Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Modern Era

1789 - 1914

In Europe, the revolutionary transformation of the ruling systems and state structures began with a bang: In 1789 the French Revolution broke out in Paris, and its motto "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite"—Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood—took on an irrepressible force. A fundamental reorganization of society followed the French Revolution. The ideas behind the revolution were manifest in Napoleon's Code Civil, which he imposed on many European nations. The 19th century also experienced a transformation of society from another source: The Industrial Revolution established within society a poorer working class that stood in opposition to the merchant and trading middle class. The nascent United States was shaken by an embittered civil war. The economic growth that set in following that war was accompanied by the development of imperialist endeavors and its rise to the status of a Great Power.



Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution that deposed the French monarchy,
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.






After Napoleon I, France returned to the circle of European great powers. The Bourbons tried to restore their prerevolutionary monarchy, but political suppression and social injustice led to several revolts which increasingly gained momentum and strength. The Second Republic, which resulted from the revolution of 1848, was once again transformed into an empire through a coup d'etat by President Louis-Napoleon. With time, however, the social desire for liberal policies grew again, and the conservatives found themselves under increasing pressure. The empire ended with its defeat by Germany in 1870-1871, and the Third Republic finally vanquished "Bonapartism" in the struggle between republican and conservative ideas.


The Second Empire

Napoleon Ill's reign began in an authoritarian vein which he had to abandon in favor of liberal developments.


In Napoleon Ill's empire, the parliament was of little significance; the Church and the army had greater influence in the running of the state. The lower middle class accepted the authoritarian state out of fear of socialist violence. The lower class was pacified by the creation of jobs in the wake of "Haussmannization"— the renovation and modernization of Paris.

Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann, prefect of the Seine departement which included Paris, redesigned the city and laid out wide, corridor-like 1 boulevards and parks such as he Bois de Boulogne. The 1889 4, 5 public exhibinons held in  Paris demonstrated France's industrial progress.

1 Boulevard des Italiens in Paris

4 Eiffel Tower in Paris, inaugurated on the
occasion of the 1889 world exhibition

5 The Aquarium in the 1867 world exhibition in Paris

France fought in the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856 against Russia on the side of the Ottoman Empire.

Its participation in the Franco-Sardinian War against Austria in 1859—which France won primarily through its victory in the 6 Battle of Solferino on June 24,1859—was also profitable due to the capture of Nice and Savoy.

6 Emperor Napoleon III during the Battle of Solferino

After France annexed Algeria in 1834 and finally conquered it in 1847 in the struggle against 2 Abdelkader, it was agriculturally exploited by the Colons, European settlers who were mostly French.

France was also able to prevail in Indochina, Syria, and Senegal. It was a different matter in Mexico, whose French-installed emperor was overthrown in 1867. The plan to absorb regions of Luxembourg and Belgium also failed.

Domestically, the liberal opposition was victorious in 1869. Napoleon III was forced to compromise with the democrats and relinquish a large part of his authoritarian regime in the Empire liberal.

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, provoked by Prussia, resulted in the 3 Battle of Sedan on September 1,1870, and the downfall of the Second Empire.

The emperor was taken prisoner, and, in the course of the negotiations, France had to cede Alsace and Lorraine to Germany.

2 Abdelkader

3 The French defeat at Sedan, September 1, 1870


see also:

Gustave Courbet


BAUDELAIRE  CHARLES, self-portrait from 1860

The poet CHARLES-PIERRE BAUDELAIRE (1821-1867) was arguably the most important French lyricist of the Modern Era.

He became famous through his major work, a collection of poems entitled Les Fleurs du Mal (
"The Flowers of Evil") which was published in 1857 and triggered a scandal in bourgeois French society.

After a trial for offending the public morals, he had to withdraw six of his poems. The most important themes of his "aesthetic of the ugly" were, in contrast to Romantic literature, death and eroticism. He particularly influenced English writers such as

He lived in Belgium for a number of years, but died of syphilis in Paris, the city of his birth, on August 31, 1867.

Gustave Courbet





Nadar and Sarah Bernhardt


Sarah Bernhardt

Lady at Ease

She was a true child of the age of photography. Fascinated with the new pictorial medium that photography represented, Sarah Bernhardt understood how to wield photography to foster her growing fame.


At some point in the course of 1864, the young Sarah Bernhardt had her portrait taken in the studio of the Paris photographer Felix Tournachon, known as Nadar. The precise day and month have not been recorded but researchers nevertheless have agreed. At the time, Henriette Rosine Bernhardt, the daughter of a Hungarian Jewish mother, was twenty years old, and it would be an exaggeration to term her a famous actress. At this point even the word 'promising' might be too much - although she had been a conscientious student at the Paris Conservatory, and had passed the final exams as the second in her class. But even so, coming directly from school, she would never have been engaged by the Comedie Francaise - at that time still the leading theater in France - without the support of her mother's influential friends. One cannot speak, however, of the beginning of a brilliant career; in fact, rather the opposite. "Her debut," writes Cornelia Otis Skinner, one of Bernhardt's biographers, "was not at all sensational; it wasn't even good." In particular, the stage fright from which she was to suffer throughout her life weakened her self-confidence during her performances. Accordingly, the critics responded with restraint. Francisque Sarcey, for example, initially commented positively on the way the young actress carried herself and spoke in her first appearance in Racine's Iphegenie - but shortly afterward rescinded his faint praise. Similarly, the influential critic of Le Temps found her performance unsatisfactory. If she seem to have made an impression at all, then it was thanks to her appearance: "Mademoiselle Bernhardt... is a tall and pretty young person of slender build and very pleasant facial expression. The top half of her face is remarkably beautiful; her posture is good and her pronunciation completely clear. More," according to Sarcey, "cannot be said at this point."

By 1864, Sarah Bernhardt had two years of stage experience behind her. She had appeared in pieces by Moliere and Racine, and had also held her own in now-forgotten plays by writers such as Barriere, Bayard, Laya, and Delacourt. But until the time of the photograph, she had garnered more attention from a certain extravagance of clothing and appearance, as well as a series of moderate-sized scandals, which initially were anything but helpful to the progress of her career. A slap she delivered on the public stage in early 1863 gained her not only dismissal from the Comedie Franchise but the reputation of being difficult, stubborn, and arrogant. She was, and remained, without permanent engagement. On top of all this, she was now pregnant. The child - a son named Maurice - was born in December 1864 on the wrong side of the blanket. All in all, the young actress was not in an enviable position. "This young person," her teacher at the Conservatory is said to have prophesied, "will either be a genius or a disaster." In 1864, the latter seemed the more likely prognosis.
In precisely this unpromising year, the young actress determined to visit Nadar's atelier. The studio was not just any of the by-then numerous photography establishments in Paris: it was the largest and probably the best known. Opened in 7860 at 35 Boulevard des Capucines, the studio tended to draw customers of name and rank, if not precisely the power elite of the Second Empire, from whom the republican sympathizer Nadar kept a critical distance. Instead, his clientele included the members of the bohemian circles from which Felix Tournachon himself had arisen, even if his meanwhile well-developed sense for business distinguished him from the "water-drinkers," as he called them.

