Henri Rochefort (1831 - 1913)

Henri Rochefort


Journalists & intellectuals

Henri Rochefort, the main anti-Dreyfusard polemicist, was born in Paris on 31 January 1831.

The son of the marquis de Rochefort-Luçay-himself a journalist and playwright-Henri Rochefort became an employee of the city of Paris in 1851. A sub-inspector for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he resigned to work at Le Figaro before founding his own paper, La Lanterne. A deputy from the Seine department in January 1871, he was sentenced to be deported to New Caledonia after the Commune. He escaped in March 1874, and was amnestied in 1880Amnistié en 1880
The government savagely put down the Paris Commune in 1871, and executed 30,000 of its partisans. A series of court martials, which ended only in 1874, handed down sentences to another 14,000 people. After a sustained campaign led by Victor Hugo, a general amnesty voted in 1880 allowed all those who had been deported, mainly to New Caledonia, to return to France.
. He then founded L'Intransigeant, which denounced-in tens of thousands of copies-"parliamentary filth." Reelected deputy in 1885, he resigned the following year when he failed to obtain a general amnesty. He supported 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.
, which earned him another conviction from the High Court for "conspiracy against the safety of the State."

He was amnestied in 1895, and joined the ranks of the nationalists and the anti-Dreyfusards, accusing Joseph Reinach of having faked the evidence against Esterhazy. On 13 December 1897, L'Intransigeant published the story of a letter from the German emperor naming "Captain Dreyfus throughout." The governmental refutation met with "only incredulity among the enlightened apostles of the nationalist gospel" (M. Paléologue).

In 1898, as president of a marginal French socialist party, Rochefort denounced Jaurès as "a sergeant recruiter in the service of the syndicate of treason." On 18 October, he wrote that his dream would be to line up the judges of the Court of Cassation, have an executioner cut off their eyelids, gouge out their eyes, and then place them on a large pillory with a sign reading "This is how France punishes the traitors who sell her to Germany!"

His paper denounced the "syndicate" of the Dreyfusards, and supported the anti-Dreyfusards who, at Rennes, nourished the idea that the captain was the incarnation of treason, calling the line of soldiers who turned their back on Dreyfus to discourage death threats a "dishonor guard."

He saw anti-Dreyfusism as a means to attack bourgeois values and Jewish financiers, but refused to write for L'Action Française. The last of his 13,000 articles appeared in La Patrie before his death at Aix-les-Bains in the Savoie department, on 1 July 1913.