You are here :
Home /
The French and the Dreyfus Affair /
The formation of public opinion /
The two camps and the high point of the anti-dreyfusards

The two camps and the high point of the anti-dreyfusards

Public opinion and anti-Semitism

At the moment of Captain Dreyfus's cashiering, only his family and his lawyer shared his belief in his innocence. Nevertheless, the cries of hatred of 5 January 1895 and "this display of shame" aroused the suspicions of the future Marshal Lyautey. At Tonkin on 12 February he wrote: "We have come a long way indeed when we no longer believe in the seriousness of what is happening in France, and in no longer believing its constituent bodies, its courts, its administration, or even its courts martial. And what adds to our skepticism is that we seem to see in this pressure from so-called public opinion (…) It cries 'Death to him' without knowing anything about this Jew, because he is Jewish and because today anti-Semitism is in the ascendancy."

The certainty of the anti-Dreyfusards

This was this feeling, coupled with respect for the army, that formed the anti-Dreyfusard camp. It was the majority opinion from the moment Dreyfus was convicted of espionage, through the time of the Affair and the two trials of Zola, and into the time of the initial proceedings before the Court of Cassation-even if the suicide of Colonel Henry at the end of August 1898 had begun to undermine this certainty. The forged item that he admitted having created was quickly branded as a "patriotic forgery," and Maurras did not hesitate to assert that "your unfortunate forgery will be included among your best actions of war."

In August and September of 1899, the development of the Rennes trial turned to the advantage of the anti-Dreyfusards, and they saw the second conviction-which paid no heed to the grounds of the decision handed down by the Court of Cassation just six months earlier-as a victory.

The pro-Dreyfus movement

On the pro-Dreyfus side, after Scheurer-Kestner who had been rallied to the cause since 13 July 1897, the most committed politicians were Clemenceau, Jaurès and Reinach. They could scarcely count on the support of the press, with the exception of Le Figaro and L'Aurore, which had been founded in October 1897 with Clemenceau as editor-in-chief. They were dealt their first defeat in 1898 with the acquittal of Major Esterhazy, Scheurer-Kestner's loss of the vice-presidency of the Senate, and the arrest of Colonel Picquart. Although 60,000 people signed a manifesto in the fall supporting Picquart, Dreyfusard officers rarely backed him or Major Forzinetti, the former director of the Cherche-Midi military prison. In the civilian world, intellectuals began to mobilize, sometimes at the risk of their careers.

medias

Poster proclaiming Dreyfus's innocence and showing his eleven main supporters

Poster proclaiming Dreyfus's guilt, and showing the five ministers supporting this position