Sarah Bernhardt



Pantheon of prominent personalities


Gaspard-Felix Tournachon, who began to style himself'Nadar' in 1838, had started his career as a theater critic, writer, publisher of literary magazines, draftsman, and caricaturist. His project of creating a lithographic Pantheon of Famous Contemporaries, begun in 1851, won him attention, even though financial problems prevented him from producing more than a first issue. In the same year, Nadar also turned to the still-young field of photography, a decision that at first glance seems logical for technical reasons: photography was faster and cheaper than lithography, thus making it easier to construct his 'pantheon' of prominent personalities, for example. Furthermore, a new process had just become available that, although rather complicated, was many times more sensitive to light: the wet collodion process, which Felix Tournachon set to immediate use in his very first photographs. Nadar began making portraits of family mem-bers; soon, however, his artist friends were also stepping in front of his camera: Baudelaire, Champfleuri, Dore, Delacroix, Rossini, and Berlioz - a collection of simple, concentrated studies that "even today still retain their directness" (Franchise Heilbrun). Within a very short time, Nadar refined his portraiture to a remarkable level, a feat for which no doubt his familiarity with his subjects, his years of work as a caricaturist, as well as his "general curiosity about human beings" (Heilbrun) proved of great value. Nadar himself was thoroughly conscious of his abilities - of his own 'genius' - as demonstrated in a sensational civil suit against his own brother Adrien, who was in competition with him. During the trial, the self-assured Nadar declared that in photography, one could learn much for oneself, but not everything; excellent portraits, in particular, depended chiefly on the talent of the artist behind the camera. This evaluation was picked up by Philippe Burty in his criticism of the photographic Salon in 1859: "Mr Nadar," as he wrote in the Gazette des beaux-arts, "has made his portrait photographs into unquestionable works of art in the truest sense of the word specifically through the manner in which he illuminates his models, the freedom with which they move and assume their postures, and in particular by his discovery of the typical facial expression of each. Every member of the literary, artistic, dramatic, and political classes - in short, the intellectual elite - of our age has found its way to his studio. The sun takes care of the practical side of the affair, and M. Nadar is the artist who supplies the design."

For almost a decade, portraiture seems to have engrossed Nadar's artistic energies. Afterwards, so the story goes, he became bored by photography, although not to such an extent that he gave it up entirely. In 1861 he took impressive photographs of the catacombs of Paris using artificial light, and later he also photographed from balloons. Furthermore, he remained involved in portraiture, although his large new studio which opened in 1861 was primarily devoted to the quasi-'mechanical' production of photographs that had become almost universally popular. The process introduced by Disderi allowed the production of up to twelve saucersize portraits quickly and cheaply. Nadar's answer to the commercial challenge was his new studio in the Boulevard des Capucines that is supposed to have cost an unimaginable sum of two hundred thirty thousand francs - of borrowed money. Rumor has it further that he employed fifty workers, who could finish up to ten portraits a day; until that time, the upper limit had been three. It is not difficult to imagine why this 'mass production' was unable to achieve the desired 'character balance' sought-after in more 'intimate portraits'. If Nadar's studio was still important in the 1860s, it was chiefly because of its size and his advertising methods, which were unusual for the age. Attached to the facade of the building facing the boulevard was the owner's name in red script, which was furthermore illuminated at night. Nadar and his young client Sarah Bernhardt at least shared the feel for the grand entrance.

"Sorah Bernhardt after leaving the Conservatory".
Article in the French glossy VU, August 12, 1931Tfre dale of Nodar's photograph is given here as 1861.



New food for his lens


Sarah Bernhardt had visited Nadar's studio for the first time in 1862. The proof is a visiting card in the Bibliotheque nationale that already evinces all the signs of the standardized portrait. Whereas Nadar had rejected the use of props in his early portraits, such accessories, considered indispensable accouterments in the photography studios of this age of rapid commercial expansion, now began making their way into Nadar's studio, too. The typical example of these studio props was the supposedly antique-looking stump of an ancient column, made if necessary of papier mache and left unlacquered to avoid reflections. Such a column is clearly evident in the well-known Bernhardt portrait of 1864, and was present in the photograph of 1862 as well. In the older photograph the pose is conventional, the lighting unconvincing. The picture is, in short, flat, like the scene itself. The light-colored drape across the actress's shoulders emphasizes the thinness of her arms, a 'fault' which had often been ridiculed in her stage appearance, just she had often been teased as a child for her thick, curly hair. For the portrait, the 'blond Negress', as she was sometimes called, had combed her dark hair back into a braid and bound it. If there is anything that this insignificant photograph of Sarah Bernhardt does not exude It is precisely the quality that later characterized her whole being, namely, self-confidence and pride to the point of defiance. It is no accident that her chosen life-motto was Quand meme - "Despite everything."

It is highly unlikely that Nadar personally took this first photograph; on the other hand, we may well assume that it was precisely he who undertook two years later to portray Sarah Bernhardt's often-praised beauty so convincingly in a single sitting. Art critics reckon the photograph of the young, still unknown actress to be among Nadar's "most inspired" works (Silvie Aubenas), and one of his best after i860. The background of the portrait is neutral; the stump of a column hidden behind a pose that seems purely natural. The transfigured gaze is directed into the distance; there is no jewelry to compliment her beauty - the small cameo on her left ear in the photograph is hardly noticeable. She is wearing her hair loose; the burnoose that she has thrown off emphasizes the pyramidal composition of the entire photograph. This time, the actress's slim upper torso is skillfully presented, with only the tip of the left shoulder showing, to give the picture a suggestive note. There is here both a clearer contrast between dark and light elements and a selectively sharper focus that together increase the sculptural effect of the picture. Only on a few, rare occasions, according to Francoise Heilbrun, one of the leading experts on Nadar's work, did Nadar again achieve a portrait of this quality: in his later years, only when he was fascinated by the subjector, more precisely, the person.

Three versions of the Bernhardt portrait have survived, and each may well be accounted successful in terms of offering a convincing image o fthe actress's personality. In all three, the actress is presented in a half-length portrait, leaning against the remains of a column. Her hair is loose, the burnoose is on one occasion replaced by a black velvet drape. In any case, Nadar succeeded in eliciting the touching beauty of the young actress, whether en face or in three-quarters profile, for viewers even a hundred and thirty years later. That no contemporary print (vintage print) of the photographs exists is explained by the fact that the twenty-year-old was still unknown. On the other hand, this public insignificance seems to be precisely what provided a particular challenge to the photographer. "Our photographic hero finds the greatest joy and an unimaginable enthusiasm there where his lens makes out an unknown food," wrote one of Nadar's contemporaries. Shortly thereafter, once the 'divine' Sarah Bernhardt had become a legend, she was no longer of interest to the photographer.


Sarah Bernhardt



Sarah Bernhardt




Sarah Bernhardt as Theodora by Nadar

Sarah Bernhardt as Theodora by Nadar




Sarah Bernhardt

William Downey (1829-18 ), Sarah Benhardt

born Oct. 22/23, 1844, Paris, France
died March 26, 1923, Paris

Original name Henriette-Rosine Bernard, byname The Divine Sarah, French La Divine Sarah the greatest French actress of the 19th century, and one of the best-known figures in the history of the stage.

Early life and training
Bernhardt was the illegitimate daughter of Julie Bernard, a Dutch courtesan who had established herself in Paris (the identity of the father is uncertain). As the presence of a babyinterfered with her mother's life, Sarah was brought up at first in a pension and, later, in a convent. A difficult, willful child of delicate health, she wanted to become a nun, but oneof her mother's lovers, the Duke de Morny, Napoleon III's halfbrother, decided that she should be an actress and, when shewas 16, arranged for her to enter the Paris Conservatoire, thegovernment-sponsored school of acting. She was not considered a particularly promising student, and, although she revered some of her teachers, she regarded the Conservatoire's methods as antiquated.

