Jules Méline (1838 - 1925)

Jules Méline



Prime Minister when victory by the anti-Dreyfusards appeared to be certain, and the author of the famous "There is no Dreyfus Affair!", Jules Méline was born in Remiremont in the Vosges on 20 May 1838.

A Republican lawyer, he was elected deputy from the Vosges in 1872. As Minister of Agriculture from 1883 to 1885, he upheld a protectionist policy that ended in the 1892 Meline Tariffs-imports of foreign products were slowed by a tax rate of between 5 and 20%.

As Prime Minister from April 1896 to June 1898, he was opposed to review of the Dreyfus trial; on 4 December 1897, in answer to questioning, he stated, "There is no Dreyfus Affair. There is not now and there cannot be a Dreyfus Affair." He repeated the myth that Dreyfus had confessed in order to confirm the captain's guilt, and on 24 February 1898, the day after Zola's conviction, he asserted to the Chamber of Deputies "those who would stubbornly keep up the struggle cannot claim to do so in good faith (…) We will subject them to the full force of the law (…) if the weapons that we have in our hands are not enough, we will ask for others."

Jaurès denounced the Prime Minister's postponements and ambiguous answers, "his completely childish and narrow-minded motives": "There is only one way, in this land of exemption, to have done with the questions, and that is to speak the truth, the whole truth." But Méline remained anti-Dreyfusard; on 2 April 1898, he was indignant at the summing-up of public prosecutor Manau, which had just resulted in the Zola trial being overturned. He promised "to examine, in total impartiality, the language of a judge" whom he criticized for "unfortunate phrases," no doubt the ones that hailed the intellectuals as "intelligent men who are the honor of their country."

In January 1899, pastor Léopold Monod, cousin of Gabriel Monod, denounced the "prodigious display of energy" of the public authorities and the majority of the press against disclosure, "against the truth as well, and against justice." The following month, Méline, who had been moderate enough to have receive the support of the royalist party when Prime Minister, failed in his attempt to be elected President of the Republic. He remained a deputy until 1906, and then represented his home department in the Senate until his death in 1925.