The Boulangist Movement 1889
Translated: from the original broadsheet by Mitchell Abidor.
I address myself to all honest men and not to the judges of the high court, whose competence and impartiality I don’t recognize.
If this special tribunal, whose decision all of France knows in advance, this political tribunal charged with condemning its adversary, this tribunal whose sentence can only be iniquitous and odious, had contented itself with charging me with this so-called crime of a coup, which public contempt has already rendered judgment on, I would have remained quiet, leaving it to the country to judge my judges.
But realizing the ridiculousness of the accusation, and not being able to even furnish in support of it the shadow of a proof, M. Quesnay de Beaurepaire, the valet they sought out to carry out this task, at the refusal of the magistrates tried through crafty means to fool public opinion.
Forced to conceal the emptiness of its argument, not even able to sustain the majority of the inventions upon which it had based the demand for prosecution placed on the desk of the Chamber; forced, for example, to no longer even speak in its new indictment of the voyage to the United States during which I was originally accused of beginning the preparations of my conspiracy, the Procurator General who carries out M. Thévenet’s affairs wanted to avenge his masters, who all of France accuses of being nothing but thieves, and tried to have the country believe that I was no better than them.
It is thus that with a cynicism previously unheard of in a French magistrate, this talentless novelist imagined the novel which he claims is a judicial document.
Attacked this time in my honor as a soldier, in my honor as an honest man, I could no longer remain silent. I owed it to my friends, to myself to confound the slanders and the slanderers, something which, incidentally, is not difficult.
In fact, a happy chance placed in my friends’ hands the high court’s entire dossier, and thus upset M. Beaurepaire’s plans.
Without this chance it would have been impossible for me to respond to the accusations which I was totally ignorant of, and whose very origin I couldn’t have guessed at, for it would never have occurred to me that any magistrate, even the most unworthy, would have had the audacity to base his slanderous indictment solely on the so-called revelations of a secret agent whose cover had long since been blown and the accusations of a swindler who M. Constans had publicly admitted paying 7,000 francs per deposition!
For this is all there is in the work of the Procurator General; this astounding magistrate seems to have forgotten all the other depositions, the depositions of honest men which confound the slanders of the swindler and the secret agent.
He doubtless hoped that not knowing the accusations I couldn’t respond to them before the debate in the High Court; he counted on the fact that the past of the swindler Buret being unknown we would, with this sensational deposition, have an effect on the audience. He couldn’t imagine that M. Constans would confess to having paid for the deposition of this false witness. He said to himself: “They will probably later discover the truth, but after the judgment, after the condemnation, and the blow will have done its work. They’ll be able to say that General Boulanger was convicted of misappropriation of funds and that he didn’t even dare defend himself!”
But even the most skilful criminals can’t foresee everything. M. Quesnay de Beaurepaire hadn’t foreseen that his dossier would fall into my friends’ hands before the hearing, and now that the High Court is carrying out its task, that it is arriving at a decision that was written out in advance, all of France will know in advance with what proofs, with what falsified documents, with what paid witnesses this parody of justice is being played.
In order to confound the Procurator General, in order to convict him of falsehood I want, whatever the length of this refutation, to respond to his indictment point by point.
In the first case, it is strange that this magistrate, who speaks at such length of the military career of my friend Dillon in order to slander him and shamelessly lie, seems to be unaware of mine. From reading his strange document it appears that my career only began in 1882.
And yet, at that time I already had 28 years of service, twenty companies, four wounds, and two citations.
Perhaps I should after all be grateful to M. Quesnay de Beaurepaire for not having said that if I fell four times on the battlefield it’s because I wanted to be wounded on purpose with the goal of later conquering an unhealthy popularity!
Nevertheless, in 1882, being brigadier general and director of the infantry I had, according to M. de Beaurepaire, “excessive ambitions.” We can clearly see here that M. Thévenet’s prosecutor is ignorant of the modest situation of a brigadier general, who can hardly have “excessive ambitions.”
