Page images
PDF
EPUB

vibrating with grief, energy, and implacable will, in view of that which to us is the most precious thing in the world, our honor and that of our children. And I straighten up once more to utter to all the thrilling appeal of a man who asks only justice in order to kindle in you all the ardent fire that animates my soul, and that will be extinguished only with

my life.

As for you,

I live only on my fever, proud when I have passed through a long day of twenty-four hours. you have not to consider what they say or what they think. It is for you to do your duty inflexibly, and to insist no less inflexibly on your right, the right of justice and truth. If in this horrible affair there are other interests than ours, which we have never failed to recognize, there are also the imprescriptible rights of justice and truth. There is the duty of all to put an end to a situation so atrocious, so undeserved. Then I can wish for us both and for all only that this frightful, horrible, and unmerited martyrdom may come to an end. ...

Now I read to you what M. de Cassagnac wrote on September 14, 1896:

"Our confrère, 'Le Jour,' pretends, not to prove the innocence of Dreyfus, but to show that his guilt is not demonstrated. This is already too much. Not that we reproach our confrère for pursuing such a demonstration, but that this demonstration is impossible. Like most of our fellow-citizens, we believe Dreyfus guilty, but, like our confrère, we are not sure of it. And, like our confrère also, we have the courage to say so, since we cannot be suspected of being favorable to the Jews, whom we combat here as persistently as we combat the Freemasons. The real question js: Can there be any doubt as to the guilt of Dreyfus ? Now, thanks to the stupidity and the cowardice of the government of the Republic, this question, far from being closed, remains perpetually open.

Why? Because the

government did not dare to conduct the trial in the open, 80 that public opinion might be settled.

Yes, traitors are abominable beings, who should be pitilessly shot like wild beasts; but, for the very reason that the punishment incurred is the more frightful and the more deserved, and carries with it no pity, it should not have been possible for the cowardice of the government with reference to Germany to have left us in a hor. rible doubt whicb authorizes us to ask ourselves sometimes if really there is not on Devil's Island a human being undergoing in innocence a superhuman torture. Such doubt is a frightful thing, and it will continue, because publicity of trial furnishes the only basis for a revision. Now there is no revision. There is no appeal from a sentence wrapped in artificial and deliberate darkness."

That is what M. de Cassagnac said, and, when he wrote it, he did not know what you have learned during the last fortnight. You see, then, the source of the campaign to which Colonel Picquart alluded in one of his letters to General Gonse. It is not the article in “L'Eclair," for those letters appeared before September 15. It is these articles that I have just read you, the Dreyfusian campaign, there you have it. The article in "L'Eclair," in which the name of Dreyfus was falsely written in full, was simply an infamy resorted to to stop that campaign.

[ocr errors]

For a moment, gentlemen, it was the intention of the War Department to let the light shine. But, when the in. terpellation was announced, it failed in courage. That is the truth. And so, when M. Castelin asked for informa. tion concerning the pretended escape of the traitor and the campaign that was beginning, General Billot ascended the tribune and pronounced for the first time these words,

which were the beginning of the events which you are now witnessing:

“Gentlemen, the question submitted to the Chamber by the honorable M. Castelin is serious. It concerns the jus. tice of the country and the security of the State. This sad affair two years ago was the subject of a verdict brought about by one of my predecessors in the War Department. Justice was then done. The examination, the trial, and the verdict took place in conformity with the rules of military procedure. The council of war, regularly constituted, deliberated regularly, and, in full knowledge of the cause, rendered a unanimous verdict. The council of revision unanimously rejected the appeal. The thing, then, is judged, and it is allowable for no one to question it. Since the conviction, all precautions have been taken to prevent any attempt at escape. But the higher reasons which in 1894 necessitated a closing of the doors have lost nothing of their gravity. So the government appeals to the patriotism of the Chamber for the avoidance of a discussion which may prevent many embarrassments, and, at any rate, for a closing of the discussion as soon as possible.

Well, gentlemen, note this reply of General Billot. It is the heart of the question, and it is here that begins the fault, or, if you prefer, the error, of the government. It is easy to accuse law-abiding citizens of inciting odious cam. paigns in their country; but, if we go back to the sources, it is easy to see where the responsibility lies, and here I have put my finger upon it. We are told confidently of the wrong done by the defenders of the traitor in not demand. ing either a revision or a nullification of the verdict of 1894. Nullification? Why, it is the business of the Minister of Justice to demand that Listen to Article 441 of the Code of Criminal Examination, applicable in military matters .

“When, upon the exhibition of a formal order given to him by the Minister of Justice, the prosecuting attorney before the Court of Appeals shall denounce in the criminal branch of that court judicial acts, decrees, or verdicts con. trary to the law, these acts, decrees, or verdicts may be an. nulled, and the police officials or the judge prosecuted, if there is occasion, in the manner provided in Chapter III. of Title 4 of the present book."

Well, the secret document, gentlemen, was known in September, 1896. The article in "L'Eclair" appeared September 15; the Castelin interpellation was heard on November 16; a petition from Mme. Dreyfus was laid before the Chamber, and is still unanswered, as is also a letter from M. Demange to the president of the Chamber on the same subject. Now, what was the government's duty when this question first arose ? Unquestionably to deny the secret document from the tribune, if it had not been communi. cated; and, if it had been, to declare that the procedure was in contempt of all law and should lead to the nullification of the verdict. That is what a free government would have done.

Now I wish to say a word of the difficulty of procuring the documents mentioned in the bordereau, upon which so much stress has been laid in order to exculpate Major Esterhazy. I will not dwell on the Madagascar note, which was of February, 1894, and not of August, as has been said, and which consequently was not the important note of which General Gonse spoke. I wish to emphasize only one point, because it is the only one which, in the absence of the questions that I was not permitted to ask, has not been made perfectly clear by the confrontations of the witnesses, and which yet has a considerable significance. General de Pel .

lieux spoke to you of the piece one hundred and twenty and its hydraulic check. I believe it is the first item mentioned in the bordereau. This check, said General Gonse, is important. I asked him at what date it figured in the military regulations, and at what date the official regulation had been known to the army. General Gonse answered that he was unable to give information on that point. Well, gentlemen, the truth is this. The official regulations concerning siege pieces were put on sale at the house of Berger-Lebrault & Co., military booksellers, and they bear the date, do not smile, gentlemen, remembering that the bordereau was written in 1894—they bear the date 1889. On page twenty-one you will find mention of the hydraulic check. “The purpose of the hydraulic check [it says] is to limit the recoil of the piece.” In 1895 a new check was adopted for the piece one hundred and twenty, and this new check, as appears from the official regulations bearing date of 1895, is not known as a hydraulic check, but as the hydro-pneumatic check. Either the author of the bordereau, speculating on the innocence of foreigners, sent them in 1894 a note on the hydraulic check of the piece one hundred and twenty, which had been a public matter since 1889, and then really it is not worth while to say that Major Esterbazy could not have procured it; or else he sent them in 1894 a note on the hydropneumatic check, and then there is no doubt about it—he could not have been an artilleryman.

You have been spoken to also concerning the troupes de couverture. Well, there are cards on sale in the most official manner,

which

appear annually, and which show in the clearest way the distribution of the troops of the entire Hrench army for the current year. I do not know at all what the author of the bordereau sent, and General Gonse

« PreviousContinue »