The Dreyfus Affair Fifty Years Later:
The Captain Who Became a Case
At the beginning of the First World War, Henry James wrote of France: “… she takes charge of those interests of man which most dispose him . . . to find and to make the earth a friendlier, an easier, and especially a more various sojourn. ” Yet the France of which James wrote with so much love was the Third Republic, whose political history was often unpleasant and sordid, full of cheap scandals. One president, Jules Grévy, had to resign because his son-in-law had sold appointments to the Legion of Honor. Another, Félix Faure, died in the presidential palace in the arms of his mistress. Over a hundred members of the National Assembly were bribed when the Panama Company made its last effort to raise more money for its hopeless venture, a sea-level canal through the Isthmus of Panama. Just before his public eulogy of France, James had expressed his private disgust with the Caillaux case (“what a family and what a trial”), in which the finance minister’s wife, after murdering a journalist who had vilified her husband and herself, was triumphantly acquitted.
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