pas, pleine et entière. Mon devoir est de parler, je ne veux pas être complice. Mes nuits seraient hantées par le spectre de l’innocent qui expie là-bas, dans la plus affreuse des tortures, un crime qu’il n’a pas commis.
Et c’est à vous, monsieur le Président, que je la crierai, cette vérité, de toute la force de ma révolte d’honnête homme. Pour votre honneur, je suis convaincu que vous l’ignorez. Et à qui donc dénoncerai-je la tourbe malfaisante des vrais coupables, si ce n’est à vous, le premier magistrat du pays ?
La vérité d’abord sur le procès et sur la condamnation de Dreyfus.
Un homme néfaste a tout mené, a tout fait, c’est le lieutenant-colonel du Paty de Clam, alors simple commandant. Il est l’affaire Dreyfus tout entière; on ne la connaîtra que lorsqu’une enquête loyale aura établi nettement ses actes et ses responsabilités. Il apparaît comme l’esprit le plus fumeux, le plus compliqué, hanté d’intrigues romanesques, se complaisant aux moyens des romans-feuilletons, les papiers volés, les lettres anonymes, les rendez-vous dans les endroits déserts, les femmes mystérieuses qui colportent, de nuit, des preuves accablantes. C’est lui qui imagina de dicter le bordereau à Dreyfus; c’est lui qui rêva de l’étudier dans une pièce entièrement revêtue de glaces; c’est lui que le commandant Forzinetti nous représente armé d’une lanterne sourde, voulant se faire introduire près de l’accusé endormi, pour projeter sur son visage un brusque flot de lumière et surprendre ainsi son crime, dans l’émoi du réveil. Et je n’ai pas à tout dire, qu’on cherche, on trouvera. Je déclare simplement que le commandant du Paty de Clam, chargé d’instruire l’affaire Dreyfus, comme officier judiciaire, est, dans l’ordre des dates et des responsabilités, le premier coupable de l’effroyable erreur judiciaire qui a été commise.
Le bordereau était depuis quelque temps déjà entre les mains du colonel Sandherr, directeur du bureau des renseignements, mort depuis de paralysie générale. Des « fuites » avaient lieu, des papiers disparaissaient, comme il en disparaît aujourd’hui encore; et l’auteur du bordereau était recherché, lorsqu’un a priori se fit peu à peu que cet auteur ne pouvait être qu’un officier de l’état-major, et un officier d’artillerie: double erreur manifeste, qui montre avec quel esprit superficiel on avait étudié ce bordereau, car un examen raisonné démontre qu’il ne pouvait s’agir que d’un officier de troupe.
On cherchait donc dans la maison, on examinait les écritures, c’était comme une affaire de famille, un traître à surprendre dans les bureaux mêmes, pour l’en expulser. Et, sans que je veuille refaire ici une histoire connue en partie, le commandant du Paty de Clam entre en scène, dès qu’un premier soupçon tombe sur Dreyfus. A partir de ce moment, c’est lui qui a inventé Dreyfus, l’affaire devient son affaire, il se fait fort de confondre le traître, de l’amener à des aveux complets. Il y a bien le ministre de la Guerre, le général Mercier, dont l’intelligence semble médiocre; il y a bien le chef de l’état-major, le général de Boisdeffre, qui paraît avoir cédé à sa passion cléricale, et le sous-chef de l’état- major, le général Gonse, dont la conscience a pu s’accommoder de beaucoup de choses. Mais, au fond, il n’y a d’abord que le commandant du Paty de Clam, qui les mène tous, qui les hypnotise, car il s’occupe aussi de spiritisme, d’occultisme, il converse avec les esprits. On ne saurait concevoir les expériences auxquelles il a soumis le malheureux Dreyfus, les pièges dans lesquels il a voulu le faire tomber, les enquêtes folles, les imaginations monstrueuses, toute une démence torturante.
Ah ! cette première affaire, elle est un cauchemar, pour qui la connaît dans ses détails vrais ! Le commandant du Paty de Clam arrête Dreyfus, le met au secret. Il court chez madame Dreyfus, la terrorise, lui dit que, si elle parle, son mari est perdu. Pendant ce temps, le malheureux s’arrachait la chair, hurlait son innocence. Et l’instruction a été faite ainsi, comme dans une chronique du XVe siècle, au milieu du mystère, avec une complication d’expédients farouches, tout cela basé sur une seule charge enfantine, ce bordereau imbécile, qui n’était pas seulement une trahison vulgaire, qui était aussi la plus impudente des escroqueries, car les fameux secrets livrés se trouvaient presque tous sans valeur. Si j’insiste, c’est que l’oeuf est ici, d’où va sortir plus tard le vrai crime, l’épouvantable déni de justice dont la France est malade. Je voudrais faire toucher du doigt comment l’erreur judiciaire a pu être possible, comment elle est née des machinations du commandant du Paty de Clam, comment le général Mercier, les généraux de Boisdeffre et Gonse ont pu s’y laisser prendre, engager peu à peu leur responsabilité dans cette erreur, qu’ils ont cru devoir, plus tard, imposer comme la vérité sainte, une vérité qui ne se discute même pas. Au début, il n’y a donc, de leur part, que de l’incurie et de l’inintelligence. Tout au plus, les sent-on céder aux passions religieuses du milieu et aux préjugés de l’esprit de corps. Ils ont laissé faire la sottise. Mais voici Dreyfus devant le conseil de guerre. Le huis clos le plus absolu est exigé. Un traître aurait ouvert la frontière à l’ennemi pour conduire l’empereur allemand jusqu’à Notre-Dame, qu’on ne prendrait pas des mesures de silence et de mystère plus étroites. La nation est frappée de stupeur, on chuchote des faits terribles, de ces trahisons monstrueuses qui indignent l’Histoire; et naturellement la nation s’incline. Il n’y a pas de châtiment assez sévère, elle applaudira à la dégradation publique, elle voudra que le coupable reste sur son rocher d’infamie, dévoré par le remords. Est-ce donc vrai, les choses indicibles, les choses dangereuses, capables de mettre l’Europe en flammes, qu’on a dû enterrer soigneusement derrière ce huis clos ? Non ! il n’y a eu, derrière, que les imaginations romanesques et démentes du commandant du Paty de Clam. Tout cela n’a été fait que pour cacher le plus saugrenu des romans-feuilletons. Et il suffit, pour s’en assurer, d’étudier attentivement l’acte d’accusation, lu devant le conseil de guerre.
Ah ! le néant de cet acte d’accusation ! Qu’un homme ait pu être condamné sur cet acte, c’est un prodige d’iniquité. Je défie les honnêtes gens de le lire, sans que leur coeurs bondisse d’indignation et crie leur révolte, en pensant à l’expiation démesurée, là-bas, à l’île du Diable. Dreyfus sait plusieurs langues, crime; on n’a trouvé chez lui aucun papier compromettant, crime; il va parfois dans son pays d’origine, crime; il est laborieux, il a le souci de tout savoir, crime; il ne se trouble pas, crime; il se trouble, crime. Et les naïvetés de rédaction, les formelles assertions dans le vide ! On nous avait parlé de quatorze chefs d’accusation: nous n’en trouvons qu’une seule en fin de compte, celle du bordereau; et nous apprenons même que les experts n’étaient pas d’accord, qu’un d’eux, M. Gobert, a été bousculé militairement, parce qu’il se permettait de ne pas conclure dans le sens désiré. On parlait aussi de vingt-trois officiers qui étaient venus accabler Dreyfus de leurs témoignages. Nous ignorons encore leurs interrogatoires, mais il est certain que tous ne l’avaient pas chargé; et il est à remarquer, en outre, que tous appartenaient aux bureaux de la guerre. C’est un procès de famille, on est là entre soi, et il faut s’en souvenir: l’état-major a voulu le procès, l’a jugé, et il vient de le juger une seconde fois.
Donc, il ne restait que le bordereau, sur lequel les experts ne s’étaient pas entendus. On raconte que, dans la chambre du conseil, les juges allaient naturellement acquitter. Et, dès lors, comme l’on comprend l’obstination désespérée avec laquelle, pour justifier la condamnation, on affirme aujourd’hui l’existence d’une pièce secrète, accablante, la pièce qu’on ne peut montrer, qui légitime tout, devant laquelle nous devons nous incliner, le bon Dieu invisible et inconnaissable ! Je la nie, cette pièce, je la nie de toute ma puissance ! Une pièce ridicule, oui, peut-être la pièce où il est question de petites femmes, et où il est parlé d’un certain D. . . qui devient trop exigeant: quelque mari sans doute trouvant qu’on ne lui payait pas sa femme assez cher. Mais une pièce intéressant la défense nationale, qu’on ne saurait produire sans que la guerre fût déclarée demain, non, non ! C’est un mensonge ! et cela est d’autant plus odieux et cynique qu’ils mentent impunément sans qu’on puisse les en convaincre. Ils ameutent la France, ils se cachent derrière sa légitime émotion, ils ferment les bouches en troublant les coeurs, en pervertissant les esprits. Je ne connais pas de plus grand crime civique.
