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The long road to justice
A brief appeal and the presidential pardon
The new appeal before the military review board
On 9 September, after his "iniquitous conviction," Alfred Dreyfus sought to console his wife who, along with him, had dreamed of "the rectification of an appalling judicial error." In his Carnets, he lamented the judgment "against truth and the justice of men led astray by their passions, by partisanship, and perhaps by criminal maneuvering in the shadows." That same evening, he signed an appeal before the military review board, hoping for nothing more than to gain some time. His goal was to appear before the Court of Cassation in order to finish his "work of justice and truth," whenever new evidence or the proof of a false testimony might appear. Petitions from intellectuals began to circulate once again in favor of one who represented "an offense against individual freedom, the law and justice."
Although Drumont would write, "the verdict of Rennes is worth another Austerlitz," Clemenceau made good use of irony in saying of the two judges who found Dreyfus innocent: "this is what our two years of struggle have won us." The future president had written circa 700 pro-Dreyfus articles since the fall of 1897. Labori wrote to Dreyfus that he was the "victim of a horrible conviction, an admirable martyr, worthy of the immense cause of humanity" that he represented. As a wave of anti-French sentiment swept Europe and North America, and the boycott of the Universal Exposition of 1900 was imagined, the government weighed the remarks of the War Minister, who thought that the camp of the anti-Dreyfusards included the army and the majority of the population of France.
Pardon and oblivion bring relief
As of 10 September 1899, heated discussions split the Dreyfusards on the opportunity to appear to accept the verdict; Clemenceau roared, "It's the end of the campaign, the struggle, the battle; the pardon will provide satisfaction to the faint of heart; we will lose all of our troops." On the 12th, Mathieu Dreyfus visited his brother's prison cell and told him that the government was prepared to pardon him if he withdrew his appeal. Mathieu's approach, which was carried out with the minister's approval, presented the withdrawal of the appeal as "recommended, approved by those who had been, in the press and before public opinion, the principal defenders of [his] cause." Alfred agreed to the withdrawal, which was, in the view of General de Galliffet, "the key to pacification." Nevertheless, President Loubet held off for a week, in order to base his decision to pardon Dreyfus on a medical certificate stating that the health of the condemned person was "seriously compromised and that he would not, without the greatest danger, be able to endure prolonged incarceration."
On the 19th, the presidential decision authorized the release of Dreyfus, who left the Rennes military prison on the following day. On the 22nd, the day of his arrival at his sister Henriette's house in Carpentras, the agenda of the War Ministry was published. It attempted to reduce the affair to a matter that was henceforth closed. As of the 13th, General de Galliffet had sketched out the government's next step: a general amnesty. The pardon "a measure of supreme mercy would not be understood by all, were it not decided, in principle, to permanently exonerate the general officers and others who became caught up in this unfortunate affair. We must open the door to oblivion for them."