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T NEED only to outline the history of the Dreyfus
case, for all mankind have read it and know its revolting facts by heart.
Alfred Dreyfus was a brave young captain in the French army. He incurred the enmity and hatred of other army officers on account of two facts:-he had been honored and preferred above some of them because of his distinguished services, and he was a Jew.
They concocted a cunning and villainous scheme to disgrace and ruin him. Letters were forged purporting to be revelations of French army secrets to the enemy written by Dreyfus.
On a charge preferred under these forged letters, Dreyfus was tried by court martial, which is a military court not in any way curtailed in its powers by any civil authority.
Through the most elaborately concocted and unscrupulous methods ever known, he was found guilty and sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in solitary confinement on Devil's Island, a most utterly barren, unsanitary place, confined in a stone cell and guarded day and night by two soldiers with whom he was not permitted to converse.
There he remained two years. How the man endured it and lived is beyond human conception. There must have been a divine power sustaining him, a secret force emanating from his sense of innocence that kept him alive. It is said that he kept repeating, “I am innocent; I am innocent.”
The good heart of the nations revolted. Sucha protest went forth from the people that, although it was not according to precedent, the laws of France did not provide for such a thing, the Secretary of State ordered a retrial before the Court of Cassation, the highest court of appeals in France.
Maitre Labori, a great lawyer, and the prisoner's noble wife, who had been untiring in her efforts in his behalf, were assisted by many good men and women in the conduct of this memorable trial. Dreyfus' enemies were desperate. But their guilt was proven and they became confounded. Three confessed and two of them were murdered for it, (they said Henry committed suicide, but he was probably assassinated,) one became an exile; the great M. Zola, who had espoused the cause of the persecuted man, was compelled to quit the country to save his life. An effort was made to kill the eminent lawyer, Labori.
Notwithstanding all this, the court was afraid to clear the prisoner and found him guilty again, making his sentence eight more years on Devil's Island, but appending a recommendation of mercy. The President of France immediately issued a full pardon to the prisoner.
He went home to his family, but was by no means satisfied with a pardon for a crime of which he was not guilty. He had been bereft of his military honors, publicly disgraced, his sword broken and his insignia of office torn from him before the eyes of the people. So he continued to fight for his complete vindication, yet holding to his affirmation, “I am innocent!”
Only recently, after twelve years' unrelenting effort on the part of the brave man and his friends, did
the Supreme Court of France take the matter in hand. This court declared him not guilty and restored all his rights and privileges, civilly and in the army.
Then public appreciation and indignation arose in its fury. Dreyfus was made a Major in the army without delay and a very loud-crying demand is being made that the officers responsible for the wrongs done the man be punished.
Alfred Dreyfus is now only 47 years of age, and he may live long to enjoy his dearly earned rights as a soldier and a citizen.
The remarkable endurance of the man in this case is noteworthy. There are few if any parallels in history. Who of us would have lived through the experiences he encountered? Who of us would not have given up and died within the first six months on Devil's Island? There he was poorly fed, not sheltered from the severity of the climate, surrounded by squalid filth and entirely cut off from the world. His wife and children had not a word from him nor he from them in all that terrible two years. Yet he lived. What was it that sustained him?
It was primarily a sense of innocence. He had not the burden of guilt on his conscience He felt he was vindicated before heaven. This opened his heart to the sustaining sunshine of God's presence. He was buoyed by it. Life was given through it and he did not give way to the outward pressure. Where sunshine is, darkness cannot come. So he lived on, holding to his shiboleth, “I am innocent." And something told him that he should yet be vindicated. The angels of Truth and Justice whispered this into the ear of his listening soul. He heard and took fresh courage from hour to hour. This was the secret of his wonderful perseverance. This was why he never gave up the struggle. When all seemed to be lost, he wavered not. When his enemies seemed to be completely victorious, he was not defeated. When not a ray of hope's dim light could be seen by others, he beheld its faint glow within and pushed on and on, even while no progress was perceptible.
It has been said that “Truth crushed to earth will rise again." It is an everlasting, unchangeable principle in being that Truth and Justice must finally prevail. It is an invincible verity prevailing in the Universe, whether we demonstrate it in our feeble, flickering experiences or not.
This man did much more for mankind than he knew. In compelling a nation to do him justice, a nation where anti-Semitic prejudices dominated legislatures, courts and the military, he caused the world's heart to pulsate in a livelier rhythm with heaven for truth among suffering humanity. He strengthened our confidence in the prevalence of good among men. He gave us fresh courage to persevere amid trials and adverse conditions-to look up from the depths and force onward and upward, though the obstacles seem insurmountable. He gave us confidence in the law of righteousness and justice on Earth as it is in heaven.
The apparent failures we have made have been ours, and not of the law. We have not persevered.
We have lacked faith both in ourselves and in the power of Truth. So we have fainted and given up short of attainment. When Paul said, “Be not weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not,” he uttered a great truth. It is the fainting, the giving up in despair, that causes defeat. It is not that the power of evil is greater than that of Good.
It is to be deplored that there is so much pessimistic howling issued by a certain class of newspaper and magazine publishers. To read it is enough to dis