Here I would like to point out the first false accusation. M. de Beaurepaire claims that during that period, I sent an agent to a military bookstore in order to have him spread my biography around the army. This is false, and I defy the Procurator General and the bookseller in question, M. Baudoin, to prove that it is I who sent them a man they call my agent.
The indictment then declares that in Tunis “I pursued the execution of my plans,” and that I there had various agents, among others a woman. I don’t know if a woman, young or old, came to see me in Tunis; but what I do know is that no woman served as my agent and that if the fact had been true my honorable adversary M. Cambon would certainly of spoken of it in his deposition.
What is more, in Paris I had another agent, “a three times condemned so-called journalist .” Is it of Buret that M. Quesnay de Beuarepaire is speaking, without realizing that In doing so he demonstrates what the deposition of this swindler, purchased by M. Constans, is worth?
Yes, it appears certain that at that time Buret was someone’s agent, but it was M. Constans and not me.
Was it not in fact M. Constans who confided to this Buret the writing of a dispatch in which he has me offer the Ministry of War as part of the new scam he had just been put at the head of, a scam that failed?
Yes, I knew Buret at the time, who I had the weakness of thinking an honest man because he had been presented to me by a minister and by deputies.
I knew Buret until the day when I learned that he tried to coin money with my name, and I realized that he only came to the ministry to give himself the appearance of a credit that was absolutely imaginary. It was even in regard to him that the very day that I showed him the door I ordered the closing of the ministry to all intriguers. Yes, it was that incident that suggested to me the idea of closing the ministry of War to all the fabricators of crooked affairs, even if they were senators or deputies. I call on the memories of my chief of cabinet and all the officers around me.
Even more, and it doesn’t cost me to say this, I profoundly repent having in my ignorance of politics believed at the time that it was enough to be the close friend of M. Constans and other deputies to be an honest man; I repent for having sincerely believed too easily in Buret’s honorability.
But you, Monsieur Pocurator General, who know him well, you know that the minister of the Interior paid 7000 francs for his testimony. How can you, how dare you, solely on the basis of this purchased testimony, build up odious accusations of fraud?
You say that in Tunis I was short of money? Why? What need did I have of it? On the contrary, I had one of the best paid positions in the army. Here I am quoting your accusation: “He was lacking in money. He had recourse to dubious affairs in order to attempt to procure some. He and his agent agreed to share a bribe of 210,000 francs if he had his division try out and the ministry accept a system of coffee in tablet form. “
It is impossible to bring together in fewer lines a greater number of odious calumnies and absurdities.
What you advance as a serious, proven, accusation is based solely on the deposition of Buret.
You had come to you and interrogated men with an interest in this affair, among others M. Maréchal I believe. And what did they answer you?
That they never saw me! That they’d never spoken to me!
In order to give a semblance of truth to this odiously false accusation, you seized a letter at Buret’s domicile, a voucher where it is question of G... Your witness, a bought off swindler, says that “G...” means General Boulanger, but the lie is flagrant. If it was a question of me there would at least have been “the G..."And without insisting too much , given the other depositions, convinced that Buret abused the latter along with so many others, all of France already knows that this initial designates a politician that everyone knows, and not General Boulanger.
I was never involved in this affair, any more than any other. I was one day asked to have my division try it, as is done at every moment throughout the French Army; the officers involved told me it was awful!
I transmitted the reports, and that’s all!
Admit that businessmen who would have given 210,000 francs in commission to a general so he could declare that their product was detestable would have deserved being sent to the asylum at Charenton.
I am now beginning to see that the truth is that in this affair my uprightness, the way in which I simply transmitted the unfavorable opinions of the chiefs of corps, created for me quite particular enmities which for a long time I was unable to explain and whose origin I now think I can guess at.
The man with the greatest interest in this affair – he admits this in his deposition – -was the Baron Kohn de Reinach, uncle and father- in- law of M. Joseph Reinach of the “République Fran?aise.” I refused to do the business of the opportunists, and it is to punish me that they are playing the role of petty Ciceros, attacking me vehemently.