Voilà donc, monsieur le Président, les faits qui expliquent comment une erreur judiciaire a pu être commise; et les preuves morales, la situation de fortune de Dreyfus, l’absence de motifs, son continuel cri d’innocence, achèvent de le montrer comme une victime des extraordinaires imaginations du commandant du Paty de Clam, du milieu clérical où il se trouvait, de la chasse aux « sales juifs », qui déshonore notre époque. Et nous arrivons à l’affaire Esterhazy. Trois ans se sont passés, beaucoup de consciences restent troublées profondément, s’inquiètent, cherchent, finissent par se convaincre de l’innocence de Dreyfus. Je ne ferai pas l’historique des doutes, puis de la conviction de M. Scheurer-Kestner. Mais, pendant qu’il fouillait de son côté, il se passait des faits graves à l’étatmajor même. Le colonel Sandherr était mort, et le lieutenant-colonel Picquart lui avait succédé comme chef du bureau des renseignements. Et c’est à ce titre, dans l’exercice de ses fonctions, que ce dernier eut un jour entre les mains une lettre-télégramme, adressée au commandant Esterhazy, par un agent d’une puissance étrangère. Son devoir strict était d’ouvrir une enquête. La certitude est qu’il n’a jamais agi en dehors de la volonté de ses supérieurs. Il soumit donc ses soupçons à ses supérieurs hiérarchiques, le général Gonse, puis le général de Boisdeffre, puis le général Billot, qui avait succédé au général Mercier comme ministre de la Guerre. Le fameux dossier Picquart, dont il a été tant parlé, n’a jamais été que le dossier Billot, j’entends le dossier fait par un subordonné pour son ministre, le dossier qui doit exister encore au ministère de la Guerre. Les recherches durèrent de mai à septembre 1896, et ce qu’il faut affirmer bien haut, c’est que le général Gonse était convaincu de la culpabilité d’Esterhazy, c’est que le général de Boisdeffre et le général Billot ne mettaient pas en doute que le bordereau ne fût de l’écriture d’Esterhazy. L’enquête du lieutenant-colonel Picquart avait abouti à cette constatation certaine. Mais l’émoi était grand, car la condamnation d’Esterhazy entraînait inévitablement la révision du procès Dreyfus; et c’était ce que l’état-major ne voulait à aucun prix.
Il dut y avoir là une minute psychologique pleine d’angoisse. Remarquez que le général Billot n’était compromis dans rien, il arrivait tout frais, il pouvait faire la vérité. Il n’osa pas, dans la terreur sans doute de l’opinion publique, certainement aussi dans la crainte de livrer tout l’état- major, le général de Boisdeffre, le général Gonse, sans compter les sous-ordres. Puis, ce ne fut là qu’une minute de combat entre sa conscience et ce qu’il croyait être l’intérêt militaire. Quand cette minute fut passée, il était déjà trop tard. Il s’était engagé, il était compromis. Et, depuis lors, sa responsabilité n’a fait que grandir, il a pris à sa charge le crime des autres, il est aussi coupable que les autres, il est plus coupable qu’eux, car il a été le maître de faire justice, et il n’a rien fait. Comprenez-vous cela ! Voici un an que le général Billot, que les généraux de Boisdeffre et Gonse savent que Dreyfus est innocent, et ils ont gardé pour eux cette effroyable chose ! Et ces gens-là dorment, et ils ont des femmes et des enfants qu’ils aiment !
Le lieutenant-colonel Picquart avait rempli son devoir d’honnête homme. Il insistait auprès de ses supérieurs, au nom de la justice. Il les suppliait même, il leur disait combien leurs délais étaient impolitiques, devant le terrible orage qui s’amoncelait, qui devait éclater, lorsque la vérité serait connue. Ce fut, plus tard, le langage que M. Scheurer- Kestner tint également au général Billot, l’adjurant par patriotisme de prendre en main l’affaire, de ne pas la laisser s’aggraver, au point de devenir un désastre public. Non ! Le crime était commis, l’état-major ne pouvait plus avouer son crime. Et le lieutenant-colonel Picquart fut envoyé en mission, on l’éloigna de plus en plus loin, jusqu’en Tunisie, où l’on voulut même un jour honorer sa bravoure, en le chargeant d’une mission qui l’aurait sûrement fait massacrer, dans les parages où le marquis de Morès a trouvé la mort. Il n’était pas en disgrâce, le général Gonse entretenait avec lui une correspondance amicale. Seulement, il est des secrets qu’il ne fait pas bon d’avoir surpris.
A Paris, la vérité marchait, irrésistible, et l’on sait de quelle façon l’orage attendu éclata. M. Mathieu Dreyfus dénonça le commandant Esterhazy comme le véritable auteur du bordereau, au moment où M. Scheurer-Kestner allait déposer, entre les mains du garde des Sceaux, une demande en révision du procès. Et c’est ici que le commandant Esterhazy paraît. Des témoignages le montrent d’abord affolé, prêt au suicide ou à la fuite. Puis, tout d’un coup, il paye d’audace, il étonne Paris par la violence de son attitude. C’est que du secours lui était venu, il avait reçu une lettre anonyme l’avertissant des menées de ses ennemis, une dame mystérieuse s’était même dérangée de nuit pour lui remettre une pièce volée à l’état-major, qui devait le sauver. Et je ne puis m’empêcher de retrouver là le lieutenant-colonel du Paty de Clam, en reconnaissant les expédients de son imagination fertile. Son oeuvre, la culpabilité de Dreyfus, était en péril, et il a voulu sûrement défendre son oeuvre. La révision du procès, mais c’était l’écroulement du roman- feuilleton si extravagant, si tragique, dont le dénouement abominable a lieu à l’île du Diable ! C’est ce qu’il ne pouvait permettre. Dès lors, le duel va avoir lieu entre le lieutenant-colonel Picquart et le lieutenant-colonel du Paty de Clam, l’un le visage découvert, l’autre masqué. on les retrouvera prochainement tous deux devant la justice civile. Au fond, c’est toujours l’état-major qui se défend, qui ne veut pas avouer son crime, dont l’abomination grandit d’heure en heure.
On s’est demandé avec stupeur quels étaient les protecteurs du commandant Esterhazy. C’est d’abord, dans l’ombre, le lieutenant-colonel du Paty de Clam qui a tout machiné, qui a tout conduit. Sa main se trahit aux moyens saugrenus. Puis, c’est le général de Boisdeffre, c’est le général Gonse, c’est le général Billot lui-même, qui sont bien obligés de faire acquitter le commandant, puisqu’ils ne peuvent laisser reconnaître l’innocence de Dreyfus, sans que les bureaux de la guerre croulent dans le mépris public. Et le beau résultat de cette situation prodigieuse est que l’honnête homme, là- dedans, le lieutenant-colonel Picquart, qui seul a fait son devoir, va être la victime, celui qu’on bafouera et qu’on punira. ^O justice, quelle affreuse désespérance serre le coeur ! On va jusqu’à dire que c’est lui le faussaire, qu’il a fabriqué la cartetélégramme pour perdre Esterhazy. Mais, grand Dieu ! pourquoi ? dans quel but ? donnez un motif. Est-ce que celui-là aussi est payé par les juifs ? Le joli de l’histoire est qu’il était justement antisémite. Oui ! nous assistons à ce spectacle infâme, des hommes perdus de dettes et de crimes dont on proclame l’innocence, tandis qu’on frappe l’honneur même, un homme à la vie sans tâche ! Quand une société en est là, elle tombe en décomposition. Voilà donc, monsieur le Président, l’affaire Esterhazy: un coupable qu’il s’agissait d’innocenter. Depuis bientôt deux mois, nous pouvons suivre heure par heure la belle besogne. J’abrège, car ce n’est ici, en gros, que le résumé de l’histoire dont les brûlantes pages seront un jour écrites tout au long. Et nous avons donc vu le général de Pellieux, puis le commandant Ravary, conduire une enquête scélérate d’où les coquins sortent transfigurés et les honnêtes gens salis. Puis, on a convoqué le conseil de guerre.
