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Protecting Care which has led us from small beginnings to the eminence we this day occupy; and let us seek to deserve that continuance by prudence and moderation in our councils; by well-directed attempts to assuage the bitterness which too often marks unavoidable differences of opinion; by the promulgation and practice of just and liberal principles; and by an enlarged patriotism, which shall acknowledge no limits but those of our own widespread Republic.”
APPEAL FOR DREYFUS
[Address by Emile Zola, novelist (born in Paris, April 2, 1840;
-), delivered to the jury at his trial for libel in connection with the Dreyfus case, Paris, February 21, 1898.]
In the Chamber at the sitting of January 22, M. Meline, the Prime Minister declared, amid the frantic applause of his complaisant majority, that he had confidence in the twelve citizens to whose hands he intrusted the defense of the army. It was of you, gentlemen, that he spoke. And just as General Billot dictated its decision to the court martial intrusted with the acquittal of Major Esterhazy, by appealing from the tribune for respect for the chose jugée, so likewise M. Meline wished to give you the order to condemn me out of respect for the army which he accuses me of having insulted!
I denounce to the conscience of honest men this pressure brought to bear by the constituted authorities upon the justice of the country. These are abominable political manoeuvres, which dishonor a free nation. We shall see, gentlemen, whether you will obey.
But it is not true that I am here in your presence by the will of M. Meline. He yielded to the necessity of prosecuting me only in great trouble, in terror of the new step which the advancing truth was about to take. This everybody knew. If I am before you, it is because I wished it. I alone decided that this obscure, this abominable affair, should be brought before your jurisdiction, and it is I alone of my free will who chose you, you, the Toftiest, the most direct emanation of French justice in order that France might at last know all, and give her opinion. My
act. had no other object, and my person is of no account. I have sacrificed it, in order to place in your hands not only the honor of the army, but the imperiled honor of the nation.
It appears that I was cherishing a dream in wishing to offer you all the proofs: considering you to be the sole worthy, the sole competent judge. They have begun by depriving you with the left hand of what they seemed to give you with the right. They pretended, indeed, to accept your jurisdiction, but if they had confidence in you to avenge the members of the court martial, there were still other officers who remained superior even to your jurisdiction. Let who can understand. It is absurdity doubled with hypocrisy, and it is abundantly clear that they dreaded your good sense,—that they dared not run the risk of letting us tell all and of letting you judge the whole matter. They pretend that they wished to limit the scandal. What do you think of this scandal? Of my act, which consisted in bringing the matter before you,in wishing the people, incarnate in you, to be the judge? They pretend also that they could not accept a revision in disguise, thus confessing that in reality they have but one dread, that of your sovereign control. The law has in you its entire representation, and it is this law of the people elect that I have wished for,—this law which, as a good citizen, I hold in profound respect, and not the suspicious procedure whereby they hoped to make you a derision.
I am thus excused, gentlemen, for having brought you here from your private affairs without being able to inundate you with the full flood of light of which I dreamed. The light, the whole light,—this was my sole, my passionate desire! And this trial has just proved it. We have had to fight-step by step—against an extraordinarily obstinate desire for darkness. A battle has been necessary to obtain every atom of truth. Everything has been refused us. Our witnesses have been terrorized in the hope of preventing us from proving our point. And it is on your behalf alone that we have fought, that this proof might be put before you in its entirety, so that you might give your opinion without remorse in your consciences. I am certain, therefore, that you will give us credit for our
efforts, and that, moreover, sufficient light has been thrown upon the affair.
You have heard the witnesses; you are about to hear my counsel, who will tell you the true story: the story that maddens everybody and which no one knows. I am, therefore, at my ease.
You have the truth at last, and it will do its work. M. Meline thought to dictate your decision by intrusting to you the honor of the army.
And it is in the name of the honor of the army that I too appeal to your justice.
I give M. Meline the most direct contradiction. Never have I insulted the army. I spoke, on the contrary, of my sympathy, my respect for the nation in arms, for our dear soldiers of France, who would rise at the first menace to defend the soil of France. And it is just as false that I attacked the chiefs, the generals who would lead them to victory. If certain persons at the War Office have compromised the army itself by their acts, is it to insult the whole army to say so? Is it not rather to act as a good citizen to separate it from all that compromises it, to give the alarm, so that the blunders which alone have been the cause of our defeat shall not occur again, and shall not lead us to fresh disaster.
I am not defending myself, moreover. I leave history to judge my act, which was a necessary one; but I affirm that the army is dishonored when gendarmes are allowed to embrace Major Esterhazy after the abominable letters written by him. I affirm that that valiant army is insulted daily by the bandits who, on the plea of defending it, sully it by their degrading championship,—who trail in the mud all that France still honors as good and great. I affirm that those who dishonor that great national army are those who mingle cries of “ Vive l'armee!" with those of “A bas les juifs!” and “Vive Esterhazy!” Grand Dieu! the people of St. Louis, of Bayard, of Condé, and of Hoche: the people which counts a hundred great victories, the people of the great wars of the Republic and the Empire, the people whose power, grace, and generosity have dazzled the world, crying “Vive Esterhazy!” It is a shame the stain of which our efforts on behalf of truth and justice can alone wash off!
You know the legend which has grown up: Dreyfus was
condemned justly and legally by seven infallible officers, whom it is impossible even to suspect of a blunder without insulting the whole army. Dreyfus expiates in merited torments his abominable crime. And, as he is a Jew, a Jewish syndicate is formed, an international sans patrie syndicate, disposing of hundreds of millions, the object of which is to save the traitor at any price, even by the most shameless intrigues. And thereupon this syndicate began to heap crime on crime: buying consciences, casting France into a disastrous agitation, resolved on selling her to the enemy, willing even to drive all Europe into a general war rather than renounce its terrible plan.
It is very simple, nay childish, if not imbecile. But it is with this poisoned bread that the unelean Press has been nourishing our poor people now for some months. And it is not surprising if we are witnessing a dangerous crisis; cu for when folly and lies are thus sown broadcast, you necessarily reap insanity.
Gentlemen, I would not insult you by supposing that you have yourselves been duped by this nursery tale. I know you; I know who you are. You are the heart and the reason of Paris, of my great Paris where I was born, which I love with an infinite tenderness, which I have been studying and writing of now for forty years. And I know likewise what is now passing in your brains; for, before coming to sit here as defendant, I sat there on the bench where you are now. You represent there the average opinion; you try to illustrate prudence and justice in the
Soon I shall be in thought with you in the room where you deliberate, and I am convinced that your effort will be to safeguard your interests as citizens, which are, of course, the interests of the whole nation. You may make a mistake, but you will do so in the thought that while securing your own weal you are securing the weal of all.
!I see you at your homes at evening under the lamp; I hear you talk with your friends; I accompany you into your factories and shops. You are all workers—some tradesmen, others manufacturers, some exercising liberal professions. And your very legitimate anxiety is the deplorable state into which business has fallen. Everywhere the present crisis threatens to become a disaster. The