3 SEPTEMBER 1898, Page 5


TS the long agony of Dreyfus about to come to an end 1 It certainly looks as if this must be the case. How A it possible for the Government to refuse a revision of the case after what has happened in regard to Colonel Ifenry ? Think of what Colonel Henry's confession means. The War Minister, M. Cavaignac, had to defend the con- iemnation of the Dreyfus case in the new Chamber. It vas a most important crisis in the history of the case, and llCavaignac, having determined to enter upon the merits, he naturally anxious to place the very best and strongest qsdence he possibly could before the Chamber. For this Purpose he selected three letters, the most important of Bich purported to be written by a foreign Military ttache, and addressed to another foreign Attache. This tter actually mentioned Dreyfus by name. If it was aauine, M. Cavaignac was justified in assuming it to ord very strong proof of Dreyfus's guilt. But Colonel enry has now confessed that he forged this letter, his Ilea being, no doubt, to counteract and paralyse the orts made by Colonel Picquart—a name never to be mentioned without honour—to prove the innocence of Dreyfus. Therefore the evidence on which M. Cavaignac specially, and doubtless quite sincerely, relied to prove the guilt of Dreyfus is shown to be absolutely worthless. Now of course this does not ipso facto prove the contentions set forth by Dreyfus's friends. A sound case has before now been supported by forgery and per- jury. It is conceivable—though we do not ourselves hold such a view—that Dreyfus is guilty after all, and that Colonel Henry was mad enough and bad enough to think that everything was fair in order to keep the manacles on the limbs of a traitor. But even if this theory is just possible, it is not a theory which any Government can act on. After such an exposure of the character of the documents on which they have been basing their refusal to allow revision, the French Govern- ment have only one course open to them. They must retry Dreyfus in open Court, and let every scrap of evi- dence be tested by the legal advisers of the prisonet. Only by such means can the condemnation of Dreyfus now be supported. If the evidence will not stand the test, Dreyfus must be released. If it will stand it, then the nation may, with a clear conscience, shoot Dreyfus, or continue his punishment of imprisonment for life. Surely this is the only line which a reasonable body of men can take in view of the present situation.

What effect will the new developments in the Dreyfus case have on French politics ? To begin with, they should, one might imagine, do a great deal to rehabilitate "civil ism" in the minds of the people. The non-military men and the " intellectuals" have had a great triumph, and M. Zola may feel, indeed, that he has vindicated the honour of France. Even if, after all, Dreyfus should be proved guilty, the French civilians will be able to say that they were justified in asserting that the chiefs of the Army were not to be trusted on points of law, or their word to be taken as absolute proof of a prisoner's guilt or innocence. In fact, the confession of Colonel Henry is, for the moment, a serious blow to the growing pretensions of the Army, to " militarism," and to the spirit which made general officers act in the Assize Courts as if in France the toga must always yield to the sword. That is, no doubt, a good result in itself, but in view of certain peculiarities of the French nature we are not sure that it augurs well for the Republic. Humiliated French officers are not very easy people to manage. The Army chiefs may for a time be obliged to feel themselves in the wrong, but this will not prevent them cherishing a burning sense of indignation against those who they will still consider have insulted them. The Army, in a word, will feel discontented and depressed, and so restless. What of the nation as a whole ? Their first feeling will, we fear, be one analogous to the familiar complaint of Frenchmen when angry and perplexed,—" None sommes trahis." The country will feel a terrible shock in regard to the Army, and to the confidence to be reposed in it. In a hundred thousand little cafes all over France men for the next few weeks will be shrugging their shoulders and grinding their reed-bottomed chairs against the ground with imprecations on the " incapables " at the Head- quarters Staff who cannot even forge without getting found out. But it will be said, Why should this be dangerous ? Will it not merely make people see that after all there is more virtue in " civilisna" and the Republic than they thought? Not French people. Unless we are greatly mistaken, their temporary disgust with the chiefs of the Army will make them argue not that the Republic must be supported, but the very reverse. Starting from the fixed, and perhaps not unnatural, idea of every Frenchman, that the efficiency, high standing, and prestige of the Army are the chief things needful, and that unless the Army is sound " nothing goes " in France—not honour, nor even safety—they will argue that there must be something wrong with a form of Government that has allowed the Army to make so terrible an exhibition of itself. ' If those miserable Deputies and Ministers were worth anything they would never have allowed the Headquarters Staff to get into the hands of Henry, Esterhazv, and Paty de Clam.' They ignore the fact that the Empire brought the Army to a far worse condition, and they will begin to ask whether a Parliamentary Republic can ever manage an army, and whether a Cxsar is not required. The Army chiefs, angry and humiliated by their discomfiture at the bands of "civilism " and " intellectualism," may be inclined to meet this view half way. No doubt we have made a muddle,' they will say, but what can you expect when you put over us not men whom we can respect and obey, but a lot of snivelling notaries, journalists, and shop- keepers in frock-coats?'

If such a wave of feeling passes through the country and the Army. it will be rendered doubly dangerous by the sense of humiliation and indignation which the nation is to-day experiencing in regard to the Czar's proposals. Rightly or wrongly, the French people regard the Emperor's project as not only in itself -deeply injurious to France, but as having been placed before the world in a way which showed a total lack of consideration for French feeling. If we had possessed a Government capable of making itself feared and re- spected, Nicholas II. would never have dared to treat us like that. But who cares for the dignity of a shopkeeper like Faure ?' That is the sort of suggestion that is being hissed into men's ears all over France by the enemies of the Republic. It is false and unfair ? We think so, and we wish the Republic well, as, on the whole, the best chance France has for a stable and free Government ; but that does not alter the fact that the traducers of the Re- public are turning the present situation against her, and that the people will incline their ears to the traducer. We do not, of course, mean to say positively that the Dreyfus revelations and the ferment over the Emperor's proposals will damage the Republic. It may be that Frenchmen will surprise us by the good-sense and moderation with which the bulk of them will accept the situation. That there is, however, considerable risk of a grave crisis no reasonable person will care to deny. Even in England two such events as Colonel Henry's confession and the realisation of the true meaning of the Emperor's Rescript could not take place within one week without causing a dangerous commotion in the public mind. It is con- ceivable, of course, that the Republic will emerge with an obedient Army chastened and well in hand, and with a people disillusioned as to foreign alliances and yet content to wait and endure; but, as far as we can see, the signs of the times are not so favourable.