Comment a-t-on pu espérer qu’un conseil de guerre déferait ce qu’un conseil de guerre avait fait ? Je ne parle même pas du choix toujours possible des juges. L’idée supérieure de discipline, qui est dans le sang de ces soldats, ne suffit-elle à infirmer leur pouvoir d’équité ? Qui dit discipline dit obéissance. Lorsque le ministre de la Guerre, le grand chef, a établi publiquement, aux acclamations de la représentation nationale, l’autorité de la chose jugée, vous voulez qu’un conseil de guerre lui donne un formel démenti ? Hiérarchiquement, cela est impossible. Le général Billot a suggestionné les juges par sa déclaration, et ils ont jugé comme ils doivent aller au feu, sans raisonner. L’opinion préconçue qu’ils ont apportée sur leur siège, est évidemment celle-ci: « Dreyfus a été condamné pour crime de trahison par un conseil de guerre, il est donc coupable; et nous, conseil de guerre, nous ne pouvons le déclarer innocent; or nous savons que reconnaître la culpabilité d’Esterhazy, ce serait proclamer l’innocence de Dreyfus. » Rien ne pouvait les faire sortir de là.
Ils ont rendu une sentence inique, qui à jamais pèsera sur nos conseils de guerre, qui entachera désormais de suspicion tous leurs arrêts. Le premier conseil de guerre a pu être inintelligent, le second est forcément criminel. Son excuse, je le répète, est que le chef suprême avait parlé, déclarant la chose jugée inattaquable, sainte et supérieure aux hommes, de sorte que des inférieurs ne pouvaient dire le contraire. On nous parle de l’honneur de l’armée, on veut que nous l’aimions, la respections. Ah ! certes, oui, l’armée qui se lèverait à la première menace, qui défendrait la terre française, elle est tout le peuple, et nous n’avons pour elle que tendresse et respect. Mais il ne s’agit pas d’elle, dont nous voulons justement la dignité, dans notre besoin de justice. Il s’agit du sabre, le maître qu’on nous donnera demain peut-être. Et baiser dévotement la poignée du sabre, le dieu, non !
Je l’ai démontré d’autre part: l’affaire Dreyfus était l’affaire des bureaux de la guerre, un officier de l’état- major, dénoncé par ses camarades de l’état-major, condamné sous la pression des chefs de l’état-major. Encore une fois, il ne peut revenir innocent sans que tout l’état-major soit coupable. Aussi les bureaux, par tous les moyens imaginables, par des campagnes de presse, par des communications, par des influences, n’ont-ils couvert Esterhazy que pour perdre une seconde fois Dreyfus. Quel coup de balai le gouvernement républicain devrait donner dans cette jésuitière, ainsi que les appelle le général Billot lui-même ! Où est-il, le ministère vraiment fort et d’un patriotisme sage, qui osera tout y refondre et tout y renouveler ? Que de gens je connais qui, devant une guerre possible, tremblent d’angoisse, en sachant dans quelles mains est la défense nationale ! Et quel nid de basses intrigues, de commérages et de dilapidations, est devenu cet asile sacré, où se décide le sort de la patrie ! On s’épouvante devant le jour terrible que vient d’y jeter l’affaire Dreyfus, ce sacrifice humain d’un malheureux, d’un « sale juif » ! Ah ! tout ce qui s’est agité là de démence et de sottise, des imaginations folles, des pratiques de basse police, des moeurs d’inquisition et de tyrannie, le bon plaisir de quelques galonnés mettant leurs bottes sur la nation, lui rentrant dans la gorge son cri de vérité et de justice, sous le prétexte menteur et sacrilège de la raison d’État !
Et c’est un crime encore que de s’être appuyé sur la presse immonde, que de s’être laissé défendre par toute la fripouille de Paris, de sorte que voilà la fripouille qui triomphe insolemment, dans la défaite du droit et de la simple probité. C’est un crime d’avoir accusé de troubler la France ceux qui la veulent généreuse, à la tête des nations libres et justes, lorsqu’on ourdit soi-même l’impudent complot d’imposer l’erreur, devant le monde entier. C’est un crime d’égarer l’opinion, d’utiliser pour une besogne de mort cette opinion qu’on a pervertie jusqu’à la faire délirer. C’est un crime d’empoisonner les petits et les humbles, d’exaspérer les passions de réaction et d’intolérance, en s’abritant derrière l’odieux antisémitisme, dont la grande France libérale des droits de l’homme mourra, si elle n’en est pas guérie. C’est un crime que d’exploiter le patriotisme pour des oeuvres de haine, et c’est un crime, enfin, que de faire du sabre le dieu moderne, lorsque toute la science humaine est au travail pour l’oeuvre prochaine de vérité et de justice. Cette vérité, cette justice, que nous avons si passionnément voulues, quelle détresse à les voir ainsi souffletées, plus méconnues et plus obscurcies ! Je me doute de l’écroulement qui doit avoir lieu dans l’âme de M. Scheurer-Kestner, et je crois bien qu’il finira par éprouver un remords, celui de n’avoir pas agi révolutionnairement, le jour de l’interpellation au Sénat, en lâchant tout le paquet, pour tout jeter à bas. Il a été le grand honnête homme, l’homme de sa vie loyale, il a cru que la vérité se suffisait à elle- même, surtout lorsqu’elle lui apparaissait éclatante comme le plein jour. A quoi bon tout bouleverser, puisque bientôt le soleil allait luire ? Et c’est de cette sérénité confiante dont il est si cruellement puni. De même pour le lieutenant- colonel Picquart, qui, par un sentiment de haute dignité, n’a pas voulu publier les lettres du général Gonse. Ces scrupules l’honorent d’autant plus que, pendant qu’il restait respectueux de la discipline, ses supérieurs le faisaient couvrir de boue, instruisaient eux-mêmes son procès, de la façon la plus inattendue et la plus outrageante. Il y a deux victimes, deux braves gens, deux coeurs simples, qui ont laissé faire Dieu, tandis que le diable agissait. Et l’on a même vu, pour le lieutenant-colonel Picquart, cette chose ignoble: un tribunal français, après avoir laissé le rapporteur charger publiquement un témoin, l’accuser de toutes les fautes, a fait le huis clos, lorsque ce témoin a été introduit pour s’expliquer et se défendre. Je dis que ceci est un crime de plus et que ce crime soulèvera la conscience universelle. Décidément, les tribunaux militaires se font une singulière idée de la justice.
Telle est donc la simple vérité, monsieur le Président, et elle est effroyable, elle restera pour votre présidence une souillure. Je me doute bien que vous n’avez aucun pouvoir en cette affaire, que vous êtes le prisonnier de la Constitution et de votre entourage. Vous n’en avez pas moins un devoir d’homme, auquel vous songerez, et que vous remplirez. Ce n’est pas, d’ailleurs, que je désespère le moins du monde du triomphe. Je le répète avec une certitude plus véhémente: la vérité est en marche et rien ne l’arrêtera. C’est d’aujourd’hui seulement que l’affaire commence, puisque aujourd’hui seulement les positions sont nettes: d’une part, les coupables qui ne veulent pas que la lumière se fasse; de l’autre, les justiciers qui donneront leur vie pour qu’elle soit faite. Je l’ai dit ailleurs, et je le répète ici: quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s’y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d’explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle. on verra bien si l’on ne vient pas de préparer, pour plus tard, le plus retentissant des désastres.
Mais cette lettre est longue, monsieur le Président, et il est temps de conclure.
J’accuse le lieutenant-colonel du Paty de Clam d’avoir été l’ouvrier diabolique de l’erreur judiciaire, en inconscient, je veux le croire, et d’avoir ensuite défendu son œuvre néfaste, depuis trois ans, par les machinations les plus saugrenues et les plus coupables.
J’accuse le général Mercier de s’ętre rendu complice, tout au moins par faiblesse d’esprit, d’une des plus grandes iniquités du sičcle.
J’accuse le général Billot d’avoir eu entre les mains les preuves certaines de l’innocence de Dreyfus et de les avoir étouffées, de s’ętre rendu coupable de ce crime de lčse-humanité et de lčse-justice, dans un but politique et pour sauver l’état-major compromis.
J’accuse le général de Boisdeffre et le général Gonse de s’ętre rendus complices du męme crime, l’un sans doute par passion cléricale, l’autre peut-ętre par cet esprit de corps qui fait des bureaux de la guerre l’arche sainte, inattaquable.