Sarah Bernhardt left the Conservatoire in 1862 and, thanks to the Duke de Morny's influence, was accepted by the national theatre company, the Comédie-Française, as a beginner on probation. During the obligatory three debuts required of probationers, she was scarcely noticed by the critics. Her contract with the Comédie-Française was canceled in 1863 after she slapped the face of a senior actress who had been rude to her younger sister. For a time she found employment at the Théâtre du Gymnase-Dramatique. After playing the role of a foolish Russian princess, she entered a period of soul-searching, questioning her talent for acting. During these critical months she became the mistress of Henri, Prince de Ligne, and gave birth to her only child, Maurice. (Later, Bernhardt was married to a Greek military officer turned actor, Jacques Damala, but the marriage was short-lived, he dying of drug abuse. Throughout her life she had a series of affairs or liaisons with famous men, allegedly including the writer Victor Hugo, the actor Lou Tellegen, and the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII.)

In 1866 Bernhardt signed a contract with the Odéon theatreand, during six years of intensive work with a congenial company there, gradually established her reputation. Her first resounding success was as Anna Damby in the 1868 revival of Kean, by the novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas pére. The same year, she played the role of Cordelia in Le Roi Lear there. Bernhardt's greatest triumph at the Odéon, however, came in 1869, when she played the minstrelZanetto in the young dramatist François Coppée's one-act verse play Le Passant (“The Passerby”)—a part that she played again in a command performance before Napoleon III.

During the Franco-German War in 1870, she organized a military hospital in the Odéon theatre. After the war, the reopened Odéon paid tribute to France's great writer Victor Hugo with a production of his verse-play Ruy Blas. As Queen Maria, Bernhardt charmed her audiences with the lyrical quality of her distinctive voice, which was memorably described as a “golden bell,” though her critics usually called it “silvery,” as resembling the tones of a flute.

In 1872 Bernhardt left the Odéon and returned to the Comédie-Française, where at first she received only minor parts. But she had a remarkable success there in the title roleof Voltaire's Zaïre (1874), and she was soon given the chance to play the title role in Jean Racine's Phèdre, a part for which the critics supposed she lacked the resources needed to portray violent passion. Her performance, however, made them revise their estimate and write enthusiastic reviews. Another of her finest roles, her portrayal of Doña Sol in Victor Hugo's play Hernani was said to have brought tears to the author's eyes.

She played Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello in 1878, and when the Comédie-Française appeared in London in 1879, Bernhardt played in the second act of Phèdre and achieved another triumph. She had now reached the head of her profession, and an international career lay before her. Bernhardt had become an expressive actress with a wide emotional range who was capable of great subtlety in her interpretations. Her grace, beauty, and charisma gave her a commanding stage presence, and the impact of her unique voice was reinforced by the purity of her diction. Her career was also helped by her relentless self-promotion and her unconventional behaviour both on and off the stage.

International success
In 1880 Bernhardt formed her own traveling company and soon became an international idol. She spent her time actingwith her own company, managing the theatres it used, and going on long international tours. She appeared fairly regularly in England and extended her itinerary to the European continent, the United States, and Canada. New YorkCity saw her for the first time on Nov. 8, 1880, and eight visits to the United States followed. She made notable appearances as Hamlet in Paris and London in 1899, and in 1891–93 she undertook a world tour that included Australia and South America. Aside from her appearances as Phèdre, there were two parts that audiences all over the world clamoured to see her act: Marguérite Gautier, the redeemed courtesan in La Dame aux Camélias (“The Lady of the Camellias”) of Alexandre Dumas fils, and the title role of the popular playwright Eugène Scribe's Adrienne Lecouvreur. She had first played these two roles in 1880.

In the 1880s a new element had entered her artistic life with the emergence of Victorien Sardou as chief playwright for melodrama. With Bernhardt in mind, Sardou wrote Fédora (1882), Thédora (1884), La Tosca (1887), and Cléopâtre (1890). Sardou, directing his own plays in which she starred, taught her a broad, flamboyant style of acting, relying for effect on lavish decors, exotic costumes, and pantomimic action. Bernhardt even played male roles in the course of her career. In one of her more famous parts, that of Napoleon's only son in Edmond Rostand's play L'Aiglon (1900), Bernhardt, then aged 55, played a youth who died at age 21. She was also one of the first women known to haveperformed the title role in Hamlet.

In 1893 Bernhardt became the manager of the Théâtre de la Renaissance, and in 1899 she relocated to the former Théâtre des Nations, which she renamed the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt and managed until her death in 1923. The theatre retained her name until the German occupation of World War II and is now known as the Théâtre de la Ville.

Bernhardt was made a member of the Legion of Honour in 1914. In 1905, during a South American tour, she had injured her right knee when jumping off the parapet in the last sceneof La Tosca. By 1915 gangrene had set in, and her leg had to be amputated. Undaunted, the patriotic Bernhardt insisted on visiting the soldiers at the front during World War I while carried about in a litter chair. In 1916 she began her last tour of the United States, and her indomitable spirit sustained herduring 18 grueling months on the road. In November 1918 she arrived back in France but soon set out on another European tour, playing parts she could act while seated. New roles were provided for her by the playwrights Louis Verneuil, Maurice Rostand, and Sacha Guitry. She collapsed during the dress rehearsal of the Guitry play Un Sujet de roman (“A Subject for a Novel”) but recovered again sufficiently to take an interest in the Hollywood motion picture La Voyante (“The Clairvoyant”), which was being filmed in her own house in Paris at the time of her death.

In 1920 Bernhardt published a novel, Petite idole, that is not without interest since the actress-heroine constitutes an idealization of its author's own career and ambitions. Facts and fiction are difficult to disentangle in her autobiography, Ma Double Vie: Mémoires de Sarah Bernhardt (1907; “My Double Life: Memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt”). Bernhardt's treatise on acting, L'Art du théâtre (1923), is revealing in its sections on voice training: the actress had always considered voice as the key to dramatic character.

Alois M. Nagler

Encyclopaedia Britannica


Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt as Queen in Victor Hugo’s Ruy Blas.



Sarah Bernhardt - 1899
As Hamlet



The Third Republic

The Second Empire was followed by the Third Republic, which was confronted by domestic political scandals. Internationally, France was able to reintegrate itself step-by-step into the community of European states.


Shortly after the capitulation of the French army under the Comte de Mac-Mahon at Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War, the Third Republic was proclaimed in Paris.

In 1871, the National Assembly chose Adolphe Thiers as head of the new government.

The communists and socialists, who had joined together to run the 9, 10 Commune of Paris, set up a form of socialist republic that was crushed by Mac-Mahon's troops in the "Bloody Week" in May.

9 The commune of Paris builds barricades at the
Place de la Concorde

10 The ruins of the town hall that was set on fire
by communards in Paris on May 24, 1871

7 Maurice Mac-Mahon was elected president or "placeholder for the monarchy" by the conservative majority, but he stepped down in 1879 because of the growing strength of the republicans.
The moderate republican majority under State President Jules Grew existed until 1887 but then began to crumble due to crises and scandals. The economic crisis of 1882 had worsened the mood of the people and provided a boost for the conservatives.

Georges Boulanger sought revenge against Germany following the loss of Alsace-Lorraine in the Treaty of Versailles in 1871 and united conservatives, radicals, and monarchists in an authoritarian-nationalistic movement called "Party of the Dissatisfied" that seriously threatened the Republic.

