Emile Zola Accuses the French Government

Research and analyze : Emile Zola Accuses the French Government of Framing Alfred Dreyfus
Primary Source:mile Zola Accuses the French Government of Framing Alfred DreyfusThe great realist novelist mile Zola was a lifelong republican. Along with the actress Sarah Bernhardt, Zola was deeply distressed by the case of the Alsatian Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus, who was court-martialed and sentenced to life in prisonon scanty and suspicious evidenceof selling French state secrets to the Germans in 1894. The accusations were clearly guided by anti-Semitic sentiments, which were whipped up by the right-wing press, and especially by Eduoard Drumont, the publisher of the journal La libre parole (The Free Word) and author of La France juivre (Jewish France; 1886). In 1896, new evidence implicated Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, a major in the French army and a member of the French branch of the powerful Hungarian noble house. But the courts ignored the evidence, declared Esterhazy innocent, and reconfirmed Dreyfuss guilt. It was this verdict that enraged Zola and other republicans. In January 1898, Zola wrote the following blistering open letter to the president of the French Republic, entitled Jaccuse(I accuse you!), in which he denounced Frances military and justice systems, as well as the Catholic Church, for condemning an innocent man. In the end, Dreyfus was given a new trial, and found innocent. He served his country in the First World War, and was awarded the Legion of Honor medal in 1918. Esterhazy escaped to Belgium and then England, where he (almost certainly the guilty party) died in 1923.Source: Emile Zola, Letter to M. Felix Faure, President of the Republic (Jaccuse) in The Dreyfuss Affiar: Jaccuse and Other Writings, ed. Alain Pages, trans. Eleanor Levieux (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), 4353. Copyright 1996 by Yale University. English language translation by Eleanor Levieux 1996. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.Monsieur le President,Will you all me, out of my gratitude for the gracious manner in which you once granted me an audience, to express my concern for your well-deserved glory? Will you allow me to tell you that although your star has been in the ascendant hitherto, it is now in danger of being dimmed by the most shameful and indelible of stains? [] What a blot on your name (I was about to say, on your reign) this abominable Dreyfus Affair is! A court martial, acting on your orders, has just dared to acquit such a man as Esterhazy. Truth itself and justice itself have been slapped in the face. And now it is too late, Frances cheek has been sullied by that supreme insult, and History will record that it was during your presidency that such a crime against society was committed? [] First of all, the truth about the trial and the verdict against Dreyfus. One wicked man had led it all, done it all: Lt-Col [Armand-Mercier] du Paty de Clam.[1] At the time he was only a Major. He is the entire Dreyfus Affair.It was his idea to dictate the bordereau[2] to Dreyfus; it was his idea to examine it in a room entirely lined with mirrors; it was du Paty de Clam, Major Forzinetti tells us, who went out with a dark lantern intending to slip into the cell where the accused man was sleeping and flash the light on his face all of a sudden so that he would be taken by surprise and blurt out a confession!… For some time already, the bordereau had been in the possession of Colonel Sandherr, head of the Intelligence Bureau, who has since died of total paralysis. There were leaks, papers disappeared, just as papers continue to disappear today; and efforts were being made to find out who had written the bordereau when a conviction slowly grew up that that person could only be an officer from the General Staff, and an artillery officer at that. This was a glaring double error, which shows how superficially the bordereau had been examined, since a close and rational scrutiny of it proves that it could only have been written by an infantry officer. It was du Paty de Clam who invented Dreyfus. The Affair became his affair. He was sure that he could confound the traitor and wring a complete confession from him. Of course, there is the War Minister, General Mercier, whose intelligence seems to be on a mediocre level; and of course there is the Chief of the General Staff, General de Boisdeffre, who appears to have been swayed by his intense clericalism. Ah, for anyone who knows the true details of the first affair, what a nightmare it is! Major du Paty de Clam arrests Dreyfus and has him placed in solitary confinement. He rushes to the home of Madame Dreyfus and terrifies her, saying that if she speaks up, her husband is lost But now, here is Dreyfus summoned before the court martial. The most utter secrecy is demanded. They could not have imposed stricter silence and been more rigorous and mysterious if a traitor had actually opened our borders to the enemy and led the German Emperor straight to Notre Dame. No punishment can be too severe; the nation will applaud the traitors public humiliation; the nation is adamant: the guilty man shall remain on the remote rock where infamy has placed him and he shall be devoured by remorse. But then, those unspeakable accusations, those dangerous accusations that might inflame all of Europe and had to be so carefully concealed behind the closed doors of secret sessionare they true? No, they are not! One need only examine the formal indictment that was read before the court martial. How hollow that indictment is! Is it possible a man has been found guilty on the strength of it? Such iniquity is staggering. I challenge decent people to read it: their hearts will leap with indignation and rebellion when they think of the disproportionate price Dreyfus is paying so far away on Devils Island. So Dreyfus speaks several languages, does he? This is a crime. Not one compromising paper was found in his home? A crime. He occasionally pays a visit to the region he fails from? A crime. . . So all that was left was the bordereau, on which the experts had not agreed. They say that in the council chambers, the judges were naturally leaning towards acquittal. And if that is the case then you can understand why, on the General Staff, they are so desperately insistent today on proclaiming, in order to justify the judgement [sic], that there was a damning but secret document; they cannot reveal it but it makes everything legitimate and we must bow before it, as before an invisible and unknowable God! I deny the existence of any such document, I deny it with all my strength! [] The preconceived idea that they brought with them to the judges bench of course as follows: Dreyfus was sentenced for treason by a court martial, therefore he is guilty; and we, as a court martial, cannot find him innocent They reached an iniquitous verdict which will forever weigh heavy on all our future courts martial and forever make their future decisions suspectthey talk to us about the honour of the army; they want us to love the army, respect the army.the army that is involved here is not the dignified army that our need for justice calls out for. What we are faced with here is the sabre, the master that may be imposed on us tomorrow. Should we kiss the hilt of that sabre, that god, with pious devotion? No, we should not! […] .The war office employed every means imaginablecampaigns in the press, statements and innuendoes, every type of influenceto cover Esterhazy, in order to convict Dreyfus a second time. The republican government should take a broom to that nest of Jesuits (General Billot calls them that himself) and make a clean sweep! […] It is a crime to have accused individuals of rending France apart when all those individuals ask for is a generous nation at the head of the procession of free, just nationsand all the while the people who committed that crime were hatching an insolent plot to make the entire world swallow a fabrication. It is a crime to lead public opinion astray, to manipulate it for a death-dealing purpose and pervert it to the point of delirium. It is a crime to poison the minds of the humble, ordinary people, to whip reactionary and intolerant passions into a frenzy while sheltering behind the odious bastion of anti-Semitism. France, the great and liberal cradle of the rights of man, will die of anti-Semitism if it is not cured of it. It is a crime to play on patriotism to further the aims of hatred. And it is a crime to worship the sabre as a modern god when all of human science is labouring to hasten the triumph of truth and justice.uilty man.

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