J’accuse le général de Pellieux et le commandant Ravary d’avoir fait une enquęte scélérate, j’entends par lŕ une enquęte de la plus monstrueuse partialité, dont nous avons, dans le rapport du second, un impérissable monument de naďve audace.
J’accuse les trois experts en écritures, les sieurs Belhomme, Varinard et Couard, d’avoir fait des rapports mensongers et frauduleux, ŕ moins qu’un examen médical ne les déclare atteints d’une maladie de la vue et du jugement.
J’accuse les bureaux de la guerre d’avoir mené dans la presse, particuličrement dans l’Éclair et dans L’Echo de Paris, une campagne abominable, pour égarer l’opinion et couvrir leur faute.
J’accuse enfin le premier conseil de guerre d’avoir violé le droit, en condamnant un accusé sur une pičce restée secrčte, et j’accuse le second conseil de guerre d’avoir couvert cette illégalité, par ordre, en commettant ŕ son tour le crime juridique d’acquitter sciemment un coupable.
En portant ces accusations, je n’ignore pas que je me mets sous le coup des articles 30 et 31 de la loi sur la presse du 29 juillet 1881, qui punit les délits de diffamation. Et c’est volontairement que je m’expose.
Quant aux gens que j’accuse, je ne les connais pas, je ne les ai jamais vus, je n’ai contre eux ni rancune ni haine. Ils ne sont pour moi que des entités, des esprits de malfaisance sociale. Et l’acte que j’accomplis ici n’est qu’un moyen révolutionnaire pour hâter l’explosion de la vérité et de la justice.
Je n’ai qu’une passion, celle de la lumičre, au nom de l’humanité qui a tant souffert et qui a droit au bonheur. Ma protestation enflammée n’est que le cri de mon âme. Qu’on ose donc me traduire en cour d’assises et que l’enquęte ait lieu au grand jour ! J’attends.
Veuillez agréer, monsieur le Président, l’assurance de mon profond respect.
Émile Zola, 13 janvier 1898
Would you allow me, grateful as I am for the kind reception you once extended to me, to show my concern about maintaining your well-deserved prestige and to point out that your star which, until now, has shone so brightly, risks being dimmed by the most shameful and indelible of stains?
Unscathed by vile slander, you have won the hearts of all. You are radiant in the patriotic glory of our country’s alliance with Russia, you are about to preside over the solemn triumph of our World Fair, the jewel that crowns this great century of labour, truth, and freedom. But what filth this wretched Dreyfus affair has cast on your name — I wanted to say ‘reign’ —. A court martial, under orders, has just dared to acquit a certain Esterhazy, a supreme insult to all truth and justice. And now the image of France is sullied by this filth, and history shall record that it was under your presidency that this crime against society was committed.
As they have dared, so shall I dare. Dare to tell the truth, as I have pledged to tell it, in full, since the normal channels of justice have failed to do so. My duty is to speak out; I do not wish to be an accomplice in this travesty. My nights would otherwise be haunted by the spectre of the innocent man, far away, suffering the most horrible of tortures for a crime he did not commit.
And it is to you, Sir, that I shall proclaim this truth, with all the force born of the revulsion of an honest man. Knowing your integrity, I am convinced that you do not know the truth. But to whom if not to you, the first magistrate of the country, shall I reveal the vile baseness of the real guilty parties?
The truth, first of all, about Dreyfus’ trial and conviction:
At the root of it all is one evil man, Lt. Colonel du Paty de Clam, who was at the time a mere Major. He is the entire Dreyfus case, and the entirety of it will only come to light when an honest enquiry firmly establishes his actions and responsibilities. He appears to be the shadiest and most complex of creatures, spinning outlandish intrigues, stooping to the deceits of cheap thriller novels, complete with stolen documents, anonymous letters, meetings in deserted spots, mysterious women scurrying around at night, peddling damning evidence. He was the one who came up with the scheme of dictating the text of thebordereau to Dreyfus; he was the one who had the idea of observing him in a mirror-lined room. And he was the one that Major Forzinetti caught carrying a shuttered lantern that he planned to throw open on the accused man while he slept, hoping that, jolted awake by the sudden flash of light, Dreyfus would blurt out his guilt.
I need say no more: let us seek and we shall find. I am stating simply that Major du Paty de Clam, as the officer of justice charged with the preliminary investigation of the Dreyfus case, is the first and the most grievous offender in the ghastly miscarriage of justice that has been committed.
The bordereau had already been for some time in the hands of Colonel Sandherr, Head of the Intelligence Office, who has since died of a paralytic stroke. Information was ‘leaked’, papers were disappearing, then as they continue to do to this day; and, as the search for the author of the bordereau progressed, little by little, an a prioriassumption developed that it could only have come from an officer of the General Staff, and furthermore, an artillery officer. This interpretation, wrong on both counts, shows how superficially thebordereau was analysed, for a logical examination shows that it could only have come from an infantry officer.
So an internal search was conducted. Handwriting samples were compared, as if this were some family affair, a traitor to be sniffed out and expelled from within the War Office. And, although I have no desire to dwell on a story that is only partly known, Major du Paty de Clam entered on the scene as soon as the slightest suspicion fell upon Dreyfus. From that moment on, he was the one who ‘invented’ Dreyfus the traitor, the one who orchestrated the whole affair and made it his own. He boasted that he would confuse him and make him confess all. Oh, yes, there was of course the Minister of War, General Mercier, a man of apparently mediocre intellect; and there were also the Chief of Staff, General de Boisdeffre, who appears to have yielded to his own religious bigotry, and the Deputy Chief of Staff, General Gonse, whose conscience allowed for many accommodations. But, at the end of the day, it all started with Major du Paty de Clam, who led them on, hypnotised them, for, as an adept of spiritualism and the occult, he conversed with spirits. Nobody would ever believe the experiments to which he subjected the unfortunate Dreyfus, the traps he set for him, the wild investigations, the monstrous fantasies, the whole demented torture.
Ah, that first trial! What a nightmare it is for all who know it in its true details. Major du Paty de Clam had Dreyfus arrested and placed in solitary confinement. He ran to Mme Dreyfus, terrorised her, telling her that, if she talked, that was it for her husband. Meanwhile, the unfortunate Dreyfus was tearing his hair out and proclaiming his innocence. And this is how the case proceeded, like some fifteenth century chronicle, shrouded in mystery, swamped in all manner of nasty twists and turns, all stemming from one trumped-up charge, that stupid bordereau. This was not only a bit of cheap trickery but also the most outrageous fraud imaginable, for almost all of these notorious secrets turned out in fact to be worthless. I dwell on this, because this is the germ of it all, whence the true crime would emerge, that horrifying miscarriage of justice that has blighted France. I would like to point out how this travesty was made possible, how it sprang out of the machinations of Major du Paty de Clam, how Generals Mercier, de Boisdeffre and Gonse became so ensnared in this falsehood that they would later feel compelled to impose it as holy and indisputable truth. Having set it all in motion merely by carelessness and lack of intelligence, they seem at worst to have given in to the religious bias of their milieu and the prejudices of their class. In the end, they allowed stupidity to prevail.
But now we see Dreyfus appearing before the court martial. Behind the closed doors, the utmost secrecy is demanded. Had a traitor opened the border to the enemy and driven the Kaiser straight to Notre-Dame the measures of secrecy and silence could not have been more stringent. The public was astounded; rumors flew of the most horrible acts, the most monstrous deceptions, lies that were an affront to our history. The public, naturally, was taken in. No punishment could be too harsh. The people clamored for the traitor to be publicly stripped of his rank and demanded to see him writhing with remorse on his rock of infamy. Could these things be true, these unspeakable acts, these deeds so dangerous that they must be carefully hidden behind closed doors to keep Europe from going up in flames? No! They were nothing but the demented fabrications of Major du Paty de Clam, a cover-up of the most preposterous fantasies imaginable. To be convinced of this one need only read carefully the accusation as it was presented before the court martial.
How flimsy it is! The fact that someone could have been convicted on this charge is the ultimate iniquity. I defy decent men to read it without a stir of indignation in their hearts and a cry of revulsion, at the thought of the undeserved punishment being meted out there on Devil’s Island. He knew several languages: a crime! He carried no compromising papers: a crime! He would occasionally visit his country of origin: a crime! He was hard-working, and strove to be well informed: a crime! He did not become confused: a crime! He became confused: a crime! And how childish the language is, how groundless the accusation! We also heard talk of fourteen charges but we found only one, the one about the bordereau, and we learn that even there the handwriting experts could not agree. One of them, Mr. Gobert, faced military pressure when he dared to come to a conclusion other than the desired one. We were told also that twenty-three officers had testified against Dreyfus. We still do not know what questions they were asked, but it is certain that not all of them implicated him. It should be noted, furthermore, that all of them came from the War Office. The whole case had been handled as an internal affair, among insiders. And we must not forget this: members of the General Staff had sought this trial to begin with and had passed judgment. And now they were passing judgment once again.