The republicans' victory in the 1889 election prevented a dictatorship of the Boulangers. The Republic was shaken in the 1890s by the Panama scandal and the Dreyfus Affair, which caused political polarization. The majority coalition of republicans and left-wing radicals that existed from 1898, together with the socialists Aristide Briand and Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, instituted the separation of church and state as well as enacting social welfare measures in 1905. In foreign affairs, France pursued an alliance policy to preserve its colonial interests and protect itself against a possible war with Germany. In 1902, it received Italy's assurance of neutrality in case of a German attack. The alliance between France and Russia in 1894 was expanded to include Great Britain and became the Triple Entente in 1907.

The anti-German mood of the French citizens, exacerbated by the Morocco Crisis, was personified from 1913 by the President 11 Raymond Poincare, who aimed to regain territories lost to Prussia.

7 Marshall Comte Maurice Mac-Mahon, second president of the Third Republic
8 Georges Boulanger, leader of the opposition nationalists' party
11 President Raymond Poincare



Third Republic

French history
French government from 1870 to 1940. After the fall of the Second Empire and the suppression of the Paris Commune, the new Constitutional Laws of 1875 were adopted, establishing a regime based on parliamentary supremacy. Despite its series of short-lived governments, the Third Republic was marked by social stability (except for the Alfred Dreyfus affair), industrialization, and establishment of a professional civil service. It ended with the fall of France to the Germans in 1940. Presidents of the Third Republic included Adolphe Thiers (1871–73), Patrice de Mac-Mahon (1873–79), Jules Grévy (1879–87), Sadi Carnot (1887–94), Félix Faure (1895–99), Émile Loubet (1899–1906), Armand Fallières (1906–13), Raymond Poincaré (1913–20), Alexandre Millerand (1920–24), Gaston Doumergue (1924–31), and Albert Lebrun (1932–40). Other notable leaders included Léon Blum, Georges Boulanger, Aristide Briand, Georges Clemenceau, Édouard Daladier, Jules Ferry, Léon Gambetta, Édouard Herriot, Jean Jaurès, Pierre Laval, Philippe Pétain, and Paul Reynaud.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Marie-Edme-Patrice-Maurice, count de Mac-Mahon
president of France

born July 13, 1808, Sully, Fr.
died Oct. 17, 1893, Loiret

marshal of France and second president of the Third French Republic. During his presidency the Third Republic took shape, the new constitutional laws of 1875 were adopted, and important precedents were established affecting the relationship between executive and legislative powers.

A descendant of an Irish family that fled to France during the time of the Stuarts, Mac-Mahon began his army career in 1827 in Algeria and distinguished himself in the storming of Constantine (1837) and in the Crimean War (1853–56). The climax of his military career came in the Italian campaign of 1859, when his victory at Magenta resulted in his being created duc de Magenta. In 1864 he became governor general of Algeria. Commanding the I Army Corps in Alsace during the Franco-German War (1870–71), he was wounded and defeated at the Battle of Wörth. After a short convalescence at Sedan, Mac-Mahon was appointed head of the Versailles Army, which defeated the Paris Commune revolt in May 1871.

When Adolphe Thiers resigned as president of the republic on May 24, 1873, French rightists turned to Mac-Mahon as his successor; he was elected president the same day. On Nov. 20, 1873, the National Assembly passed the Law of the Septennate, conferring upon him presidential power for seven years. The Marshal assumed his presidential duties somewhat reluctantly, for he disliked publicity and lacked an understanding of the complex political issues of his day.

During Mac-Mahon’s term the constitutional laws of 1875 were promulgated. The National Assembly dissolved itself, and the elections of 1876 returned a large majority of republicans to the new chamber. The first crisis came in December 1876, when the republican chamber compelled Mac-Mahon to invite the moderate republican Jules Simon to form a government. The conservative Senate disapproved of Simon because he had purged some rightist officials, and, on May 16 (le seize mai), 1877, Mac-Mahon posted a letter to Simon that was tantamount to dismissal. Premier Simon’s resignation precipitated the crisis of le seize mai. When Mac-Mahon commissioned conservative Albert de Broglie to form a ministry and won the Senate’s assent to dissolve the chamber (June 25, 1877), the question of whether the President or Parliament would control the government was squarely posed.

The new elections to the chamber returned a majority of republicans, and the de Broglie ministry was given a vote of “no confidence.” The succeeding ministry, headed by Rochebouët, also collapsed. By Dec. 13, 1877, Mac-Mahon gave in to the extent of accepting a ministry led by conservative republican Jules Dufaure and composed mostly of republicans. On Jan. 5, 1879, the republicans gained a majority in the Senate, and Mac-Mahon resigned on January 28. The constitutional crisis during his presidency was resolved in favour of parliamentary as against presidential control, and thereafter during the Third Republic the office of president became largely an honorific post.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Georges Boulanger
French general

born April 29, 1837, Rennes, Fr.
died Sept. 30, 1891, Brussels

French general, minister of war, and political figure who led a brief but influential authoritarian movement that threatened to topple the Third Republic in the 1880s.

A graduate of the Saint-Cyr Military Academy, he entered the army in 1856 and saw service in Italy, Algeria, Indochina, and the Franco-German War (1870–71). Wounded in suppressing the 1871 Paris Commune, he was appointed brigadier general in May 1880 and director of infantry in 1882. Two years later he was appointed to command the army in Tunisia but was recalled because of differences of opinion with Pierre-Paul Cambon, the political resident. Returning to Paris, he began to take part in politics under the aegis of Georges Clemenceau and the Radical Party. In January 1886 he entered the government of Charles-Louis de Saulces de Freycinet as minister of war.

By introducing reforms for the benefit of all ranks and by courting popularity openly, Boulanger came to be accepted by the people as the man destined to avenge France’s defeat in the Franco-German War. He thus became a tool in the hands of groups hostile to the existing republican dispensation. On Freycinet’s defeat in December 1886, Boulanger was retained at the ministry of war by the new prime minister, René Goblet, though Clemenceau by this time had withdrawn his patronage from the obviously too compromising general. On Goblet’s retirement from office in May 1887, the Paris populace clamoured for their “brav’ général,” but Maurice Rouvier, who had long been hostile to Boulanger, refused to include him in his government, and the General was sent to Clermont-Ferrand to command the XIII Corps. A Boulangist “movement,” however, was now in full swing. Many Bonapartists had attached themselves to the General, and the royalists were led to support him by the Duchesse d’Uzès (Marie Anne Clémentine de Rochechouart-Mortemart), who contributed large sums to the General’s political fund.

Boulanger was deprived of his command in 1888 for coming three times to Paris without leave and in disguise and for visiting Prince Napoleon at Prangins in Switzerland. His name was removed from the army list, but almost immediately he was elected deputy for the Nord. In June 1888 his proposals for revising the constitution were rejected by the Chamber, whereupon he resigned. An altercation with Charles Floquet led to a duel (July 13) in which the elderly prime minister inflicted a severe wound on the General. Neither this humiliation nor Boulanger’s failure as an orator checked his followers’ enthusiasm, and throughout 1888 his personality dominated French politics.

In January 1889 Boulanger was returned as deputy for Paris by an overwhelming majority. When the election results were announced, wildly shouting masses of his supporters urged him to take over the government immediately. Boulanger declined and spent the evening with his mistress instead. His failure to seize control at the crucial moment was a severe blow to his following. A new government under Pierre Tirard, with Ernest Constans as minister of the interior, decided to prosecute Boulanger, and within two months the Chamber was requested to waive the General’s parliamentary immunity. To his friends’ astonishment, Boulanger fled from Paris on April 1, going first to Brussels and then to London. He was tried in absentia for treason by the Senate as high court and condemned on Aug. 14, 1889, to deportation. In the elections of 1889 and 1890 his supporters received setbacks, and public enthusiasm for his cause dwindled away. In 1891 Boulanger committed suicide in Brussels at the cemetery of Ixelles, over the grave of his mistress, Marguerite de Bonnemains, who had died two months earlier.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Raymond Poincaré
president of France

born August 20, 1860, Bar-le-Duc, France
died October 15, 1934, Paris

French statesman who as prime minister in 1912 largely determined the policy that led to France’s involvement in World War I, during which he served as president of the Third Republic.

