Facts emerge–L’affaire Dreyfus | New NY 23rd

It is only by examining the case in detail that a picture emerges, not of virtue at grips with villainy, but of fallible human beings pulled this way and that by their beliefs, their loyalties, their prejudices, their ambitions, and their ignorance. — Guy Chapman quoted in the work cited.

Facts evolve. In France in 1894, evidence of espionage was discovered. A scrap of paper found in a wastebasket implicated a high-ranking army officer. The handwriting was said to match that of Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus was convicted by a military court and sent to prison.

Counter-espionage investigation continued, and in 1896 the investigating officer, Colonel Picquart, noticed that additional incriminating evidence continued to emerge. Picquart became convinced that Dreyfus was innocent, and a Major Esterhazy was guilty. The army preferred to keep the case closed; Major Henry forged a document, the faux Henry, which he placed in the Dreyfus dossier to strengthen the case against Dreyfus. For defending Dreyfus and embarrassing the army, Picquart was reveilled, arrested, and convicted of “infraction of discipline.”

After years of scandal, wild rumors, and intrigue, Esterhazy fled, Henry committed suicide,  Picquart was vindicated, and Dreyfus was pardoned. The press played a key role with the publication of Zola’s article: “J’accuse.” In 1906, Parliament passed bills reinstating Dreyfus and Picquart, who were promoted in rank. Dreyfus was given the fourth grade of the Legion of Honour.

Facts evolve; sometimes truth will emerge.

Source: The Shaping of the Modern World, Maurice Bruce, Random House, NY, 1958

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