7["French Traitor Dreyfus", Launceston Examiner (Tas.), Saturday 16 February 1895, page 7]



The Daily News correspondent furnishes a lengthy and graphic account of the ceremony of degrading Captain Dreyfus, the officer lately found guilty of treason in selling War Office secrets to Germany. We extract the following:--

On Friday night Commander de Clam called on Dreyfus at the Cherche-Midi and asked whether he was still determined not to confess. Dreyfus replied he was innocent. In the night, when the prisoner a was fast asleep a warder took his uniform to the prison tailor. The latter, a prisoner himself, unsewed all the distinctive marks of an officer--stripes, gilding, buttons, etc.--and sewed them back again loosely. The sword, a weapon held to be dishonoured, was taken to the smith. The blade was cut in two and soldered. On awaking the captain looked at his clothes and was aware that his degradation was at hand.


Nine soon struck. A roll of drums was heard. The infantry stood at attention, the cavalry men raised their swords and held their pistols ready for use. There was a cry of "Portez armes," and a small group issued from the inner courtyard at the north west angle of the great one. It was formed of an adjutant-major of artillery, who was a military friend of the convict, a cavalry adjutant, a tall powerful man who was appointed to tear the signs of military rank from the uniform, and four artillery men with swords drawn, who surrounded the prisoner. Dreyfus walked with firm step, and kept time to the quick march played by a band. As far as one could see with an opera glass Dreyfus was cool, collected, and seemingly indifferent, but military men who were close to him say that hatred glittered in his eyes, and that his countenance was awful to behold. He was deadly pale, unless when passing flushes reddened his face. The group walked diagonally towards a general on horseback in the middle of the square. Dreyfus saluted him. All seven suddenly stood still. There was a roll of drums. A civil officer advanced and read in the loudest possible tone the judgment of thec ourt martial. The general thundered out: "Alfred Dreyfus, you are unworthy to bear arms. In the name of the law we degrade you." The cavalry adjutant, without saluting, advanced to Dreyfus, who stood stiff with hands close to his thighs and toes turned out. The gold braid and buttons, epaulettes, and trousers stripes were held on by mere threads. The tearing off of the symbols of rank began with the kepi. Dreyfus neither recoiled nor advanced, but when his kepi was pulled over his eyes he raised his hand high as if swearing, and said, "By my wife and children, I swear I am innocent. Vive la France!" The buttons fell next, then the epaulettes, then the red stripes, and finally the sword was taken out of the scabbard and the belt torn off. When the adjutant broke the blade he threw it on the ground. Dreyfus was then entirely in black and tattered clothes and shapeless kepi. His shirt showed. He next had to walk round the hollow square to come back to the corner where the black van awaited him. He kept on saying, "I am innocent! I am innocent!" Military discipline kept the soldiers silent, but their eyes showed scorn and hatred. When the convict was in front of the journalists he cried, "Tell all France I am innocent." M. Gaston Mery, of the Libre Parole, broke bounds by exclaiming, "Filthy Jew ! Traitor! Judas !" Then "Judas" was echoed even by the soldiers.

Outside, the roars of "Death," "Death," drowned the notes of the Sambre et Meuse quick march. The fury of the multitude was indescribable. As the convict neared the ditch and railing, a group of officers, carried away by the prevailing feeling, hooted Dreyfus. With wonderful self-command, he said, "Strike, but don't insult me. I am an innocent man." And at the outer gate, as the gendarmes were putting on the handcuffs, he recognised his fellow officers of the 39th Infantry, "Believe me, gentlemen, I am a martyr."