So all that remained of the case was the bordereau, on which the experts had not been able to agree. It is said that within the council chamber the judges were naturally leaning toward acquittal. It becomes clear why, at that point, as justification for the verdict, it became vitally important to turn up some damning evidence, a secret document that, like God, could not be shown, but which explained everything, and was invisible, unknowable, and incontrovertible. I deny the existence of that document. With all my strength, I deny it! Some trivial note, maybe, about some easy women, wherein a certain D… was becoming too insistent, no doubt some demanding husband who felt he wasn’t getting a good enough price for the use of his wife. But a document concerning national defense that could not be produced without sparking an immediate declaration of war tomorrow? No! No! It is a lie, all the more odious and cynical in that its perpetrators are getting off free without even admitting it. They stirred up all of France, they hid behind the understandable commotion they had set off, they sealed their lips while troubling our hearts and perverting our spirit. I know of no greater crime against the state.
These, Sir, are the facts that explain how this miscarriage of justice came about; The evidence of Dreyfus’s character, his affluence, the lack of motive and his continued affirmation of innocence combine to show that he is the victim of the lurid imagination of Major du Paty de Clam, the religious circles surrounding him, and the “dirty Jew” obsession that is the scourge of our time.
And now we come to the Esterhazy case. Three years have passed, many consciences remain profoundly troubled, become anxious, investigate, and wind up convinced that Dreyfus is innocent.
I shall not chronicle these doubts and the subsequent conclusion reached by Mr. Scheurer-Kestner . But, while he was conducting his own investigation, major events were occurring at headquarters. Colonel Sandherr had died and Lt. Colonel Picquart had succeeded him as Head of the Intelligence Office. It was in this capacity, in the exercise of his office, that Lt. Colonel Picquart came into possession of a telegram addressed to Major Esterhazy by an agent of a foreign power. His express duty was to open an inquiry. What is certain is that he never once acted against the will of his superiors. He thus submitted his suspicions to his hierarchical senior officers, first General Gonse, then General de Boisdeffre, and finally General Billot, who had succeeded General Mercier as Minister of War. That famous much discussed Picquart file was none other than the Billot file, by which I mean the file created by a subordinate for his minister, which can still probably be found at the War Office. The investigation lasted from May to September 1896, and what must be said loud and clear is that General Gonse was at that time convinced that Esterhazy was guilty and that Generals de Boisdeffre and Billot had no doubt that the handwriting on the famous bordereau was Esterhazy’s. This was the definitive conclusion of Lt. Colonel Picquart’s investigation. But feelings were running high, for the conviction of Esterhazy would inevitably lead to a retrial of Dreyfus, an eventuality that the General Staff wanted at all cost to avoid.
This must have led to a brief moment of psychological anguish. Note that, so far, General Billot was in no way compromised. Newly appointed to his position, he had the authority to bring out the truth. He did not dare, no doubt in terror of public opinion, certainly for fear of implicating the whole General Staff, General de Boisdeffre, and General Gonse, not to mention the subordinates. So he hesitated for a brief moment of struggle between his conscience and what he believed to be the interest of the military. Once that moment passed, it was already too late. He had committed himself and he was compromised. From that point on, his responsibility only grew, he took on the crimes of others, he became as guilty as they, if not more so, for he was in a position to bring about justice and did nothing. Can you understand this: for the last year General Billot, Generals Gonse and de Boisdeffre have known that Dreyfus is innocent, and they have kept this terrible knowledge to themselves? And these people sleep at night, and have wives and children they love!
Lt. Colonel Picquart had carried out his duty as an honest man. He kept insisting to his superiors in the name of justice. He even begged them, telling them how impolitic it was to temporize in the face of the terrible storm that was brewing and that would break when the truth became known. This was the language that Mr. Scheurer-Kestner later used with General Billot as well, appealing to his patriotism to take charge of the case so that it would not degenerate into a public disaster. But no! The crime had been committed and the General Staff could no longer admit to it. And so Lt. Colonel Picquart was sent away on official duty. He got sent further and further away until he landed in Tunisia, where they tried eventually to reward his courage with an assignment that would certainly have gotten him massacred, in the very same area where the Marquis de Morès had been killed. He was not in disgrace, indeed: General Gonse even maintained a friendly correspondence with him. It is just that there are certain secrets that are better left alone.
Meanwhile, in Paris, truth was marching on, inevitably, and we know how the long-awaited storm broke. Mr Mathieu Dreyfus denounced Major Esterhazy as the real author of the bordereau just as Mr Scheurer-Kestne was handing over to the Minister of Justice a request for the revision of the trial. This is where Major Esterhazy comes in. Witnesses say that he was at first in a panic, on the verge of suicide or running away. Then all of a sudden, emboldened, he amazed Paris by the violence of his attitude. Rescue had come, in the form of an anonymous letter warning of enemy actions, and a mysterious woman had even gone to the trouble one night of slipping him a paper, stolen from headquarters, that would save him. Here I cannot help seeing the handiwork of Lt Colonel du Paty de Clam, with the trademark fruits of his fertile imagination. His achievement, Dreyfus’s conviction, was in danger, and he surely was determined to protect it. A retrial would mean that this whole extraordinary saga, so extravagant, so tragic, with its denouement on Devil’s Island, would fall apart! This he could not allow to happen. From then on, it became a duel between Lt Colonel Picquart and Lt Colonel du Paty de Clam, one with his face visible, the other masked. The next step would take them both to civil court. It came down, once again, to the General Staff protecting itself, not wanting to admit its crime, an abomination that has been growing by the minute.
In disbelief, people wondered who Commander Esterhazy’s protectors were. First of all, behind the scenes, Lt Colonel du Paty de Clam was the one who had concocted the whole story, who kept it going, tipping his hand with his outrageous methods. Next General de Boisdeffre, then General Gonse, and finally, General Billot himself were all pulled into the effort to get the Major acquitted, for acknowledging Dreyfus’s innocence would make the War Office collapse under the weight of public contempt. And the astounding outcome of this appalling situation was that the one decent man involved, Lt. Colonel Picquart who, alone, had done his duty, was to become the victim, the one who got ridiculed and punished. O justice, what horrible despair grips our hearts? It was even claimed that he himself was the forger, that he had fabricated the letter-telegram in order to destroy Esterhazy . But, good God, why? To what end? Find me a motive. Was he, too, being paid off by the Jews? The best part of it is that Picquart was himself an anti-Semite. Yes! We have before us the ignoble spectacle of men who are sunken in debts and crimes being hailed as innocent, whereas the honor of a man whose life is spotless is being vilely attacked: A society that sinks to that level has fallen into decay.
The Esterhazy affair, thus, Mr. President, comes down to this: a guilty man is being passed off as innocent. For almost two months we have been following this nasty business hour by hour. I am being brief, for this is but the abridged version of a story whose sordid pages will some day be written out in full. And so we have seen General de Pellieux, and then Major Ravary conduct an outrageous inquiry from which criminals emerge glorified and honest people sullied. And then a court martial was convened.
How could anyone expect a court martial to undo what another court martial had done?
I am not even talking about the way the judges were hand-picked. Doesn’t the overriding idea of discipline, which is the lifeblood of these soldiers, itself undercut their capacity for fairness? Discipline means obedience. When the Minister of War, the commander in chief, proclaims, in public and to the acclamation of the nation’s representatives, the absolute authority of a previous verdict, how can you expect a court martial to rule against him? It is a hierarchical impossibility. General Billot directed the judges in his preliminary remarks, and they proceeded to judgment as they would to battle, unquestioningly. The preconceived opinion they brought to the bench was obviously the following: “Dreyfus was found guilty for the crime of treason by a court martial; he therefore is guilty and we, a court martial, cannot declare him innocent. On the other hand, we know that acknowledging Esterhazy’s guilt would be tantamount to proclaiming Dreyfus innocent.” There was no way for them to escape this rationale.
