4. THE FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
Mathieu contacted anyone who might be willing to listen to him. He gained the confidence of a doctor from Le Havre, who told him how the secret file had been handed over to the jury. This convinced Mathieu that it would be possible to have the verdict reconsidered.
Bernard Lazare, the crusader for Dreyfus' rehabilitation, managed to obtain the support of Joseph Reinach, an important Jewish publicist and lawyer, whose pro-Dreyfus campaign was to lose him his seat in parliament. Lazare also gained the support of Jewish circles who had previously remained cautiously on the sidelines. But at the same time, as Boisdeffre put it, the General Staff was adding fuel to the fire. There had been a reshuffle in the "Statistical Section" of the Intelligence Service: the ineffective Sandherr had been replaced by Picquart, a graduate of the Military Academy commanded a staff of Department veterans - including Commandant Henry - who were the shadowy heroes of the Affair.
Picquart was convinced of Dreyfus' guilt; he had observed him at length during the trial and had no pity for him, neither during the proceedings nor at his public demotion: he thought of him as a sham. A new broom, following the instructions of General de Boisdeffre, he like his predecessor - tried to pad the Dreyfus file, but could not find anything that could be held against the already disgraced man. He decided that as soon as Commandant Henry received the papers collected by Madame Bastian, he would pass them on to his chief for examination. in March 1896, the papers arrived through the "normal channels". When he pieced the torn segments together, Captain Lauth came across a telegram that had never been despatched, addressed by Schwarzkoppen of the German Embassy to one Commandant Esterhazy, a French count descended from an aristocratic Hungarian family - a loose liver, crippled by gambling debts. Picquart was particularly bothered by Esterhazy's application to join the War Ministry: the handwriting seemed strangely familiar, and he compared it with a photograph of the infamous schedule which convicted Dreyfus. He was horrified, as he himself said later, to discover that the two handwritings were absolutely identical and by the realisation that the incriminating document had been written, not by Dreyfus, but by Esterhazy. Picquart informed Boisdeffre; the Chief of Staff sent him to General Gonse. Embarrassed, the General advised him rather cynically not to reopen the Affair.
In November 1896, Henry brought his superiors a letter he had in reality forged to protect himself, supposedly from Panizzardi to Schwartzkoppen, signed "Alexandrine", whose contents were very damaging to Dreyfus. The ruse seemed to have worked.
Meranwhile, several publications renewed their interest in the Dreyfus Affair - making life awkward for the authorities. On November 15, 1896, an article headlined "The Traitor" appeared in the newspaper L'Eclair, reproducing the document that began "This scoundrel D.", part of the secret file that had been handed over to the judges on the courtmartial and conclusive proof of the illegal procedure adopted during the trial. On November 10, Le Matin published a facsimile of the bordereau.
Bernard Lazare was doing his best to win press circles over to his side. On November 6, 1896, he brought out in Brussels a brochure with the title A Miscarriage of Justice - The truth about the Dreyfus Affair, explaining why he challenged the verdict and mistrusted the fairness of the proceedings. But the press, not judging the case a paying proposition, failed to follow him.
Next, Lazare distributed his brochures to members of the upper and lower houses of the French Parliament. Lucie Dreyfus submitted a petition to the Chamber to reconsider the verdict, leading on November 18 to a parliamentary question by a right-wing deputy. The response of War Minister Billot was applauded by right and extreme-right deputies, and the petition was rejected as baseless, i.e. parliamentary pressure was no longer an avenue to Appeal.
Meanwhile, Senate Vice-President Scheurer Kestner, a Protestant senator from Alsace, was utterly "overwhelmed" when informed by a friend of Picquart's discoveries (he had since been shunted off to the sidelines by his superiors). The Senator became an ardent Dreyfusard - a supporter of the campaign being waged by Bernard Lazare and Mathieu Dreyfus, and an important turning point seem to have been reached, as it triggered off a campaign in Parliament for reconsidering the verdict.
Indefatigable, Dreyfus' brother kept trying every avenue and pursuing every lead. All through 1896, he had the handwriting on the bordereau investigated by many experts in France and abroad. The unanimous conclusion: the handwriting was not that of Alfred Dreyfus.
With the assistance of the energetic Bernard Lazare and Joseph Reinach, Mathieu instigated a wide-ranging information campaign, focusing primarily on academics, writers, lawyers - any and everyone who, although they might be unable to prove the illegality of what had happened, could at least raise doubts about what had happened and the unsafe nature of a verdict based on a certain similarity in handwritings.
In his book "Souvenirs sur l'Affaire" (Memories of the Affair), Leon Blum related how, at the end of 1897, there was a division of labour among all the willing "canvassers". Clemenceau, the editor of the recently established newspaper L'Aurore, came to join the pro-Dreyfus camp. In January 1898, he was to congratulate all these "intellectuals from all walks of life" - scientists, academics and artists - "who have come together around and idea and hold to it with an unshakeable faith" and who swelled the ranks of the military, clergy, press and writers already on the battlefield (including such noted figures as Charles Peguy, Andre Gide, Marcel Proust, Daniel Halevy, Lucien Herr and Emile Zola). The Dreyfus family began to be reassured by the number and authority of these sympathisers. Although Scheurer Kestner failed to win the government over to his side, he at least gained the sympathy of a few important individuals. Clemenceau said to writer Anatole France,
"We shall be on our own, but we will win."
Socialist Jean Jaures, initially hostile to this wealthy Jew, also started to ask questions: inclined to look in all cases of injustice for
"a symbolic explanation for collective wickedness",
he was disturbed by the Affair.