Ludovic Trarieux (1840 - 1904)

Ludovic Trarieux



A Dreyfusard and the founding president of the League of Human and Civil Rights, Ludovic Trarieux was born in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne in the department of Charente on 30 November 1840.

The son of a landowner, Trarieux earned a law degree and became a lawyer at the Bordeaux Court of Appeal from 1862 to 1880. After having served as city councilor from 1874 to 1879, he was elected deputy from the Gironde. A former president of the Bordeaux Bar in 1877-78, he was a member of the Paris Bar from 1881 to 1896.

He was elected by the republican left, and was defeated in the legislative elections of 1881 and 1885, but became senator from the Gironde in 1889. With three of his colleagues, he led the investigations for the 1889 trial of General BoulangerThe Boulangist Crisis
Former director at the Ministry of War, and then a popular minister in the Freycinet cabinet in 1886, the 49-year-old General Boulanger rallied the Opportunist opponents to the Republic. Forced to retire in 1888, he was elected deputy in four departments and in Paris, before being tried for plotting against the State. Sentenced in absentia to life in prison, he committed suicide in Belgium in 1891, on the grave of his mistress.
before the High Court. He was president of the group of center-left senators, and was the rapporteur for the repressive measures taken in 1884 against anarchist intrigues-which the far left dubbed the "lois scélérates" because they targeted trade union activities, and were at variance with the law of 1884 prepared by Waldeck-Rousseau.

He was Minister of Justice in the Ribot government from 26 January to 1 November 1895, and as an anti-clerical freemason, he was outraged by the violence that the Zola trial stirred up. On 19 February, at the home of former Senate vice-president Scheurer-Kestner, and on the following day at his home in the Rue de Logelbach, the foundations were laid for a "French association, designed to defend the principles of freedom, equality and justice, set forth in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man."

Along with Paul Violet, a Dreyfusard alumnus of the Ecole des Chartes and founder of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Law, Ludovic Trarieux wrote the statutes for the League of Human Rights. He was the League's first president, assisted by Emile Duclaux, director of the Pasteur Institute, and Edouard Grimaux, who was dismissed shortly thereafter from his post of professor at the Ecole Polytechnique. By the time of its first general assembly, the League had a thousand members. A few months later, the rolls swelled to 6,000, and by 1901 there were 20,000 members.

Although he kept his seat in the Senate until his death on 13 March 1904, it was the League and the struggle to get the Dreyfus convictions reviewed that occupied Ludovic Trarieux's time. He denounced the "appalling judicial error" and fought against the amnesty law. On 7 September 1899, in a letter to Alfred Dreyfus, Trarieux told him that "the sorry spectacle of [his] trials has awakened feelings of solidarity and goodwill that were slumbering in all of us (…) [our thoughts] go out to the masses of the underprivileged and the meek to whom, in their abandon and their weakness, it may be even more necessary to extend a helping hand than to you."