So they rendered an iniquitous verdict that will forever weigh upon our courts martial and will henceforth cast a shadow of suspicion on all their decrees. The first court martial was perhaps unintelligent; the second one is inescapably criminal. Their excuse, I repeat, is that the supreme chief had spoken, declaring the previous judgment incontrovertible, holy and above mere mortals. How, then, could subordinates contradict it? We are told of the honor of the army; we are supposed to love and respect it. Ah, yes, of course, an army that would rise to the first threat, that would defend French soil, that army is the nation itself, and for that army we have nothing but devotion and respect. But this is not about that army, whose dignity we are seeking, in our cry for justice. What is at stake is the sword, the master that will one day, perhaps, be forced upon us. Bow and scrape before that sword, that god? No!
As I have shown, the Dreyfus case was a matter internal to the War Office: an officer of the General Staff, denounced by his co-officers of the General Staff, sentenced under pressure by the Chiefs of Staff. Once again, he could not be found innocent without the entire General Staff being guilty. And so, by all means imaginable, by press campaigns, by official communications, by influence, the War Office covered up for Esterhazy only to condemn Dreyfus once again. Ah, what a good sweeping out the government of this Republic should give to that Jesuit-lair, as General Billot himself calls it. Where is that truly strong, judiciously patriotic administration that will dare to clean house and start afresh? How many people I know who, faced with the possibility of war, tremble in anguish knowing to what hands we are entrusting our nation’s defense! And what a nest of vile intrigues, gossip, and destruction that sacred sanctuary that decides the nation’s fate has become! We are horrified by the terrible light the Dreyfus affair has cast upon it all, this human sacrifice of an unfortunate man, a “dirty Jew. ” Ah, what a cesspool of folly and foolishness, what preposterous fantasies, what corrupt police tactics, what inquisitorial, tyrannical practices! What petty whims of a few higher-ups trampling the nation under their boots, ramming back down their throats the people’s cries for truth and justice, with the travesty of state security as a pretext.
Indeed, it is a crime to have relied on the most squalid elements of the press, and to have entrusted Esterhazy’s defense to the vermin of Paris, who are now gloating over the defeat of justice and plain truth. It is a crime that those people who wish to see a generous France take her place as leader of all the free and just nations are being accused of fomenting turmoil in the country, denounced by the very plotters who are conniving so shamelessly to foist this miscarriage of justice on the entire world. It is a crime to lie to the public, to twist public opinion to insane lengths in the service of the vilest death-dealing machinations. It is a crime to poison the minds of the meek and the humble, to stoke the passions of reactionism and intolerance, by appealing to that odious anti-Semitism that, unchecked, will destroy the freedom-loving France of the Rights of Man. It is a crime to exploit patriotism in the service of hatred, and it is, finally, a crime to ensconce the sword as the modern god, whereas all science is toiling to achieve the coming era of truth and justice.
Truth and justice, so ardently longed for! How terrible it is to see them trampled, unrecognized and ignored! I can feel Mr. Scheurer-Kestner’s soul withering and I believe that one day he will even feel sorry for having failed, when questioned by the Senate, to spill all and lay out the whole mess. A man of honor, as he had been all his life, he believed that the truth would speak for itself, especially since it appeared to him plain as day. Why stir up trouble, especially since the sun would soon shine? It is for this serene trust that he is now being so cruelly punished. The same goes for Lt Colonel Picquart, who, guided by the highest sentiment of dignity, did not wish to publish General Gonse’s correspondence. These scruples are all the more honorable since he remained mindful of discipline, while his superiors were dragging his name through the mud and casting suspicion on him, in the most astounding and outrageous ways. There are two victims, two decent men, two simple hearts, who left their fates to God, while the devil was taking charge. Regarding Lt Col Picquart, even this despicable deed was perpetrated: a French tribunal allowed the statement of the case to become a public indictment of one of the witnesses [Picquart], accusing him of all sorts of wrongdoing, It then chose to prosecute the case behind closed doors as soon as that witness was brought in to defend himself. I say this is yet another crime, and this crime will stir consciences everywhere. These military tribunals have, decidedly, a most singular idea of justice.
This is the plain truth, Mr. President, and it is terrifying. It will leave an indelible stain on your presidency. I realise that you have no power over this case, that you are limited by the Constitution and your entourage. You have, nonetheless, your duty as a man, which you will recognise and fulfill. As for myself, I have not despaired in the least, of the triumph of right. I repeat with the most vehement conviction: truth is on the march, and nothing will stop it. Today is only the beginning, for it is only today that the positions have become clear: on one side, those who are guilty, who do not want the light to shine forth, on the other, those who seek justice and who will give their lives to attain it. I said it before and I repeat it now: when truth is buried underground, it grows and it builds up so much force that the day it explodes it blasts everything with it. We shall see whether we have been setting ourselves up for the most resounding of disasters, yet to come.
But this letter is long, Sir, and it is time to conclude it.
I accuse Lt. Col. du Paty de Clam of being the diabolical creator of this miscarriage of justice — unwittingly, I would like to believe — and of defending this sorry deed, over the last three years, by all manner of ludricrous and evil machinations.
I accuse General Mercier of complicity, at least by mental weakness, in one of the greatest inequities of the century.
I accuse General Billot of having held in his hands absolute proof of Dreyfus’s innocence and covering it up, and making himself guilty of this crime against mankind and justice, as a political expedient and a way for the compromised General Staff to save face.
I accuse Gen. de Boisdeffre and Gen. Gonse of complicity in the same crime, the former, no doubt, out of religious prejudice, the latter perhaps out of that esprit de corps that has transformed the War Office into an unassailable holy ark.
I accuse Gen. de Pellieux and Major Ravary of conducting a villainous enquiry, by which I mean a monstrously biased one, as attested by the latter in a report that is an imperishable monument to naďve impudence.
I accuse the three handwriting experts, Messrs. Belhomme, Varinard and Couard, of submitting reports that were deceitful and fraudulent, unless a medical examination finds them to be suffering from a condition that impairs their eyesight and judgement.
I accuse the War Office of using the press, particularly L’Eclair and L’Echo de Paris, to conduct an abominable campaign to mislead the general public and cover up their own wrongdoing.
Finally, I accuse the first court martial of violating the law by convicting the accused on the basis of a document that was kept secret, and I accuse the second court martial of covering up this illegality, on orders, thus committing the judicial crime of knowingly acquitting a guilty man.
In making these accusations I am aware that I am making myself liable to articles 30 and 31 of the law of 29/7/1881 regarding the press, which make libel a punishable offence. I expose myself to that risk voluntarily.
As for the people I am accusing, I do not know them, I have never seen them, and I bear them neither ill will nor hatred. To me they are mere entities, agents of harm to society. The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice.
I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight! I am waiting.
With my deepest respect, Sir.
Émile Zola, 13th January 1898
©MMIV David Short.
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A constitutional referendum was held in France on 27 April 1969. The reforms would have led to government decentralization and changes to the Senate. It was rejected by 52.4% of voters, and failure of the amendments led to PresidentCharles de Gaulle‘s resignation.
De Gaulle announced that if the reforms were refused, he would resign. The opposition urged people to vote no, and the general was equally hindered by popular former right-wing prime minister Georges Pompidou, who would stand as a presidential candidate if de Gaulle were to leave, reducing the fear of a power vacuum felt by the right-wing Gaullist electorate. Also, former finance minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing declared that he would not vote yes. Only the UDR campaigned for a yes.
|Source: Nohlen & Stöver|
Following the referendum’s failure, de Gaulle resigned on 28 April 1969, at ten past midnight, and released a laconic statement from Colombey-les-Deux-Églises:
I cease to exercise my functions as president of the Republic. This decision will take effect today at midday.
Dirigisme or dirigism (from French diriger, meaning ‘to direct’) is an economic doctrine in which the state plays a strong directive role, as opposed to a merely regulatory role, over a capitalist market economy. As an economic doctrine, dirigisme is the opposite to laissez-faire, stressing a positive role for state intervention in curbing productive inefficiencies and market failures. Dirigiste policies often include indicative planning, state-directed investment, and the use of market instruments (taxes and subsidies).
The term emerged in the post-war era to describe the economic policies of France, which included substantial state-directed investment, the use of indicative economic planning to supplement the market mechanism, and the establishment of state enterprises in strategic domestic sectors. It resulted in an unprecedented economic and demographic growth[dubious ], leading to the coinage of the term Trente Glorieuses (“Thirty Glorious [years]”).
The term has subsequently been used to classify other economies that pursued similar policies, most notably the East Asian tiger economies, and more recently the economy of the People’s Republic of China. A related concept is state capitalism.