I only saw the Baron de Reinach once at Buret’s who, I now understand, must have been one of his agents. I had been imprudent enough to dine at Buret’s, whose infamy I hadn’t yet suspected. But M. de Reinach is lying when he speaks of my familiarity with his straw man. On the contrary, having seen that this dinner had the suspicious character of a crooked affair, I left the house as quickly as possible. I began to be on my guard against Buret, and it was shortly thereafter that I expelled him from the ministry.
I pass now to the “affair of the epaulettes.”
You say: “He places his authority and hise title at the service of an epaulette merchant at the price of a commission of twenty centimes the pair, to be shared between him and his agent.”
In this affair you have three depositions: that of the swindler Buret, who accused me; that of the principal interested party, M. Dupuy, the epaulette merchant who declared in the clearest fashion that I was never mixed up in that crooked affair; and the deposition of a former minister, of a deputy, the honorable M. Granet, who affirms that the day that he spoke to me of the “M. Dupuy Affair” I answered him: “I don’t want to get mixed up in this, these kinds of things have nothing to do with me. Tell M. Dupuy to find the appropriate director. I’ll do what the director decides.”
And so, of these three depositions, which do you choose? You only retain one, that of the swindler witness, deprived of his civil and political rights, a witness about whom M. Constans (this must be ceaselessly repeated) publicly confessed having paid 7000 francs for the testimony.
How shameful your job is , and what opinion will foreigners now have of a country where can be found so infamous a magistrate?
I continue to follow step by step the indictment upon which the High Court will judge me.
You claim, M. de Beaurepaire, that as minister of War I had forty-four portraits of myself made , and you perfidiously add that, “ I even had some of these portraits made in Germany.”
I am surprised by the number of 44 portraits; I thought there were many more! But you are lying when you claim that I had them done. I affirm that I never involved myself in having a single one of my portraits done. It is true that I never went after the countless manufacturers who earned money in selling portraits of me, likeness that were more or less a good , and sometimes ridiculous.
If this is a crime, I accuse myself of it and it is, incidentally, the only one I committed.
I now arrive at the most contemptible part of your work, Monsieur Procurator General. For this time you not only alter the truth, but even more you force me to reveal what should have remained unknown about the use of secret funds, for it is perhaps only for the minister of War that secret funds have their raison d’être, on condition, of course, that their use remain unknown.
Your indictment claims that I gave 242,693 francs in subsidies to the press. This is another lie. The subsidized newspapers were subsidized by the minister of the Interior or the minister of Foreign Affairs, and not by me. And it would, incidentally be strange that having so badly used the secret fund that I should be the only minister to give a precise accounting. It is clear to even the most naïve that if I had had something to hide I would have burned that accounting, AS WAS MY RIGHT, and you would not have found it at M. Reichert’s.
No, M. de Beaurepaire, I didn’t give a single subsidy with a political character while I was at the ministry of War. I found it necessary, at a grave moment, to organize my intelligence service as it never had been, and if my patriotism wasn’t even stronger than the interests of my defense, I could say between which men and myself the individuals – often journalists – whose names or initials you found were intermediaries.
I am proud to have done, during that period, my entire duty, and to have done it well.
Carry out the investigation, if you dare! Bring forth these intermediaries and tell all of Europe who our agents were, even in the salons of Berlin and Rome.
But you won’t dare to, because you know full well that the country will make you pay the punishment of traitors!
You speak of a hired hand who was condemned for an offense to decency. I never had a hired hand, and I have never bothered myself with the antecedents of those who have written for me; I don’t even know what condemnation or person you are alluding to. I also absolutely don’t know the name of the man condemned under my ministry who, you say, I recommended to his judges. Until now I have found nothing among the evidence in the High Court file that relates to this.
But I return to the question of secret funds and reserve funds, willfully mixed together by you and which I owe it to my friends to clarify.
In the first place, your indictment commits an error.
In 1884 I did not have 760,000 francs in secret funds, but rather 740,000 francs, the navy having given me 40,000 francs for intelligence I had provided it; serious and important intelligence about things of interest to that department.
