The World of Law: A Treasury of Great Writing about and in the Law, Short Stories, Plays, Essays, Accounts, Letters, Opinions, Pleas, Transcripts of Testimony; from Biblical Times to the Present - Vol. 2

By Ephraim London | Go to book overview

Emile Zola


ADDRESS TO THE JURY AT HIS TRIAL FOR LIBEL

"Anti-Semitism really burst into prominence in the Third Republic with the publication of Édouard Drumont's two-volume, twelve-hundred-page La France juive on April 14, 1886," says Robert F. Byrnes in his recent study of this tragic problem. A gifted but embittered journalist, Drumont poured everything that was ever said or rumored against the Jews into his seething caldron which became the source for countless other books and pamphlets. In 1892 he started a daily anti-Semitic newspaper, Libre Parole, which also met with immediate success. Yet by the fall of 1894 anti-Semitism in France reached its lowest ebb and Drumont was on the point of selling his paper.

Then suddenly Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a comparatively unknown Jewish member of the French General Staff, was found guilty of selling military secrets to the German General Staff and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island. Now France flamed with anti-Semitism, and even such men as Clemenceau thought that Dreyfus should have been executed. But the Captain's brother, Mathieu Dreyfus, got to work and learned through the venerable vice-president of the Senate, Scheurer-Kestner, that Colonel Picquart of the General Staff had traced the only incriminating evidence against Captain Dreyfus to Major Esterhazy, a Hungarian-born member of the General Staff and a man of scandalous character. Picquart had been rewarded for his investigation with exile to a dangerous army post in Africa.

The little Dreyfus group stubbornly pressed the investigation month after month, for nearly three years, in the face of every conservative and reactionary element in France, for the issue was no longer the innocence of Dreyfus but the honor of the army. Clemenceau and Zola joined in the clamor for the trial of Esterhazy. On January 9, 1898, he was quickly tried by his fellow

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