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The preparation of the Rennes trial

The preparation of the Rennes trial

The government's investigations

By overturning and annulling the decision of 22 December 1894, the Court of Cassation sent the accused back before the court martial of Rennes so that it might decide whether he was guilty of having handed over "the notes and documents mentioned in the bordereau." In function of the decree, Prime Minister Waldeck-Rousseau himself wrote a lengthy instruction; as a lawyer and a Dreyfusard, Waldeck-Rousseau intended to orient the work of the government commissioner. To better influence the Rennes court martial, the Minister of War agreed to sign this long note. However, in a letter to the Prime Minister, General de Galliffet informed him that there was "in the Army an unshakable bias towards not desiring Dreyfus's acquittal."

Sensitive to pressure from the military hierarchy, Major Carrière, the public prosecutor, would prove himself, according to Bertrand Joly, "incoherent, stupid, and overwhelmed." He was assisted by a nationalist lawyer who was all the more efficient since the Dreyfusards accepted, with Clemenceau, the idea that "everything must be said, everything must be produced."

Military theatrics

In a letter dated 10 July 1899, the War Minister prohibited the presence of officers in Rennes who had no specific reason to be there. In spite of this, the Army set the stage for this second trial. The arrival of the secret dossier in a cart guarded by eight soldiers, and the fact that it was placed in an immense wicker basket, gave the public the impression of a huge number of documents that would be used to convict the accused. For the length of the trial-and despite the fact that legally he was an innocent man-each time he walked the several hundred meters from the military prison, Captain Dreyfus passed rows of soldiers and horses, all of them turned away from him.

The international press flooded into Brittany for what they believed to be the imminent acknowledgement of Dreyfus's innocence. However, General Mercier, the one who ordered that legal proceedings be undertaken in 1894-and himself under threat of indictment for having given the secret documents to the judges at that time-began to accuse Dreyfus in public. On 4 August 1899, three days before the opening of the trial, L'Intransigeant printed his remarks: "Behind closed doors or in the public eye, I will speak and I will tell all. Dreyfus is a traitor: I will prove it."


Military prison in Rennes where Dreyfus was held from 1 July to 20 September 1899

A. Dreyfus returns to the Rennes military prison