The Protestants
and the Dreyfus Case

Many Protestants took sides in favour of Captain Dreyfus. Some will even take an active part in the movement that will allow the re-examination of the process, such as Scheurer-Kestner, Vice-President of the Senate in 1897, and Francis de Pressensé, one of the founders and first president of the Human Rights League (1898).

Stand for Dreyfus

  • Deyfus degraded in the courtyard of the École Militaire © Collection privée

Many Protestants were to side with Dreyfus. They knew that religious minorities could have a tragic fate, and feared anti-Protestantism mingled with anti-Semitism as Drumond and his followers professed it. They drew a parallel between Calas and Dreyfus. While committing himself publicly to the defence of Dreyfus, Gabriel Monod wrote : « I was hoping that this initiative would come from a Catholic and that a new Voltaire would arise to defend the new Calas. I was afraid that the value of my judgment would find itself lessened in the minds of some for the simple reason that I am a Protestant and that I have been stupidly attacked for being one » (j’espérais que cette initiative viendrait d’un catholique et qu’un nouveau Voltaire surgirait pour defenrer le nouveau Calas. J’aurais craint que ma qualité de protestant et les stupides attaques que m’ont valu cette qualité diminuassent auprès d’un certain public la valeur de mes jugements).

The intervention of Scherer-Kestner

  • Gabriel Monod (1844-1912) © S.H.P.F.

In 1897 Bernard Lazare and Mathieu Dreyfus showed the files collected with the purpose of rehabilitating their friend and their brother to the Vice-President of the Senate, the Protestant Scheurer-Kestner, and to others. These documents convinced Scheurer-Kestner of the captain’s innocence and, after a few consultations and without the slightest hesitation, he launched a public debate made possible by his position. Thus the way to a re-examination of the process is opened, with the help all along of influential personalities, such as Zola, Colonel Picquart and the Human Rights League.

Scheurer-Kestner was disavowed by the Senate : his involvement in the case cost him the Vice-Presidency in 1898 but, being a life Senator, he kept his seat.

Raoul Allier, Ferdinand Buisson, Albert Reville, André Gide are among the Protestant supporters of Dreyfus. The only right-wing deputy to have voted in favour of a retrial is the Protestant Conrad de Witt, Guizot’s son-in-law.

The immediate and absolute rejection of anti-Semitism among Protestants, pastors and lay people alike, drew the attention of anti-Dreyfus polemicists who denounced the « collusion » between Jews and Protestants. This will be one of the characteristic elements of early XXth century anti-Protestantism : right-wingers denouncing the « Judeo-Protestant » Republic. The Dreyfus Case was also to awaken the old protestant anticlericalism and its thirst for justice : « as sons of Huguenots (…) the French ministers feel, deep in their souls, a horror for secret tribunals, for the summary justice dealt by military tribunals, for the sword elevated to defender of the truth, for reasons of State that trample the rights of man and the freedom of citizens dismissively and without mercy. » (fils de Huguenots (…) les pasteurs français ont dans l’âme l’horreur des tribunaux secrets, de la justice expéditive des tribunaux militaires, du sabre préposé à la défense de la vérité, et de la raison d’État terrassant sans examen et sans pitié le droit de l’homme, la liberté du citoyen, L. Lafon, quoted by A.Encrevé).

Bibliography

  • Articles
    • ENCREVÉ André, "La petite musique huguenote", La France de l'Affaire Dreyfus, Gallimard, Paris, 1994, p. 598

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