The son of an engineer, he was educated at the École Polytechnique. After studying law at the University of Paris, he was admitted to the bar in 1882. Elected a deputy in 1887, he became six years later the youngest minister in the history of the Third Republic, holding the portfolio of education. In 1894 he served as minister of finance and in 1895 again as minister of education. In the Dreyfus Affair he declared that new evidence necessitated a retrial (see Alfred Dreyfus).

Despite the promise of a brilliant political career, Poincaré left the Chamber of Deputies in 1903, serving until 1912 in the Senate, which was considered comparatively unimportant politically. He devoted most of his time to his private law practice, serving in the cabinet only once, in March 1906, as minister of finance. In January 1912, however, he became prime minister, serving simultaneously as foreign minister until January 1913. In the face of new threats from Germany, he conducted diplomacy with new decisiveness and determination. In August 1912 he assured the Russian government that his government would stand by the Franco-Russian alliance, and in November he concluded an agreement with Britain committing both countries to consult in the event of an international crisis as well as on joint military plans. Although his support of Russian activities in the Balkans and his uncompromising attitude toward Germany have been cited as evidence of his being a warmongering revanchist, Poincaré believed that in the existing state of contemporary Europe war was inevitable and that only a strong alliance guaranteed security. His greatest fear was that France might be isolated as it had been in 1870, easy prey for a militarily superior Germany.

Poincaré ran for the office of president; despite the opposition of the left, under Georges Clemenceau, a lifelong enemy, he was elected on January 17, 1913. Although the presidency was a position with little real power, he hoped to infuse new vitality into it and make it the base of a union sacrée of right, left, and centre. Throughout World War I (1914–18) he strove to preserve national unity, even confiding the government to Clemenceau, the man best qualified to lead the country to victory.

After his term as president ran out in 1920, Poincaré returned to the Senate and was for a time chairman of the reparations commission. He supported the thesis of Germany’s war guilt implicit in the Versailles Treaty; and when he served again as prime minister and minister for foreign affairs (1922–24), he refused a delay in German reparation payments and in January 1923 ordered French troops into the Ruhr in reaction to the default. Unseated by a leftist bloc, he was returned as prime minister in July 1926 and is largely credited with having solved France’s acute financial crisis by stabilizing the value of the franc and basing it on the gold standard. Under his highly successful economic policies the country enjoyed a period of new prosperity.

Illness forced Poincaré to resign from office in July 1929. He spent the remainder of his life writing his memoirs, Au service de la France, 10 vol. (1926–33).

Encyclopaedia Britannica




The Dreyfus Affair

Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew, was wrongly accused of spying for the Germans and thus arrested and tried for treason. A military court sentenced him in 1890 to life imprisonment on Devil's Island and expelled him from the army.

The Dreyfus Affair split the nation. While, for example, Emile Zola obtained a reopening of the trial with his open letter "J'accuse," anti-Semites, nationalists, and antiparliamentarianists gathered together in the opposition camp. In 1898, the principal piece of evidence, a document, was shown to be a forgery, and Dreyfus was cleared in 1906.

The affair was a struggle between restorative and republican ideas, and the Republic emerged from it strengthened Degradation of Alfred Dreyfus as liberal ideals triumphed.

Dreyfus cashiered in a public ceremony




Alfred Dreyfus

Alfred Dreyfus

French military officer

born October 9, 1859, Mulhouse, France
died July 12, 1935, Paris

French army officer whose trial for treason began a 12-year controversy, known as the Dreyfus Affair, that deeply marked the political and social history of the French Third Republic.

Dreyfus was the son of a wealthy Jewish textile manufacturer. In 1882 he entered the École Polytechnique and decided on a military career. By 1889 he had risen to the rank of captain. Dreyfus was assigned to the War Ministry when, in 1894, he was accused of selling military secrets to the German military attaché. He was arrested on October 15, and on December 22 he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. He entered the infamous penal colony of Devils Island, off the coast of French Guiana, on April 13, 1895.

The legal proceedings, which were based on specious evidence, were highly irregular. Although he denied his guilt and although his family consistently supported his plea of innocence, public opinion and the French press as a whole, led by its virulently anti-Semitic faction, welcomed the verdict and the sentence. In particular, the newspaper La Libre Parole, edited by Édouard Drumont, used Dreyfus to symbolize the supposed disloyalty of French Jews.

But doubts began to grow. Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart found evidence that Major C.F. (Walsin-)Esterhazy was engaged in espionage and that it was Esterhazy’s handwriting found on the letter that had incriminated Dreyfus. When Picquart was removed from his post, it was believed that his discovery was too inconvenient for his superiors. The pro-Dreyfus side slowly gained adherents (among them, journalists Joseph Reinach and Georges Clemenceau—the future World War I premier—and a senator, Auguste Scheurer-Kestner).

The affair was made absurdly complicated by the activities of Esterhazy in inventing evidence and spreading rumours, and of Major Hubert Joseph Henry, discoverer of the original letter attributed to Dreyfus, in forging new documents and suppressing others. When Esterhazy was brought before a court martial, he was acquitted, and Picquart was arrested. This precipitated an event that was to crystallize the whole movement for revision of Dreyfus’s trial. On January 13, 1898, the novelist Émile Zola wrote an open letter published on the front page of Aurore, Clemenceau’s paper, under the headline “J’Accuse.” By the evening of that day, 200,000 copies had been sold. Zola accused the army of covering up its mistaken conviction of Dreyfus and of acquitting Esterhazy on the orders of the Ministry of War.

By the time of the Zola letter, the Dreyfus case had attracted widespread public attention and had split France into two opposing camps. The issues were regarded as far exceeding the personal matter of the guilt or innocence of Dreyfus. The anti-Dreyfusards (those against reopening the case), nationalist and authoritarian, viewed the controversy as an attempt by the nation’s enemies to discredit the army and saw it as a case of national security against international socialism and Jewry, of France against Germany. The Dreyfusards (those seeking the exoneration of Captain Dreyfus) saw the issue as the principle of the freedom of the individual subordinated to that of national security and as republican civilian authority pitted against a military authority that acted independently of the state.

Amid uproar in the parliament, the government was pressed by the nationalists to bring Zola to justice, while anti-Semitic riots broke out in the provinces. A petition demanding revision of the Dreyfus trial was signed by some 3,000 persons, including Anatole France, Marcel Proust, and a host of other intellectuals. The trial of Zola began on February 7; he was found guilty of libel and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and a fine of 3,000 francs.

From 1898 to 1899 the Dreyfusard cause gained in strength. Major Henry committed suicide at the end of August 1898, after confessing his forgeries. Esterhazy, in panic, fled to Belgium and London. The confession of Henry opened a new phase in the affair, for it ensured that the appeal of the Dreyfus family for a retrial would now be irresistible.

A new ministry, led by René Waldeck-Rousseau, took office in June 1899 and resolved to bring the affair to an end at last. Dreyfus, brought back from Devils Island for retrial, appeared before a new court martial in Rennes (August 7–September 9, 1899). It found him guilty, but the president of the republic, in order to resolve the issue, pardoned him. Dreyfus accepted the act of clemency but reserved the right to do all in his power to establish his innocence.

