The Dreyfus Case

The Dreyfus Case

The Dreyfus Case

The Dreyfus Case

Excerpt

The Dreyfus Case was the most famous of the nineteenth century causes célèbres, and there are probably few educated men today to whom the name of Dreyfus is unknown. To the great public, then and now, the "Affair" has appealed first of all as a "mystery story," with characters and plot to challenge the most fertile author's imagination. An Henry sitting in the shadows of the Intelligence Bureau weaving a web of forgery in which to ensnare his docile and unwary superiors; an Esterhazy trading treason for money to calk the seams of dissipation, at once the tool and the bully of his superiors, daring even to blackmail the President of the Republic--these are figures worthy of the genius of a Conan Doyle.

The Dreyfus Affair, however, had a much wider significance than its casual appeal to the great public would indicate. The arrest of Captain Dreyfus, a Jew, followed in the wake of a wave of anti-Semitism which had swept over France during the previous decade. This movement had affected monarchist and clerical circles above all, and it was these groups which continued to dominate the Army, giving it the character of a caste. Indeed the admission of Dreyfus to the General Staff had caused something of a scandal. Later, when the evidence of Dreyfus' wrongful condemnation began to come to light, the clerico-monarchist forces closed ranks behind the professional Army, which was, in their view, the veritable bulwark of society in an age of high tension in international politics, when only a strong France could play a role worthy of a great power. Hence the honor of the Army must be preserved at all costs. Dreyfus must be guilty, because the military judges had found him guilty. Even if by chance he were innocent, it were better to sacrifice . . .

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