On the other hand, it is false that I had at my disposal more money than my predecessors. Without going back further than three years, the secret funds were:
In 1883: 924,000 francs
In 1884: 1,142,000 francs
In 1885: 902,000 francs
Let us calculate the difference between these sums and those at my disposal; let us remember the serious events that occurred during my ministry, and you will easily understand why I was forced to touch the reserve funds and to take a relatively small sum from it.
I was authorized in this by the example of my predecessors who, in the country’s interest, when it was necessary had dipped into the reserve funds and done their duty, as I did mine.
So once again you alter the truth, M. de Beaurepaire, when you say in regard to the reserve funds that “Since 1872 the ministers had made it their duty to add to them, and never to withdraw from them.”
In order to confound you, it is enough that I produce since 1872 the status of these reserve funds, which incidentally were called until 1875 “diverse funds” and from 1875-1886 “rolling funds,” which clearly indicates its nature and goal:
March 7, 1872 it was at 104, 304 fr. 78 cent.
February 1, 1873 it was at 177,561 fr. 22 cent.
January 9, 1874 it was at 120, 424 fr. 68 cent.
December 18, 1874 it was at 8,175 fr. 17. Cent.
November 23, 1875 it was at 17, 942 fr. 24 cent.
I will note that in 1874 and 1875 we were on the eve of serious events, and that my predecessor did his duty in taking almost the entire reserve fund, as I would have believed I was doing mine in taking almost the entire sum that constituted the fund during the events that preceded the Schnaebelé Affair, if I would have considered it useful.
Starting in 1874 the so-called reserve fund increased quite rapidly: in November 1877 it was 227, 647 fr. 23 cent. But it continued to suffer many fluctuations, which suffices to prove how false your accusations are, M. de Beaurepaire!
On March 13, 1876 it was at 108,280 fr 06.
On August 13 of the same year it was only at 105,273 fr 56.
From 1877-1879 it was further reduced rather than augmented.
September 1, 1877 it was at 228,607 fr 66.
January 13, 1879 there were only 215,605 fr 30.
I don’t want to recall an even more recent fact, but I must, since I have to defend myself. One of my predecessors, General Billot, one of my judges of today, had expenses in excess of his allocation to the amount of 8,046 fr 12.
I have the proof in hand, as I do those for all the figures I just gave. I only cited the dates on which an official accounting of the reserve funds was made.
Is this clear?
If you had carried out a serious investigation, you shouldn’t, you can’t have not known theses figures and dates any less than I do, Monsieur de Beaurepaire!
Let’s us go on now to my ministry.
When I entered rue Saint-Dominique the reserve fund was at 2,038,255 fr. 14. Of this figure there should be subtracted, pertaining to the year 1885, 58,880 fr. used as a bonus for those employees who earn less than 3,600 fr. , a bonus they had always received and which that year the budget allocations hadn’t permitted to be given them in entirety. I have always thought that the duty of a minister was to defend the interests the least of his employees and to prevent them from suffering from the budgetary whims of parliament. Which is what I did at the time, and which I’d do again if I were minister.
The reserve fund was thus at 1,979, 575 fr 14 c.
The intelligence service, on top of its usual allocation, absorbed 80,000 fr. All the patriots who recall the incidents that preceded or accompanied the Schnaebelé Affair, all the officers who worked with me and who know what we did at the time, will find that it is a small sum. And if I didn’t spend more it is because at the time I encountered much disinterested devotion.
So , Monsieur Procurator, you have forgotten that we were never closer to war?
You have forgotten the calling up of a portion of the German army reserves? I am certain that my former colleagues at the ministry haven’t forgotten the memory of our patriotic fears of the time.
You say that the reserve fund “was to have been used for the unforeseen needs of defense.” Well then; was there ever an hour when we had more urgently to think of “the needs of defense.”
I appeal on this matter to all the French.
As for me, I would have spent the left sou of the reserve fund if it had been necessary and acting any other way I would have thought I was committing a crime of insulting the fatherland.