In 1904 a retrial was granted and in July 1906 a civilian court of appeals (the Cour d’Appel) cleared Dreyfus and reversed all previous convictions. The parliament passed a bill reinstating Dreyfus. On July 22 he was formally reinstated and decorated with the Legion of Honour. After further short service in the army, in which he attained the rank of major, he retired to the reserves. He was recalled to active service during World War I and, as a lieutenant colonel, commanded an ammunition column. After the war he retired into obscurity. The army did not publicly declare his innocence until 1995.

The Dreyfus case—or l’Affaire, as it came to be called—was an important landmark in the history of the Third Republic and of modern France. From the turmoil of which it was the centre emerged a sharper alignment of political and social forces, leading to such drastic anticlerical measures as the separation of church and state in 1905 and to a cleavage between right-wing nationalists and left-wing antimilitarists that haunted French life until 1914 and even later. On each side were mobilized France’s most eminent literary men, and the violent controversy destroyed the cohesion of French life for more than a generation after. A conjunction of mistaken loyalties, repeated stupidities, base forgeries, and excited extremisms inflamed the situation into a national crisis. At best, it evoked a passionate repudiation of anti-Semitism, which did France honour; at worst, it revealed and intensified a chronic internal division that was to be a major source of national weakness.




"J'accuse" (I accuse)



J'accuse (I accuse)

Letter to the President of the Republic by Émile Zola , translated by Wikisource

Published January 13, 1898 on the front page of the Paris daily, L'Aurore. This text was written by EMILE ZOLA, an influential French novelist. It is written as an open letter to Félix Faure, President of the French Republic, and accuses the government of anti-Semitism in the Dreyfus Affair.



Mr. President,

Would you allow me, in my gratitude for the benevolent reception that you gave me one day, to draw the attention of your rightful glory and to tell you that your star, so happy until now, is threatened by the most shameful and most ineffaceable of blemishes?

You have passed healthy and safe through base calumnies; you have conquered hearts. You appear radiant in the apotheosis of this patriotic festival that the Russian alliance was for France, and you prepare to preside over the solemn triumph of our World Fair, which will crown our great century of work, truth and freedom. But what a spot of mud on your name — I was going to say on your reign — is this abominable Dreyfus affair! A council of war, under order, has just dared to acquit Esterhazy, a great blow to all truth, all justice. And it is finished, France has this stain on her cheek, History will write that it was under your presidency that such a social crime could be committed.

Since they dared, I too will dare. The truth I will say, because I promised to say it, if justice, regularly seized, did not do it, full and whole. My duty is to speak, I do not want to be an accomplice. My nights would be haunted by the specter of innocence that suffer there, through the most dreadful of tortures, for a crime it did not commit.

And it is to you, Mr. President, that I will proclaim it, this truth, with all the force of the revulsion of an honest man. For your honor, I am convinced that you are unaware of it. And with whom will I thus denounce the criminal foundation of these guilty truths, if not with you, the first magistrate of the country?

* * *

First, the truth about the lawsuit and the judgment of Dreyfus.

A nefarious man carried it all out, did everything: Major Du Paty de Clam, then a simple commander. He is the entirety of the Dreyfus business; it will be known only when one honest investigation clearly establishes his acts and responsibilities. He seems a most complicated and hazy spirit, haunting romantic intrigues, caught up in serialized stories, stolen papers, anonymous letters, appointments in deserted places, mysterious women who sell condemning evidences at night. It is he who imagined dictating the Dreyfus memo; it is he who dreamed to study it in an entirely hidden way, under ice; it is him whom commander Forzinetti describes to us as armed with a dark lantern, wanting to approach the sleeping defendant, to flood his face abruptly with light and to thus surprise his crime, in the agitation of being roused. And I need hardly say that that what one seeks, one will find. I declare simply that commander Du Paty de Clam, charged to investigate the Dreyfus business as a legal officer, is, in date and in responsibility, the first culprit in the appalling miscarriage of justice committed.

The memo was for some time already in the hands of Colonel Sandherr, director of the office of information, who has since died of general paresis. "Escapes" took place, papers disappeared, as they still do today; the author of the memo was sought, when ahead of time one was made aware, little by little, that this author could be only an officer of the High Comman and an artillery officer: a doubly glaring error, showing with which superficial spirit this affair had been studied, because a reasoned examination shows that it could only be a question of an officer of troops. Thus searching the house, examining writings, it was like a family matter, a traitor to be surprised in the same offices, in order to expel him. And, while I don't want to retell a partly known history here, Commander Paty de Clam enters the scene, as soon as first suspicion falls upon Dreyfus. From this moment, it is he who invented Dreyfus, the affair becomes that affair, made actively to confuse the traitor, to bring him to a full confession. There is the Minister of War, General Mercier, whose intelligence seems poor; there are the head of the High Command, General De Boisdeffre, who appears to have yielded to his clerical passion, and the assistant manager of the High Command, General Gonse, whose conscience could put up with many things. But, at the bottom, there is initially only Commander Du Paty de Clam, who carries them all out, who hypnotizes them, because he deals also with spiritism, with occultism, conversing with spirits. One could not conceive of the experiments to which he subjected unhappy Dreyfus, the traps into which he wanted to make him fall, the insane investigations, monstrous imaginations, a whole torturing insanity.

Ah! this first affair is a nightmare for those who know its true details! Commander Du Paty de Clam arrests Dreyfus, in secret. He turns to Mrs. Dreyfus, terrorizes her, says to her that, if she speaks, her husband is lost. During this time, the unhappy one tore his flesh, howled his innocence. And the instructions were made thus, as in a 15th century tale, shrouded in mystery, with a savage complication of circumstances, all based on only one childish charge, this idiotic affair, which was not only a vulgar treason, but was also the most impudent of hoaxes, because the famously delivered secrets were almost all without value. If I insist, it is that the kernel is here, from whence the true crime will later emerge, the terrible denial of justice from which France is sick. I would like to touch with a finger on how this miscarriage of justice could be possible, how it was born from the machinations of Commander Du Paty de Clam, how General Mercier, General De Boisdeffre and General Gonse could be let it happen, to engage little by little their responsibility in this error, that they believed a need, later, to impose like the holy truth, a truth which is not even discussed. At the beginning, there is not this, on their part, this incuriosity and obtuseness. At most, one feels them to yield to an ambiance of religious passions and the prejudices of the physical spirit. They allowed themselves a mistake.

But here Dreyfus is before the council of war. Closed doors are absolutely required. A traitor would have opened the border with the enemy to lead the German emperor to Notre-Dame, without taking measures to maintain narrow silence and mystery. The nation is struck into a stupor, whispering of terrible facts, monstrous treasons which make History indignant; naturally the nation is so inclined. There is no punishment too severe, it will applaud public degradation, it will want the culprit to remain on his rock of infamy, devoured by remorse. Is this then true, the inexpressible things, the dangerous things, capable of plunging Europe into flames, which one must carefully bury behind these closed doors? No! There was behind this, only the romantic and lunatic imaginations of Commander Paty de Clam. All that was done only to hide the most absurd of novella plots. And it suffices, to ensure oneself of this, to study with attention the bill of indictment, read in front of the council of war.

