Edgar Demange (1841 - 1925)

Edgar Demange


Judges & lawyers

Edgar Demange was born in Paris in 1841. He was Dreyfus's lawyer for both convictions, and his speeches for the defense that emphasized reasonable doubt did not succeed in stopping the verdicts of the court martials in Paris and Rennes.

An officer's son, this Catholic lawyer and member of the Bar Council from 1888 to 1892, Demange managed to obtain the acquittal of the Marquis de Morès, after the marquis had killed Captain Mayer in a duel, when Mayer was seeking to avenge the honor of 300 Jewish officers who had been insulted by anti-Semites. Demange's name was suggested to Dreyfus by Waldeck-Rousseau, and he accepted, on condition that he not find in the case a charge that could make him doubt the innocence of his client.

He was only given access to the documents accusing the captain on 4 December 1894, after the investigation was closed. He noted that the witnesses for the prosecution brought no proof, and confided to Lucie and Mathieu Dreyfus that he had "never seen a case like this." Jean-Denis Bredin has described him as being "swayed by a number of prejudices on the side of Dreyfus's accusers, [he saw only] violations of the law, the weakness of the charges, the risk of a horrific judicial error (…) [he would remain] the devoted lawyer of the Jewish officer (…) throughout every trial, sacrificing his career, until his task was completely achieved."

Before the Paris court martial from 19 to 22 December 1894, Edgar Demange managed to obtain that his first conclusions were read out prior to the closed-door session, and that the public understood that the authenticity of the bordereau was in question. Although his client found his defense speech to be elegant, it did not avert a heavy conviction; Dreyfus's sentence appeared to Demange as "the greatest infamy of the century."

On 12 February 1898, he testified at the Zola trial, stating that the law had been violated in 1894, but that without political will, light could not be shed on the Dreyfus Affair. He showed that it was a question of "the struggle between Semites and anti-Semites," although he himself was only concerned with the interests of his client. He denounced the illegality committed by the presentation of "the secret document" and had to explain himself before the Bar Council. Although the Paris bar stood out "through its active hostility to review," Edgar Demange benefited all the same from the charges being dropped, all the more so as he had spoken of the 1894 judges as having erred, but as being "the very picture of loyalty."

The lawyer's respect for the Army remained evident during the Rennes trial, and he used the benefit of the doubt to argue for acquittal for his client, who he stated "to be a martyr." Reinach wrote that he did not succeed in climbing up "the slope of iniquity." Although Demange requested the same communion in love of justice, the country and the army, it was the government commissioner who won, calling on the judges to convict based on their inner convictions.

Pleading for the Dreyfus family in defamation cases up until 1911, and celebrated for his fifty years at the bar by Bar president Labori, in November 1912 Demange had the honor of being reelected to the Bar Council by his peers. He died in 1925, having spent more than sixty years as a lawyer.