You claim that at the time, on the contrary, my intelligence service was neglected. How did you carry out your investigation, Monsieur Procurator General? You no longer remember the German press articles that every day denounced the expansion of our espionage system?
If I only listened to my interest I would quote you a hundred different facts that would confound you, but which my patriotism obliges me to remain silent about. Nevertheless, there is one that I must speak of, despite its seriousness, because it suffices to prove that my collaborators and I did our duty, and the country will make fall upon you and all the wretches you serve the guilt for this revelation you oblige me to make.
The military attaché of a great power had organized, with superior skill, a vast system of espionage, against which we were powerless.
We managed, after much trouble, to learn where he hid his papers; one night, we snatched them. Yes, Monsieur Procurator General, for a whole night we had in our hands the list of spies, a copy of the reports addressed by the attaché to his government. We were able to copy everything in one night.
And the next day when he awoke, that officer found all his documents back in their place.
Even after he’d been transferred, he never knew how we were able to obtain certain revelations.
However much it might have cost, find one Frenchman who would dare to say that it cost too much.
And what man with common sense wouldn’t understand that to carry out such operations much money is needed?
At the end of this affair I had voted a law on espionage. It’s not my fault if it wasn’t more strictly applied, and I can assure you it would have been if I had remained in charge longer.
You dare to say, M. de Beaurepaire, that my intelligence service was neglected! Question my colleagues in Foreign Affairs, Messieurs de Freycinet and Flourens, and they will tell you how many times I provided them with precious information even on affairs they were in charge of!
Is it by chance that the section of your act of accusation saying that “my intelligence service was neglected” had not been written while you attempted to have entered in your brief depositions like that of Geissen?
You couldn’t do it, and I will tell you why.
It is because my friends published two depositions of Colonel Vincent, one before the minister of War, the other before the commission of the High court, in which this brave soldier indignantly denies the statements of M. Geissen, one of those shady agents who are used by intelligence services because the services know the double game they know how to play.
You yourself felt that the accusation against me, of having taken 100,000 francs from the intelligence service, would fall back on you when the head of the service would to tell you: You lie.
Finally, in 1887, when the danger of an immediate conflict had passed, continuing the tradition of my predecessors, who spent when they needed to and saved when it was possible, I gave orders that we economize on the secret funds so that we could replace in the reserve fund the sums we had been forced to take from it.
The written proof of this order must certainly be found at the ministry of war.
You continue to alter the truth: you affirm that I took 279,000 francs from the reserve fund. But you know that this is false. I just explained to you what I did not with 79,000 francs, but with 80,000. There remain 200,000 francs.
In his deposition my successor, General Ferron, declares that of these 20,000 francs 140,000 were loaned to the Military Circle, and 1500 were given to a Swedish officer. There thus remain 58,500 francs that my successor affirms that he found in the fund in cash, and counted himself.
Is this sufficiently precise?
According to you, the 140,000 francs given to the Military Circle were given with the aim of personal propaganda. Ask then the officers what they think of the usefulness of the Military Circle; ask this as well of M. de Freycinet., who will continue what I began by doing what I wanted to do: by giving his authorization to a vast cooperative association, the necessary corollary to the Military Circle.
I had sent a bursar to study this organization in England, where it functions admirably well at the Army and Navy Club, and my work was so evil that the current minister found nothing better to do than to continue it. A commission is at this moment completing the preliminary work and the government itself counts heavily on this work to recover some of its popularity in the army.
These 40,000 francs, incidentally, were only a loan, and at a given moment were to be returned to the reserve fund. They were provided in order to allow the Circle to give its landlord a year’s rent in advance. Since then this advance was reduced to six months and the 70,000 francs returned to the Circle’s funds should have returned to the Ministry of War. Perhaps they were; I know nothing about it.
In order to follow your argumentation, Monsieur Procurator General, since you willfully confuse at every instant the secret funds and the reserve fund I am forced to pass from the one to the other.
You say: “On the eve of his departure, no longer minister, he took 30,000 francs and misappropriated them.”
This time it is a matter of secret funds. It is true that on the eve of my departure the quartermaster Reichart gave me a sum of 30,000 francs while giving me his accounts; this sum was what remained of the monthly secret funds.
