Louis-Norbert Carrière (1833-)

Cartoon of government commissioner Carrière



Louis-Norbert Carrière was born in the Hérault, at Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, on 7 December 1833. He was the government commissioner who successfully pled at Rennes for Dreyfus's second conviction.

The son of a bailiff, Carrière entered Saint-Cyr in 80th position out of 320; he graduated 176th out of 228. From 1855 to 1864, he served in the 38th Infantry Regiment before being transferred into the Parisian Guard. He married the daughter of a notary, mayor and departmental councilor in 1862, became a captain in the Republican Guard in 1871, and was made squadron leader of the gendarmerie in Vaucluse in 1880. He served in Algeria in 1883, and retired in 1889. Preparing his retraining, his chief inspector wrote "if he could find employ in the military prosecutor's office, he would make a name for himself due to his general abilities."

A rapporteur to the court martial in Rouen in October 1890, he was appointed government commissioner to the court martial in Rennes on 14 August 1892. Seven years later, the press was not won over by the "easy-going elocution" that his commanding general in Algeria had noted, and the Dreyfusard Jean-Bernard spoke of a vulgar voice and vulgar gestures, "all of it flat, without elegance or style." He was advised by Jules Auffray, the lawyer for La Libre Parole, who Reinach described as "the image of the Jesuit jurist (…) who held the puppet strings."

Officer Carrière deliberately misunderstood the instructions from Paris. He allowed points that had been ruled out by the 3 June 1899 decree to be debated, and he subjected the witnesses for the defense to abuse. Meanwhile, the seventy witnesses for the prosecution who were called, even if they had "no personal or direct knowledge of a pertinent fact," spoke under the influence of General Mercier.

Affirming that the trial was a struggle, Carrière benefited from a freedom to speak since his ministry had not given him any written pleadings. The decree of 1906 cites one instance of his negligence-the use of falsified document no. 371-and reproached him for having misunderstood the letters sent to him by Esterhazy in which he confesses to being the author of the bordereau. On 7 September 1899, he requested conviction "in the name of an entity that has no passion," but took the floor again two days later to suggest that there were extenuating circumstances.

Before his return to civilian life on 7 October 1901, the commanding general of the 10th Corps stated that it "would be very unfortunate and highly unfair if this excellent and long-standing servant was not awarded, before leaving the functions that he so admirably fulfilled, a officer's cross." A Knight of the Legion of Honor since 1884, he would rise no higher, despite the recommendations of the chief staff officer of the 10th Corps who praised this "dignified, upright, honest and conscientious servant, of lofty sentiment and energetic character, (…) very deserving from every respect." He died in such oblivion that the date of his death was not transcribed in the registry office of his birthplace.