Most modern economies can be characterized as dirigiste to some degree – for instance, the state may exercise directive action by performing or subsidizing research and development of new technologies, through government procurement
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Before the Second World War, France had a relatively fragmented capitalist economic system. The many small companies, often family-owned, were often not dynamic and efficient in comparison to the large industrial groups in Germany or the United States. The Second World War laid waste to France. Railroads and industries were destroyed by aerial bombardment and sabotage; industries were seized by Nazi Germany; in the immediate postwar years loomed the spectre of long years of rationing (such as the one enforced in the United Kingdom). Some sections of the French business and political world lost authority after collaborating with the German occupiers.
Post-war French governments, from whichever political side, generally sought rational, efficient economic development, with the long-term goal of matching the highly developed and technologically advanced economy of the United States. The development of French dirigisme coincided with the development of meritocratic technocracy: the École Nationale d’Administration supplied the state with high-level administrators, while leadership positions in industry were staffed with Corps of Mines state engineers and other personnel trained at the École Polytechnique.
During the 1945–1975 period, France experienced unprecedented economic growth (5.1% on average) and a demographic boom, leading to the coinage of the term Trente Glorieuses (“Thirty Glorious [years]”).
Dirigisme flourished under the centre-right governments of Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou. In those times, the policy was viewed as a middle way between the American policy of little state involvement and the Soviet policy of total state control. In 1981, Socialist president François Mitterrand was elected, promising greater state enterprise in the economy; his government soon nationalised industries and banks. However, in 1983 the initial bad economic results forced the government to renounce dirigisme and start the era of rigueur (“rigour”). Dirigisme has remained out of favour with subsequent governments, though some of its traits remain.
The main French tool under dirigisme was indicative planning through plans designed by the Commissariat général du plan (“Commission for the Plan”). Indicative planning used various incentives to induce public and private actors to behave in an optimal fashion, with the plan serving as a general guideline for optimal investment. During this period France never ceased to be a capitalist economy directed by the accumulation of capital, profit-maximizing enterprise and market-based allocation of producer goods.
In contrast to Soviet-type central planning practiced in the former Soviet bloc, where economic planning substituted market allocation and operated the factors of production according to a binding plan, the French state never owned more than a minority of industry and did not seek to replace markets with planning. The idea of dirigisme is to complement and improve the efficiency of the market through indirect planning intended to provide better information to market participants. This concept is held in contrast to a planned economy, which aims to replace market-based allocation of production and investment with a binding plan of production expressed in units of physical quantities.
Because French industry prior to the Second World War was weak due to fragmentation, the French government encouraged mergers and the formation of “national champions“: large industry groups backed by the state.
Two areas where the French government sought greater control were in infrastructure and the transportation system. The French government owned the national railway company SNCF, the national electricity utility EDF, the national natural gas utility GDF, the national airline Air France; phone and postal services were operated as the PTT administration. The government chose to devolve the construction of most autoroutes (freeways) to semi-private companies rather than to administer them itself. Other areas where the French government directly intervened were defense, nuclear and aerospace industries (Aérospatiale).
This development was marked by volontarisme, the belief that difficulties (e.g. postwar devastation, lack of natural resources) could be overcome through willpower and ingenuity. For instance, following the 1973 energy crisis, the saying “In France we don’t have oil, but we have ideas” was coined. Volontarisme emphasized modernization, resulting in a variety of ambitious state plans. Examples of this trend include the extensive use of nuclear energy (close to 80% of French electrical consumption), the Minitel, an early online system for the masses, and the TGV, a high-speed rail network.
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (/də ˈɡoʊl, –ˈɡɔːl/; French pronunciation: [ʃaʁl də ɡol] (listen); 22 November 1890 – 9 November 1970) was a French army officer and statesman who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government of the French Republic from 1944 to 1946 in order to reestablish democracy in France. In 1958, he came out of retirement when appointed President of the Council of Ministers by President René Coty. He was asked to rewrite the Constitution of France and founded the Fifth Republic after approval by referendum. He was elected President of the French Republic later that year, a position he was reelected to in 1965 and held until his resignation in 1969. He was the dominant figure of France during the early part of the Cold War era; his memory continues to influence French politics.
Childhood and origins
De Gaulle was born in the industrial region of Lille in the Nord department, the third of five children. He was raised in a devoutly Catholic and traditional family. His father, Henri de Gaulle, was a professor of history and literature at a Jesuit college who eventually founded his own school.:42-47
Henri de Gaulle came from a long line of parliamentary gentry from Normandy and Burgundy.:13-16 The name is thought to be Flemish in origin, and may well have derived from van der Waulle (“from the rampart”).:42 De Gaulle’s mother, Jeanne (née Maillot), descended from a family of wealthy entrepreneurs from Lille. She had French, Irish, Scottish, Flemish, and German ancestry.:13–16
De Gaulle’s father encouraged historical and philosophical debate between his children at mealtimes, and through his encouragement, de Gaulle grew familiar with French history from an early age. Struck by his mother’s tale of how she cried as a child when she heard of the French capitulation to the Germans at Sedan in 1870, he developed a keen interest in military strategy. He was also influenced by his uncle, also named Charles de Gaulle, who was a historian and passionate Celticist who wrote books and pamphlets advocating the union of the Welsh, Scots, Irish, and Bretons into one people. His grandfather Julien-Philippe was also a historian, and his grandmother Josephine-Marie wrote poems which impassioned his Christian faith.:42–47
Education and intellectual influences
By the time he was ten he was reading medieval history. De Gaulle began writing in his early teens, especially poetry, and later his family paid for a composition, a one-act play in verse about a traveller, to be privately published. A voracious reader, he favored philosophical tomes by such writers as Bergson, Péguy, and Barrès. In addition to the German philosophers Nietzsche, Kant, and Goethe, he read the works of the ancient Greeks (especially Plato) and the prose of the romanticist poet Chateaubriand.
De Gaulle was educated in Paris at the Collège Stanislas and studied briefly in Belgium where he continued to display his interest in reading and studying history and shared the great pride many of his countrymen felt in their nation’s achievements.:51–53 At the age of fifteen he wrote an essay imagining “General de Gaulle” leading the French Army to victory over Germany in 1930; he later wrote that in his youth he had looked forward with somewhat naive anticipation to the inevitable future war with Germany to avenge the French defeat of 1870.
France during de Gaulle’s teenage years was a divided society, with many developments which were unwelcome to the de Gaulle family: the growth of socialism and syndicalism, the legal separation of Church and State in 1905, and the reduction in the term of military service to two years in the same year. Equally unwelcome were the Entente Cordiale with Britain, the First Moroccan Crisis, and above all the Dreyfus Affair. Henri de Gaulle came to be a supporter of Dreyfus, but was less concerned with his innocence per se than with the disgrace which the army had brought onto itself. The same period also saw a resurgence in evangelical Catholicism, the dedication of the Sacré-Cœur, Paris and the rise of the cult of Joan of Arc.:50–51
De Gaulle was not an outstanding pupil until his mid-teens, but from July 1906 he worked harder at school as he focused on winning a place to train as an army officer at the military academy, Saint-Cyr. Lacouture suggests that de Gaulle joined the army, despite being by inclination more suited to a career as a writer and historian, partly to please his father and partly because it was one of the few unifying forces which represented the whole of French society. He later wrote that “when I entered the Army, it was one of the greatest things in the world”,:51 a claim which Lacouture points out needs to be treated with caution: the army’s reputation was at a low ebb in the early 1900s after the Dreyfus Affair. It was used extensively for strike-breaking and there were fewer than 700 applicants for St Cyr in 1908, down from 2,000 at the turn of the century.
De Gaulle and Pétain: rival visions of France
Prime Minister Pétain moved the government to Vichy (2 July) and had the National Assembly (10 July) vote to dissolve itself and give him dictatorial powers, making the beginning of his Révolution nationale (National Revolution) intended to “reorient” French society. This was the dawn of the Vichy regime.
De Gaulle’s relations with the Anglo-Saxons
In his dealings with the British and Americans (both referred to as the “Anglo-Saxons”, in de Gaulle’s parlance), he always insisted on retaining full freedom of action on behalf of France and was constantly on the verge of losing the Allies’ support. Some writers have sought to deny that there was deep and mutual antipathy between de Gaulle and British and American political leaders.