You say that I misappropriated it? Here is the receipt that establishes what I did with it:
Received from General Boulanger the sum of 32,000 francs for the various missions I fulfilled on behalf of the ministry of War in Germany and Belgium.
Paris, May 31,1887 Al. de Mondion
The person who signed it had been my agent; he had rendered great service and it is my duty to remain silent, unless you force me to speak of them. I owed him this sum, France owed it to him, and I paid it.
We will note that it exceeds by 2,000 francs that which was given me by M. Reichert.
In any other circumstances I would have said to my successor: “I owe 32,000 francs from the secret fund; there only remain 30,000 francs; please pay the 2,000 that are missing from your next monthly payment.”
But my relations with General Ferron were such that I preferred to take 2,000 francs from my pocket and say nothing.
I think, Monsieur Procurator General, that I have established my accounts in a sufficiently precise fashion. I hope that your friend, your accomplice, M. Constans, will be able to give as exact an account of these secret funds.
You then reproach me for having given 60,000 francs to a notary, for having paid my father’s debts. But if I hadn’t done this, how would you treat a man who had been for nearly two years commander -in-chief in Tunisia, 18 months minister and who consequently, for almost four years, had occupied the best paid positions in the army, but cared so little for the honor of his name as to neglect his father’s debts!
It is false that I gave 6,000 francs to an agent. Give me the name of that agent so that I can refute him!
It is also false that I furnished two apartments in town. Where are these apartments that I don’t know of? Who did I give the order to to furnish them?
I now arrive at what you call the “Avenir National Affair.”
Yes, I gave a large sum from the secret fund to the newspaper “L’Avenir National” with a determined and absolutely patriotic goal.
I completely accept responsibility and I am proud of it.
Only a few of my collaborators know what I wanted to do, and I am certain they never told you.
In order to fill out my intelligence service, made every day more difficult by the precautions taken by foreign governments, I wanted to have at my disposal an organ which – under the cover of foreign correspondents – would assist me in having agents and the means to communicate with them.
I above all wanted – and you force me to make serious revelations – to have on hand people having with the socialists of a certain country relations which I counted on using the day war would be on the eve of breaking out, but only on this day.
It was for this reason that I wanted to have on the newspaper men who had participated in socialist movements.
For such a task not only a devoted newspaper was needed, but also a newspaper which in a way was the property of the ministry of War; a newspaper whose collaborators we could act and write without their even knowing the goal towards which they were headed.
I will say no more, and the infamy of your proceedings was necessary to force me to make such revelations.
The proof that I never wanted, as you say, make a commercial operation of this is that the day I realized that the newspaper couldn’t render us the services we expected of it I ceased to give it money.
Finally, you say that “I freed up 10,000 francs in registered titles.” Is it the debts of the Military circle which I underwrote that you are speaking of?
In that case, I am going to teach you what you are unaware of: Along with a certain number of my comrades, I underwrote 10,000 francs in debt for the Military Circle when it was founded. When the Circle borrowed money from the Credit Foncier the lenders were all reimbursed, myself as well as the others. I then returned the 10,000 francs with a letter that you will find in the Circle’s archives in which I said that I made a gift of this sum to an enterprise I considered necessary to the army.
I wanted, figure by figure, to convict you of falsehood, and yet there is a quite obvious proof that I could never commit misappropriation, a proof that would dispense me from countering the others, and that’s that with the exception of this sum of 30,000 francs, given to your agent M. Mondion, not a single cent of either the reserve or secret funds ever passed though my hands.
The deposition of General Yung, my chief of Cabinet, and all the officers who were part of the general staff are, I am sure, unanimous on this point.
You claim that contrary to usage I refused to give an accounting of my secret funds to the president of the Republic. This is false.
In the first place, in keeping with the rules, I gave an accounting on December 31, 1886.
(Which incidentally, as all the ministers know, is a simple formality.)
