The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902, August 31, 1899, Page 8, Image 8

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8 TTbe Conservative *
[ Extracts from liin personal letters to Jiis wife
from prison Hin dcgrntliition before the
Fruncli nriny fifty montha of suffering nt
the Ilo du Dinblo. ]
The iiniversnl interest in the new trial
of Droyfus , now proceeding at Bonnes ,
makes especially timely L. G. Moreau's
translation of "Tho Letters of Captain
Dreyfus to His "Wife , " which has just
been brought out. The reader who ex
pects to find in the epistles arguments
tending to prove the innocence of the
writer will bo clisappoiutpd , for oven if
lie actually attempted defense it was
not allowed to pass the censor. Only a
persistent declaration of innocence will
be found a declaration that is repeated
with awful and tragic monotony.
When her husband was convicted , Mme.
Dreyfus attempted to reply in Lo Figaro
to the many vicious calumnies which
were heaped upon him , but Parisians
laughed at her , declaring that she was
not. the only deceived wife in the world.
Finally , wearied of the unequal combat
one woman against a whole horde of
anti-Semitic vilifiers she published this
volume of his letters , which she called
"Les Lettres d'un Innocent , " to reha
bilitate the prisoner as a husband and a
father in the eyes of Frenchmen.
In his introduction , "Droyfus , the
Man , " Walter Littlefield says :
"In August , 1894 , Commandant Comte
Walsin-Esterhazy , who was carrying on
treasonable negotiations with the Ger
man embassy in Paris , sent to Lieuten
ant-Colonel von Schwarzkoppen some
notes of information , together with a
memorandum. This memorandum , or
"bordereau , " fell into the hands of a
French spy. It was taken to the secret
intelligence department. Its importance
as revealing the presence of a traitor
who had access to the secrets of the war
office was at once recognized. General
Mernier , then minister of war , placed
the investigation in the hands of Com
mandant du Paty do Clam. Owing to
the similarity between the handwriting
in the "bordereau" and that of Dreyfus ,
this officer was suspected of being its
author. He was arrested and taken to
the military prison of Chercho Midi. "
Commandant Forzinotti was in
* charge of Chercho Midi. His first im-
K , pression of the prisoner as deposed be
fore the court of cassation was as fol
lows :
" 'I went to Captain Dreyfus. He
* was terribly excited. I had before mo
a man bereft of reason , with bloodshot
eyes. He had upset everything in his
room. I succeeded , after some trouble ,
in quieting him. I had an intuition
that this officer was innocent. He
begged mo to allow him some writing
materials , so that he might ask the min
ister of war to be heard by him or by
one of the general officers of the minis
try. He described to me the details of
his arrest , which were neither dignified
nor soldierly. ' " On October 24 Mer-
cier asked Forzinetti what he thought
of the prisoner's guilt. This was the
reply : 'They are evidently on a
false scent. This officer is not
guilty. ' "
On December fi , 1894 , Dreyfus wrote
his first letter to his wife from the
prison of Chercho Midi :
"At last I can write a word to you ;
they have ju t told mo that my trial
is set for the nineteenth of this month. I
am refused the right to see you. I will
not tell you that I have suffered ; there
are not in the world words strong
enough to express it. Do you remem
ber when I used to tell you how happy
we were ? Everything in life smiled
on us. Then all at once a fearful thun
derbolt ; my brain is still reeling with
the shock. For me to bo accused of the
most monstrous crime that a soldier can
commit ! Even today I feel that I must
bo the victim of an awful nightmare.
But I hope in God and in justice. In
the end the truth must come to light.
My conscience is calm and tranquil. It
reproaches me with nothing. I have
done my duty , never have I turned
from it. I have been crushed to the
earth , buried in my dark prison ; alone
with my reeling brain. There have
been moments when I have been nearly
crazed , ferocious , beside myself , but
even in those moments my conscience
was on guard. 'Hold up thy head ! ' it
said to me. 'Look the world in the
face ! Strong in thy conscience , go
straight onward ! Rise ! The trial is
bitter , but it must be undergone ! ' "
Two days later he wrote :
"I am waiting with impatience for a
letter from you. You are my hope ;
you are my consolation ; were it not for
you life would be a burden. At the
bare thought that they could accuse me
of a crime so frightful , so monstrous ,
my whole being trembles ; my body re
volts against it. To have worked all
my life for one thing alone , to avenge
my country , to struggle for her against
the infamous ravisher who has snatched
from us our dear Alsace , and then to be
accused of treason against that country
no , my loved one , my mind refuses to
comprehend it I tDo you remember my
telling you how , when I was in Mnl-
house , ten years ago , in September , I
heard a German band under our windows
dews celebrating the anniversary of
Sedan ? My grief was such that I wept ;
I bit the sheets of my bed with rage ,
and I swore an oath to consecrate all
my strength , all my intelligence , to the
service of my country against those who
thus offered insult to the grief of Alsace.
No , no. I will not speak of it , for I
shall go mad , and I must preserve my
reason. Moreover , my life has hence
forth but one aim : To find the wretch
who has betrayed his country , to find
the traitor , for whom no punishment
could bo too severe. * * * If
I had not my honor to defend , I assure
you that I should prefer death : at least ,
death would be forgetfulness. "
On December 11 ho supplicated his
wife not to go to his trial :
"It can do no good for you to impose
new sufferings upon yourself ; those
that you have already borne , with a
grandeur of soul and with a heroism of
which I am proud , are more than snf-
ficiont. Save your strength for our
children. We shall need all our united
strength to care for each other , to help
each other to forget this terrible trial. "
That ho expected to bo acquitted is
evident from the following extract from
a letter dated December 14 :
"I am. convinced that eventually the
the truth will be known ; that the as
surance of my innocence will bo finally
borne in upon all minds. At my trial
I shall be judged by soldiers as loynl
and as honest as myself , They will
recognize I am sure of it the error
that has been committed. Error , un
happily , is a human thing. "
Nearly every day du Paty do Clam
visited Dreyfus and tried in every way
to force a confession. The position of
Minister of War Mercier was this :
"For mouths a campaign had been
carried on against him in the radical
press. One fortunate act would vindi
cate him the conviction of a traitor.
It is impossible that he could have long
entertained a belief in the guilt of the
prisoner. Yet , having in the first flush
of seeming success publicly accused him ,
he dare not draw back. Thus his repu
tation , and very possibly the existence
of the cabinet , became staked on the
conviction. On the nineteenth of De
cember the court-martial began. Forged
evidence was introduced unknown to
the prisoner or to his counsel , and the
criminal code was grossly violated. "
As a result Dreyfus was convicted on
the 28d. That evening he wrote :
'To be innocent , to have lived a life
without a stain , and to be condemned
for the most monstrous crime a soldier
can commit ! What could be more ter
rible ? It seems to me at times that I
am the victim of an awful nightmare.
* * * No matter what may
become of me , search for the truth ;
move earth and Heaven to discover it ;
sink in the effort , if need be , all our for
tune , to rehabilitate my name , which
now is dragged through the mud. No
matter what may be the cost , we must
wash out the unmerited stain. "
Mine. Dreyfus' courage and devotion
during these trying days led her husband
to pay her this touching tribute :
"You are sublime , iny adored one ,
and I am amazed at your courage and
your heroism. I loved you before.
Today I kneel before you , for you are a
sublime woman. * * * It may
be that in my desire to be worthy of
TV"1- '