De Gaulle personally had ambivalent feelings about Britain, possibly in part because of childhood memories of the Fashoda Incident. As an adult he spoke German much better than he spoke English; he had thought little of the British Army’s contribution to the First World War, and even less of that of 1939–40, and in the 1930s he had been a reader of the journal Action Française which blamed Britain for German foreign policy gains at France’s expense. De Gaulle explained his position:
Never did the Anglo-Saxons really treat us as real allies. They never consulted us, government to government, on any of their provisions. For political purpose or by convenience, they sought to use the French forces for their own goals, as if these forces belonged to them, alleging that they had provided weapons to them […] I considered that I had to play the French game, since the others were playing theirs … I deliberately adopted a stiffened and hardened attitude ….
In addition, de Gaulle harboured a suspicion of the British in particular, believing that they were seeking to seize France’s colonial possessions in the Levant. Winston Churchill was often frustrated at what he perceived as de Gaulle’s patriotic arrogance, but also wrote of his “immense admiration” for him during the early days of his British exile. Although their relationship later became strained, Churchill tried to explain the reasons for de Gaulle’s behaviour in the second volume of his history of World War II:
He felt it was essential to his position before the French people that he should maintain a proud and haughty demeanour towards “perfidious Albion“, although in exile, dependent upon our protection and dwelling in our midst. He had to be rude to the British to prove to French eyes that he was not a British puppet. He certainly carried out this policy with perseverance.
De Gaulle described his adversarial relationship with Churchill in these words: “When I am right, I get angry. Churchill gets angry when he is wrong. We are angry at each other much of the time.” On one occasion in 1941 Churchill spoke to him on the telephone. De Gaulle said that the French people thought he was a reincarnation of Joan of Arc, to which Churchill replied that the English had had to burn the last one. Clementine Churchill, who admired de Gaulle, once cautioned him, “General, you must not hate your friends more than you hate your enemies.” De Gaulle himself stated famously, “No Nation has friends, only interests.”
After his initial support, Churchill, emboldened by American antipathy to the French general, urged his War Cabinet to remove de Gaulle as leader of the French resistance. But the War Cabinet warned Churchill that a precipitate break with de Gaulle would have a disastrous effect on the whole resistance movement. By autumn 1943, Churchill had to acknowledge that de Gaulle had won the struggle for leadership of Free France.
De Gaulle’s relations with Washington were even more strained. President Roosevelt for a long time refused to recognize de Gaulle as the representative of France, insisting on negotiations with the Vichy government. Roosevelt in particular hoped that it would be possible to wean Pétain away from Germany. Roosevelt maintained recognition of the Vichy regime until late 1942, and saw de Gaulle as an impudent representative of a minority interest.
After 1942, Roosevelt championed General Henri Giraud, more compliant with US interests than de Gaulle, as the leader of the French Resistance. At the Casablanca Conference (1943), Roosevelt forced de Gaulle to cooperate with Giraud, but de Gaulle was considered as the undisputed leader of the Resistance by the French people and Giraud was progressively deprived of his political and military roles. The British and Soviet governments urged Roosevelt to recognise de Gaulle’s provisional government, but Roosevelt delayed doing so as long as possible and even recognised the Italian provisional government before the French one. British and Soviet allies were outraged that the US president unilaterally recognised the new government of a former enemy before de Gaulle’s one and both recognised the French government in retaliation, forcing Roosevelt to recognise de Gaulle in late 1944, but Roosevelt managed to exclude de Gaulle from the Yalta Conference.Roosevelt eventually abandoned his plans to rule France as an occupied territory and to transfer French Indochina to the United Nations.
Confrontation in Syria and Lebanon
On VE Day, there were also serious riots in French Tunisia. A dispute with Britain over control of Syria and Lebanon quickly developed into an unpleasant diplomatic incident that demonstrated France’s weaknesses. In May, de Gaulle sent General Beynet to establish an air base in Syria and a naval base in Lebanon, provoking an outbreak of nationalism in which some French nationals were attacked and killed. On 20 May, French artillery and warplanes fired on demonstrators in Damascus. After several days, upwards of 800 Syrians lay dead.
Churchill’s relationship with de Gaulle was now at rock bottom. In January he told a colleague that he believed that de Gaulle was “a great danger to peace and for Great Britain. After five years of experience, I am convinced that he is the worst enemy of France in her troubles … he is one of the greatest dangers to European peace…. I am sure that in the long run no understanding will be reached with General de Gaulle”.:287
On 31 May, Churchill told de Gaulle “immediately to order French troops to cease fire and withdraw to their barracks”. British forces moved in and forced the French to withdraw from the city; they were then escorted and confined to barracks. With this political pressure added, the French ordered a ceasefire; De Gaulle raged but France was isolated and suffering a diplomatic humiliation. The secretary of the Arab League Edward Atiyah said, “France put all her cards and two rusty pistols on the table”. De Gaulle saw it as a heinous Anglo-Saxon conspiracy: he told the British ambassador Duff Cooper, “I recognise that we are not in a position to wage war against you, but you have betrayed France and betrayed the West. That cannot be forgotten”.:42–47
1958–1962: Founding of the Fifth Republic
In the November 1958 elections, de Gaulle and his supporters (initially organised in the Union pour la Nouvelle République-Union Démocratique du Travail, then the Union des Démocrates pour la Vème République, and later still the Union des Démocrates pour la République, UDR) won a comfortable majority. In December, de Gaulle was elected President by the electoral college with 78% of the vote, and inaugurated in January 1959.
De Gaulle oversaw tough economic measures to revitalise the country, including the issuing of a new franc (worth 100 old francs). Internationally, he rebuffed both the United States and the Soviet Union, pushing for an independent France with its own nuclear weapons, and strongly encouraged a “Free Europe”, believing that a confederation of all European nations would restore the past glories of the great European empires.:411,428
He set about building Franco-German cooperation as the cornerstone of the European Economic Community (EEC), paying the first state visit to Germany by a French head of state since Napoleon. In January 1963, Germany and France signed a treaty of friendship, the Élysée Treaty.:422 France also reduced its dollar reserves, trading them for gold from the US government, thereby reducing American economic influence abroad.:439
On 23 November 1959, in a speech in Strasbourg, de Gaulle announced his vision for Europe:
Oui, c’est l’Europe, depuis l’Atlantique jusqu’à l’Oural, c’est toute l’Europe, qui décidera du destin du monde.
His expression, “Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals”, has often been cited throughout the history of European integration. It became, for the next ten years, a favourite political rallying cry of de Gaulle’s. His vision stood in contrast to the Atlanticism of the United States and Britain, preferring instead a Europe that would act as a third pole between the United States and the Soviet Union. By including in his ideal of Europe all the territory up to the Urals, de Gaulle was implicitly offering détente to the Soviets. As the last chief of government of the Fourth Republic, de Gaulle made sure that the Treaty of Rome creating the European Economic Community was fully implemented, and that the British project of Free Trade Area was rejected, to the extent that he was sometimes considered as a “Father of Europe”
US dollar crisis
In the Bretton Woods system put in place in 1944, US dollars were convertible to gold. In France, it was called “America’s exorbitant privilege“ as it resulted in an “asymmetric financial system” where foreigners “see themselves supporting American living standards and subsidizing American multinationals”. As American economist Barry Eichengreen summarized: “It costs only a few cents for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to produce a $100 bill, but other countries had to pony up $100 of actual goods in order to obtain one”. In February 1965 President Charles de Gaulle announced his intention to exchange its US dollar reserves for gold at the official exchange rate. He sent the French Navy across the Atlantic to pick up the French reserve of gold and was followed by several countries. As it resulted in considerably reducing US gold stock and US economic influence, it led US President Richard Nixon to unilaterally end the convertibility of the dollar to gold on 15 August 1971 (the “Nixon Shock“). This was meant to be a temporary measure but the dollar became permanently a floating fiat money and in October 1976, the US government officially changed the definition of the dollar; references to gold were removed from statutes.
De Gaulle’s government was criticized within France, particularly for its heavy-handed style. While the written press and elections were free, and private stations such as Europe 1 were able to broadcast in French from abroad, the state’s ORTF had a monopoly on television and radio. This monopoly meant that the government was in a position to directly influence broadcast news. In many respects, Gaullist France was conservative, Catholic, and there were few women in high-level political posts (in May 1968, the government’s ministers were 100% male). Many factors contributed to a general weariness of sections of the public, particularly the student youth, which led to the events of May 1968.
In a private meeting discussing the students’ and workers’ demands for direct participation in business and government he coined the phrase “La réforme oui, la chienlit non”, which can be politely translated as ‘reform yes, masquerade/chaos no.’ It was a vernacular scatological pun meaning ‘chie-en-lit, no’ (shit-in-bed, no). The term is now common parlance in French political commentary, used both critically and ironically referring back to de Gaulle.