And if I didn’t look for M. Grévy when I left the ministry to give him my accounts for January to May 1887, i.e., my accounts for only four months, it’s because the heads of service of the ministry, the sub-director d’Estourvelles and M. des Assis, accountant, told me that this was contrary to all usages.
They added that these kinds of audit reports are only done once a year, at the end of every term; that they had seen the case present itself many times, given the many ministerial changes, and that my successor would receive the audit certification on December 31, 1887.
What is more, while I was in Clermont-Ferrand my friend M. Laisant (one would say that he had guessed at that time what was going to happen today) wrote to M. Ferron to ask him if it wouldn’t be appropriate, given certain attacks, that I go to Mont-sous-Vaudrey where President Grévy could be found, to give him an accounting of the funds I had had at my disposal during the first four months of 1887.
General Ferron responded that there was no reason for this.
What is left of your indictment, Monsieur Procurator General? The proof that you odiously and knowingly slandered me.
But there is in your brief something even more infamous than your calumnies.
You say: “These misappropriations are only brought up here for information purposes, for they are under the jurisdiction of another court.”
You want to mislead public opinion, make people believe that I was a swindler, hoping that I wouldn’t have the time to defend myself. You prepared everything for a coup de théatre.
Thanks to the chance event that allowed us to have your dossier, you have been unmasked.
As for the COUP, the conspiracy that you claim to have established, the common sense of the public has already reached a verdict on this. I will nevertheless respond briefly to a few of your accusations.
According to you I began to plot as soon as I left the ministry. In fact, at that time I every day saw a certain number of politicians. Almost every evening I could be found in the offices of La Justice” and “La Lanterne.”
Was it with Messieurs Clémenceau, Pichon, Millerand, and Mayer that I then plotted the overthrow of the republic? If so, why are they too not brought before the High Court?
I challenge you, Monsieur Procurator General, to prove with a single honorable testimony that I in any way provoked the demonstrations that occurred after I left the ministry.
And as concerns my departure for Clermont-Ferrand, you simply reproduce the unreliable deposition of your secret agent Alibert.
But clumsy as you are, if I had wanted to do what you say, I would only have had to allow myself to be carried along by the crowd and I wouldn’t have left on that locomotive that your friends so often condemn me for.
Here now is an imbecilic lie, for it is too easy for me to prove the truth:
You say that on July 14, 1887 I was hidden in Paris, waiting for events to unfold.
On July 14 I was in my bed, sick in Clermont-Ferrand. If you had wanted to do something other than slander me, you would have interrogated my general staff chief who, for the needs of the service, that day entered my room on several occasions, as well as the principal doctor, the director of the health service of my army corps, who twice came to see me to take care of me, the morning and the evening of July 14.
You say that I was in Prangins? I challenge you to prove that absurdity with even one witness.
There is not one word of truth in your tale of my supposed telegraphic correspondence.
Do you know by whom or in whose name were addressed certain dispatches you speak of ,and whose meaning you travesty?
By the editor of “La Lanterne!”
As for the famous historic night, where I responded only with a disdainful silence to the both childish and revolutionary projects of certain politicians who have today become my adversaries, public opinion has for a long time been fixed concerning your inept accusations.
Finally, you attribute to me an unbelievable role in the events preceding December 2, 1887.
I did nothing but listen to the conversations of men who were my former colleagues and who, incidentally, have since then for the most part formed the Floquet cabinet.
In any case you have interrogated them, and you know what they answered you.
M. Lockroy notably said to you:
“If that day we attempted to a coup, I demand to be prosecuted, for I was part of it.”
Why did you not prosecute him?
You insinuate that I conspired with the Right, but at the time the Right was M. Ferry’s ally, and from hostility towards me voted in congress for General Saussier.
You then ask where did the money come from with which the national party fought against your masters, and you naively answer for me. You state that in less than one year I received 1,275 registered letters.
You say that I wanted to recruit the head of Security! M. Goron’s deposition figures in the dossier and establishes precisely the contrary.
You say that in the month of January I bragged of opening the World’s Fair in May. You know full well that I never pronounced these words, that they were spoken in the corridors of the Chamber by M. Thiébaud alone.