Ah! the nothingness of this bill of indictment! That a man could be condemned for this act, is a wonder of iniquity. I defy decent people to read it, without their hearts leaping in indignation and shouting their revolt, while thinking of the unwarranted suffering, over there, on Devil's Island. Dreyfus knows several languages, crime; one found at his place no compromising papers, crime; he returns sometimes to his country of origin, crime; he is industrious, he wants to know everything, crime; he is unperturbed, crime; he is perturbed, crime. And the naiveté of drafting formal assertions in a vacuum! One spoke to us of fourteen charges: we find only one in the final analysis, that of the memo; and we even learn that the experts did not agree, than one of them, Mr. Gobert, was coerced militarily, because he did not allow himself to reach a conclusion in the desired direction. One also spoke of twenty-three officers who had come to overpower Dreyfus with their testimonies. We remain unaware of their interrogations, but it is certain that they did not all charge him; and it is to be noticed, moreover, that all belonged to the war offices. It is a family lawsuit, one is there against oneself, and it is necessary to remember this: the High Command wanted the lawsuit, it was judged, and it has just judged it a second time.

Therefore, there remained only the memo, on which the experts had not concurred. It is reported that, in the room of the council, the judges were naturally going to acquit. And consequently, as one includes/understands the despaired obstinacy with which, to justify the judgment, today the existence of a secret part is affirmed, overpowering, the part which cannot be shown, which legitimates all, in front of which we must incline ourselves, the good invisible and unknowable God! I deny it, this part, I deny it with all my strength! A ridiculous part, yes, perhaps the part wherein it is a question of young women, and where a certain D… is spoken of which becomes too demanding: some husband undoubtedly finding that his wife did not pay him dearly enough. But a part interesting the national defense, which one could not produce without war being declared tomorrow, no, no! It is a lie! and it is all the more odious and cynical that they lie with impunity without one being able to convince others of it. They assemble France, they hide behind its legitimate emotion, they close mouths by disturbing hearts, by perverting spirits. I do not know a greater civic crime.

Here then, Mr. President, are the facts which explain how a miscarriage of justice could be made; and the moral evidence, the financial circumstances of Dreyfus, the absence of reason, his continual cry of innocence, completes its demonstration as a victim of the extraordinary imaginations of commander Du Paty de Clam, of the clerical medium in which it was found, of the hunting for the "dirty Jews", which dishonours our time.

* * *

And we arrive at the Esterhazy affair. Three years passed, many consciences remain deeply disturbed, worry, seek, end up being convinced of Dreyfus's innocence.

I will not give the history of the doubts and of the conviction of Mr. Scheurer-Kestner. But, while this was excavated on the side, it ignored serious events among the High Command. Colonel Sandherr was dead, and Major Picquart succeeded him as head of the office of the information. And it was for this reason, in the performance of his duties, that the latter one day found in his hands a letter-telegram, addressed to commander Esterhazy, from an agent of a foreign power. His strict duty was to open an investigation. It is certain that he never acted apart from the will of his superiors. He thus submitted his suspicions to his seniors in rank, General Gonse, then General De Boisdeffre, then General Billot, who had succeeded General Mercier as the Minister of War. The infamous Picquart file, about which so much was said, was never more than a Billot file, a file made by a subordinate for his minister, a file which must still exist within the Ministry of War. Investigations ran from May to September 1896, and what should be well affirmed is that General Gonse was convinced of Esterhazy's guilt, and that Generals De Boisdeffre and Billot did not question that the memo was written by Esterhazy. Major Picquart's investigation had led to this unquestionable observation. But the agitation was large, because the condemnation of Esterhazy inevitably involved the revision of Dreyfus's trial; and this, the High Command did not want at any cost.

There must have been a minute full of psychological anguish. Notice that General Billot was in no way compromised, he arrived completely fresh, he could decide the truth. He did not dare, undoubtedly in fear of public opinion, certainly also in fear of betraying all the High Command, General De Boisdeffre, General Gonse, not mentioning those of lower rank. Therefore there was only one minute of conflict between his conscience and what he believed to be the military's interest. Once this minute had passed, it was already too late. He had engaged, he was compromised. And, since then, his responsibility only grew, he took responsibility for the crimes of others, he became as guilty as the others, he was guiltier than them, because he was the Master of justice, and he did nothing. Understand that! Here for a year General Billot, General De Boisdeffre and General Gonse have known that Dreyfus is innocent, and they kept this appalling thing to themselves! And these people sleep at night, and they have women and children whom they love!

Major Picquart had fulfilled his duty as an honest man. He insisted to his superiors, in the name of justice. He even begged them, he said to them how much their times were ill-advised, in front of the terrible storm which was to pour down, which was to burst, when the truth would be known. It was, later, the language that Mr. Scheurer-Kestner also used with General Billot, entreating him with patriotism to take the affair in hand, not to let it worsen, on the verge of becoming a public disaster. No! The crime had been committed, the High Command could no longer acknowledge its crime. And Major Picquart was sent on a mission, one that took him farther and farther away, as far as Tunisia, where there was not even a day to honour his bravery, charged with a mission which would have surely ended in massacre, in the frontiers where Marquis de Morès met his death. He was not in disgrace, General Gonse maintained a friendly correspondence with him. It is only about secrets he was not good to have discovered.

To Paris, the truth inexorably marched, and it is known how the awaited storm burst. Mr. Mathieu Dreyfus denounced commander Esterhazy as the true author of the memo just as Mr. Scheurer-Kestner demanded a revision of the case to the Minister of Justice. And it is here that commander Esterhazy appears. Testimony shows him initially thrown into a panic, ready for suicide or escape. Then, at a blow, he acted with audacity, astonishing Paris by the violence of his attitude. It is then that help had come to him, he had received an anonymous letter informing him of the work of his enemies, a mysterious lady had come under cover of night to return a stolen evidence against him to the High Command, which would save him. And I cannot help but find Major Paty de Clam here, considering his fertile imagination. His work, Dreyfus's culpability, was in danger, and he surely wanted to defend his work. The retrial was the collapse of such an extravagant novella, so tragic, whose abominable outcome takes place in Devil's Island! This is what he could not allow. Consequently, a duel would take place between Major Picquart and Major Du Paty de Clam, one with face uncovered, the other masked. They will soon both be found before civil justice. In the end, it was always the High Command that defended itself, that did not want to acknowledge its crime; the abomination grew hour by hour.

One wondered with astonishment who were protecting commander Esterhazy. It was initially, in the shadows, Major Du Paty de Clam who conspired all and conducted all. His hand was betrayed by its absurd means. Then, it was General De Boisdeffre, it was General Gonse, it was General Billot himself, who were obliged to discharge the commander, since they cannot allow recognition of Dreyfus's innocence without the department of war collapsing under public contempt. And the beautiful result of this extraordinary situation is that the honest man there, Major Picquart, who only did his duty, became the victim of ridicule and punishment. O justice, what dreadful despair grips the heart! One might just as well say that he was the forger, that he manufactured the carte-télegramme to convict Esterhazy. But, good God! why? with what aim? give a motive. Is he also paid by the Jews? The joke of the story is that he was in fact an anti-Semite. Yes! we attend this infamous spectacle, of the lost men of debts and crimes upon whom one proclaims innocence, while one attacks honor, a man with a spotless life! When a society does this, it falls into decay.

Here is thus, Mr. President, the Esterhazy affair: a culprit whose name it was a question of clearing. For almost two months, we have been able to follow hour by hour the beautiful work. I abbreviate, because it is not here that a summary of the history's extensive pages will one day be written out in full. We thus saw General De Pellieux, then the commander of Ravary, lead an investigation in which the rascals are transfigured and decent people are dirtied. Then, the council of war was convened.

