Francis Dehault de Pressensé (1853 - 1914)

Francis de Pressensé



A Dreyfusard journalist and the successor to Ludovic Trarieux at the head of the League of Human Rights (LHR), Francis de Pressensé was born in Paris on 30 September 1853.

The son of the pastor Edmond de Pressensé-a member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1890, and an MP from 1871 until his death in 1891-Francis de Pressensé studied law and literature before becoming a civil servant in the Ministry of State Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After serving as a secretary at the French embassies in Turkey and the United States, he resigned in 1880.

As a journalist for Gambetta's newspaper La République française and foreign policy columnist for Le Temps, he campaigned for the review of the Dreyfus trial starting in 1897. After the conviction of Zola, he resigned from the Legion of Honor; he joined the LHR at its creation, and took part in a number of meetings to call for review. He also published the book A Hero: Lieutenant Colonel Picquart.

He was elected to Parliament as a socialist deputy from the Rhône on 11 May 1902, and fought for the second review of the Dreyfus trial, while also taking part in the preparation of the law separating Churches and State-about which his father had already made proposals. Ensuring the contact between Dreyfus, Jaurès and the government, he played a role in the revelation of the results of Captain Targe's investigation. He then tried not to block the freedom of the Court of Cassation, thinking that one should not "risk casting upon the decree, whatever it may be, suspicion and disfavor."

In April 1907, after noting the coldness of Picquart with respect to revising the seniority level of squadron leader Dreyfus, he informed Dreyfus that "there appears to be no point in counting in any degree on a ministerial initiative to redress that which has been recognized and proclaimed as an error and an injustice."

De Pressensé was the author of a book, Les Lois scélérates de 1893-1894, and, following the death of Ludovic Trarieux, served as the president of the League for nearly ten years until his own death in Paris on 19 January 1914. He wrote articles for L'Aurore, L'Humanité and the Revue des Deux Mondes, bringing the struggle for human rights into each of these functions.