You accuse me of having wanted to recruit soldiers and officers. I challenge you to find a single officer or soldier who would dare to say on his word of honor that I attempted to recruit him.
The truth is that you have found nothing against me, and that you can find nothing, because there was nothing.
General Saussier testifies to this himself in his deposition.
Your judicial document is a tissue of clumsy slanders and cynical lies. In producing it you used nothing but the purchased testimony of an agent of the secret police and a swindler, or inept rumors taken from the books of M. Jospeh Reinach, son-in-law and nephew of Baron Kohn de Reinach, who I refused to go along with.
There is something in you brief that is even lower still.
There remains a question that you haven’t dared approach, an ill-defined accusation that you haven’t dared put in your indictment, but that I will address because I find it implicitly contained in the portion of the High Court dossier that I have before me.
In the month of October 1886 I sent to the United States a mission composed of three artillery officers in order to purchase the equipment that I was unable to find in either France or in neighboring countries in order to hasten the manufacture of the new rifle, the Lebel rifle. I don’t need to add just how urgent it was to hasten this manufacture.
After long discussions with Colonel Gras, director of the manufactory of arms, despairing of finding the necessary equipment in Europe – for the French and foreign houses demanded a year in order to procure them – I remembered that in 1881, charged by the French government with a mission to the United States, I had visited gigantic factories having immense material on hand ready to produce as soon as the order was received a formidable reserve of weapons.
I decided to send men to buy several million francs worth of these machines. The operation was a complete success and it’s thanks to it that we were able to be a year ahead of the other European nations in the fabrication of a rifle of small caliber.
And so you brought before the Commission of the Nine Colonel Gras, General Nimes, who was then director of artillery, General Mathieu, today director of the same service. Before my eyes I have all of their depositions. Monsieur Merlin, your aide, closely interrogated them on all the details of this affair. In these interrogations he didn’t dare raise a single precise accusation against me. But I take from this your unhealthy intention of trying to have it believed that in accomplishing this act of patriotism I received a commission from the American manufacturers.
You would have like to remove from your dossier all these depositions that prove the infamy of your work and the repugnant motives you obey. You didn’t dare commit this illegality, but you also didn’t dare put this accusation on your indictment.
Well then, I take it up and I say:
“What mucj are you made of, you and yours, for you to imagine that behind everything there is dishonesty; for you to think that a man with the responsibility for national defense couldn’t carry out an act useful to the fatherland without having in his head some idea of filthy lucre?”
Why did you not also accuse me of having myself paid commissions on the equipment of the Territorial Reserve Army?
Why do you not dare tell the country, revealing the secret of our military forces: “ If this minister one day, without Germany being aware of it (it only knew it, in fact, thanks to your revelations), if this patriotic minister prepared and made possible the mobilization of several hundred of thousands of soldiers, it’s only because he needed money for his pleasures.”
My adversaries, who call themselves my judges, will condemn me tomorrow. But you and your masters have already been judged and condemned by the honest people, who are the immense majority of your fatherland.
It is in vain that we will seek in the past of our French magistracy, which has the most noble history in the world, a magistrate having carried out a task like yours.
The response I give to your calumnies, as I said at the beginning, and I repeat it again, is that it’s not to my so-called judges that I address myself; it’s to all my fellow citizens, to all honest and patriotic Frenchmen, for I only care about their verdict. And they will soon render their verdict, when their ballots will condemn you, the judges you gave me, and your masters who had you carry out your evil task!
For you perhaps don’t know it, ill-informed magistrate, but the greatest complaint some of my at times too ardent friends have against me is my absolute respect for legality, consecrated by the people’s suffrage.
Yes I, who you accuse of a coup, I feel that the ballot is the sole arm that it is now permitted to employ, and if universal suffrage so often had faith in me, it’s because it knows what confidence I have in it.
It is to it that I appeal against your calumnies, which I refuted, and for the parody of justice that will take place.
I appeal against the iniquity of the parliamentarians to the justice of the people.
London, August 5, 1889