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A History of the Third French Republic by Wright

But the open Dreyfusites were all excluded


Matters

reached a crisis when, on November 15, 1897, Mathieu Dreyfus denounced Esterhazy to the Minister of War as author of the _bordereau_ and as guilty of the treason for which his brother had been condemned. This was partly a tactical mistake, because, even if Esterhazy were proved to have written the _bordereau_, it would still be necessary to show him guilty of actual treason. It made it possible to swerve the discussion from the conviction of Dreyfus as a _res adjudicata_ (_chose jugee_) to vague charges against Esterhazy. The later called for a vindication, he was triumphantly acquitted by a court-martial early in January, 1898, and Picquart was put under arrest on various charges of indiscipline in connection with the whole affair.

Few and far between as they now seemed, the lovers of justice were still to be counted with. They consisted at first of a small number of much-derided _intellectuels_, scholars and trained thinkers, who used their judgment and not their prejudices. One of these was the famous novelist Emile Zola, who, to keep the case under discussion, published in the _Aurore_ on January 13, a few days after Esterhazy's acquittal, his famous letter, _J'accuse_. In this article Zola denounced the guilty machinations of Dreyfus's adversaries _seriatim_, blamed the Dreyfus court-martial for convicting on secret evidence and the Esterhazy court for acquitting a guilty man in obedience to orders. Zola was not in possession of all the

facts, since his precise aim was to have them brought out, and in his charges against the Esterhazy court he was technically and legally at fault. But he courted prosecution and got it.

On February 7 Zola was brought to trial. The crafty authorities eliminated all references to the trial of 1894 as a _chose jugee_ and prosecuted Zola for having declared that Esterhazy was acquitted by order. Their tool, the presiding magistrate Delegorgue, seconded their efforts by ruling out every question which might throw light on the Dreyfus case, in spite of the attempts of Zola's chief lawyer Labori. Party passion was at its height, hired gangs of men were posted about the court-house to hoot and attack the Dreyfusites, members of the General Staff appeared in full uniform to interrupt the trial and bulldoze the jury by mysterious hints of war with Germany. Finally Zola was condemned to fine and imprisonment. At this trial for the first time mention was mysteriously but openly made of a new document, understood to be a communication alluding to Dreyfus between the Italian and the German military _attaches_ at Paris. Zola appealed, the higher court broke the verdict on the ground that the prosecution should have been instigated by the offended court-martial and not by the Government, he was brought to trial again on a change of venue at Versailles, was unsuccessful in interposing obstacles to an inevitable condemnation, and so fled to England (July).

Meanwhile, public opinion was becoming yet more violently excited. France was divided into two great camps, the line of cleavage often estranging the closest friends and relatives. On the one side was a vast majority consisting of the Clericals, the jingoes or Nationalists, the anti-Semites, and the unreflecting mass of the population. On the other were ranged the "intellectuals," the Socialists who were now rallying to the cause of tolerance, the Jews, and the few French Protestants. The League of the Rights of Man stood opposed to the association of the _Patrie Francaise_. In the midst of this turmoil were held the elections of May, 1898, for the renewal of the Chamber of Deputies. The political coloring of the new body was not sensibly changed, but the open Dreyfusites were all excluded. The Moderates now generally dubbed themselves "Progressists." None the less at the first session the now long-lived Meline Cabinet resigned after a vote requesting it to govern with fewer concessions to the Right.


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