* * *

How could one hope that a council of war would demolish what a council of war had done?

I do not even mention the always possible choice of judges. Isn't the higher idea of discipline, which is in the blood of these soldiers, enough to cancel their capacity for equity? Who says discipline breeds obedience? When the Minister of War, the overall chief, established publicly, with the acclamations of the national representation, the authority of the final decision; you want a council of war to give him a formal denial? Hierarchically, that is impossible. General Billot influenced the judges by his declaration, and they judged as they must under fire, without reasoning. The preconceived opinion that they brought to their seats, is obviously this one: "Dreyfus was condemned for crime of treason by a council of war, he is thus guilty; and we, a council of war, cannot declare him innocent, for we know that to recognize Esterhazy's guilt would be to proclaim the innocence of Dreyfus." Nothing could make them leave that position.

They delivered an iniquitous sentence that will forever weigh on our councils of war, sullying all their arrests from now with suspicion. The first council of war could have been foolish; the second was inevitably criminal. Its excuse, I repeat it, was that the supreme chief had spoken, declaring the thing considered to be unassailable, holy and higher than men, so that inferiors could not say the opposite. One speaks to us about the honor of the army, that we should like it, respect it. Ah! admittedly, yes, the army which would rise to the first threat, which would defend the French ground, it is all the people, and we have for it only tenderness and respect. But it is not a question of that, for which we precisely want dignity, in our need for justice. It is about the sword, the Master that one will give us tomorrow perhaps. And do not kiss devotedly the handle of the sword, by god!

I have shown in addition: the Dreyfus affair was the affair of the department of war, a High Command officer, denounced by his comrades of the High Command, condemned under the pressure of the heads of the High Command. Once again, it cannot restore his innocence without all the High Command being guilty. Also the offices, by all conceivable means, by press campaigns, by communications, by influences, protected Esterhazy only to convict Dreyfus a second time. What sweeping changes should the republican government should give to this [Jesuitery], as General Billot himself calls it! Where is the truly strong ministry of wise patriotism that will dare to reforge and to renew all? What of people I know who, faced with the possibility of war, tremble of anguish knowing in what hands lies national defense! And what a nest of base intrigues, gossips and dilapidations has this crowned asylum become, where the fate of fatherland is decided! One trembles in face of the terrible day that there has just thrown the Dreyfus affair, this human sacrifice of an unfortunate, a "dirty Jew"! Ah! all that was agitated insanity there and stupidity, imaginations insane, practices of low police force, manners of inquisition and tyranny, good pleasure of some non-commissioned officers putting their boots on the nation, returning in its throat its cry of truth and justice, under the lying pretext and sacrilege of the reason of State.

And it is a yet another crime to have [pressed on ?] the filthy press, to have let itself defend by all the rabble of Paris, so that the rabble triumphs insolently in defeat of law and simple probity. It is a crime to have accused those who wished for a noble France, at the head of free and just nations, of troubling her, when one warps oneself the impudent plot to impose the error, in front of the whole world. It is a crime to mislay the opinion, to use for a spiteful work this opinion, perverted to the point of becoming delirious. It is a crime to poison the small and the humble, to exasperate passions of reaction and intolerance, while taking shelter behind the odious antisemitism, from which, if not cured, the great liberal France of humans rights will die. It is a crime to exploit patriotism for works of hatred, and it is a crime, finally, to turn into to sabre the modern god, when all the social science is with work for the nearest work of truth and justice.

This truth, this justice, that we so passionately wanted, what a distress to see them thus souffletées, more ignored and more darkened! I suspect the collapse which must take place in the heart of Mr. Scheurer-Kestner, and I believe well that he will end up feeling remorse for not having acted revolutionarily, the day of questioning at the Senate, by releasing all the package, [for all to throw to bottom]. He was the great honest man, the man of his honest life, he believed that the truth sufficed for itself, especially when it seemed as bright as the full day. What good is to turn all upside down when the sun was soon to shine? And it is for this trustful neutrality for which he is so cruelly punished. The same for Major Picquart, who, for a feeling of high dignity, did not want to publish the letters of General Gonse. These scruples honour it more especially as, while there remained respectful discipline, its superiors covered it with mud, informed themselves its lawsuit, in the most unexpected and outrageous manner. There are two victims, two good people, two simple hearts, who waited for God while the devil acted. And one even saw, for Major Picquart, this wretched thing: a French court, after having let the rapporteur charge a witness publicly, to show it of all the faults, made the closed door, when this witness was introduced to be explained and defend himself. I say that this is another crime and that this crime will stir up universal conscience. Decidedly, the military tribunals have a singular idea of justice.

Such is thus the simple truth, Mr. President, and it is appalling, it will remain a stain for your presidency. I very much doubt that you have no capacity in this affair, that you are the prisoner of the Constitution and your entourage. You do not have of them less one to have of man, about which you will think, and which you will fulfill. It is not, moreover, which I despair less of the world of the triumph. I repeat it with a more vehement certainty: the truth marches on and nothing will stop it. Today, the affair merely starts, since today only the positions are clear: on the one hand, the culprits who do not want the light to come; the other, the carriers of justice who will give their life to see it come. I said it elsewhere, and I repeat it here: when one locks up the truth under ground, it piles up there, it takes there a force such of explosion, that, the day when it bursts, it makes everything leap out with it. We will see, if we do not prepare for later, the most resounding of disasters.

But this letter is long, Mr. President, and it is time to conclude.

I accuse Major Du Paty de Clam as the diabolic workman of the miscarriage of justice, without knowing, I have wanted to believe it, and of then defending his harmful work, for three years, by the guiltiest and most absurd of machinations.

I accuse General Mercier of being an accomplice, if by weakness of spirit, in one of greatest iniquities of the century.

I accuse General Billot of having held in his hands the unquestionable evidence of Dreyfus's innocence and of suppressing it, guilty of this crime that injures humanity and justice, with a political aim and to save the compromised Chie of High Command.

I accuse General De Boisdeffre and General Gonse as accomplices of the same crime, one undoubtedly by clerical passion, the other perhaps by this spirit of body which makes offices of the war an infallible archsaint.

I accuse General De Pellieux and commander Ravary of performing a rogue investigation, by which I mean an investigation of the most monstrous partiality, of which we have, in the report of the second, an imperishable monument of naive audacity.

I accuse the three handwriting experts, sirs Belhomme, Varinard and Couard, of submitting untrue and fraudulent reports, unless a medical examination declares them to be affected by a disease of sight and judgment.

I accuse the offices of the war of carrying out an abominable press campaign, particularly in the Flash and the Echo of Paris, to mislead the public and cover their fault.

Finally, I accuse the first council of war of violating the law by condemning a defendant with unrevealed evidence, and I accuse the second council of war of covering up this illegality, by order, by committing in his turn the legal crime of knowingly discharging the culprit.

While proclaiming these charges, I am not unaware of subjecting myself to articles 30 and 31 of the press law of July 29, 1881, which punishes the offense of slander. And it is voluntarily that I expose myself.

As for the people I accuse, I do not know them, I never saw them, I have against them neither resentment nor hatred. They are for me only entities, spirits of social evil. And the act I accomplished here is only a revolutionary mean for hastening the explosion of truth and justice.

I have only one passion, that of the light, in the name of humanity which has suffered so and is entitled to happiness. My ignited protest is nothing more than the cry of my heart. That one thus dares to translate for me into court bases and that the investigation takes place at the great day! I wait.

Please accept, Mr. President, the assurance of my deep respect.



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