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ALS Written by Dreyfus’ Defender Ten Days Following his Prison Release

Item: 22211
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PICQUART, GEORGES-MARIE. (1854-1914). French officer, Dreyfus’ instructor at the War College and chief of military intelligence. In 1896, following the interception of a letter (the petit bleu) from the German military attaché in Paris to French Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, Picquart opened an investigation into Esterhazy, the spy whose treason had been pinned on Dreyfus. ALS. (“G. Picquart”). 1p. 8vo. Ville d’Avray, June 23, 1899. To Mr. Dittelbach. In French with translation.

“You are a thousand times kind, but I would not, however, impose on you a day that would not be convenient to you. I could be free next Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Please tell me what suits you best.

My respectful homages to Madame Dittelbach, your most devoted…”

Picquart in uniform

Georges-Marie Picquart

The 1894 conviction for treason of French-Jewish artillery captain Alfred Dreyfus and his subsequent exile and imprisonment on the French Guiana penal colony Devil’s Island, hinged on an intercepted memo, or bordereau, which revealed French military secrets and had been sent anonymously to the German military attaché, Captain Schwartzkoppen, in Paris. The memo’s actual author was French Major Marie-Charles-Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy, a spy in German employ. Additional evidence, intended to implicate Dreyfus, was secretly forged by French Army officers and submitted to the military judges presiding over the legal proceedings. Following his conviction, Dreyfus languished for years in solitary confinement, while his family and supporters attempted to clear his name. Anti-Dreyfusards, led by a virulent anti-Semitic French press, regularly circulated rumors and lies about him.

Despite his own anti-Semitism, Picquart, in 1896, reported the discovery of the petit bleu which implicated Esterhazy and exonerated Dreyfus. Engaged in a massive cover-up, the army first punished Picquart by re-assigning him to active duty in Tunisia. Then, upon Esterhazy’s acquittal on January 11, 1898, Picquart was imprisoned the day Zola’s letter J’Accuse…! was published. Picquart testified at Zola’s libel trial and became one of Dreyfus’ most outspoken supporters. On February 1, 1898, Picquart was “discharged for gross misconduct in the service,” effective February 26th, three days after Zola was found guilty. Picquart was then falsely charged of forging the petit bleu, which led to his second imprisonment on July 13, 1898, five days before Zola’s second conviction. Petitions, signed by thousands calling for Picquart’s release were circulated in Le Siècle and L’Aurore before he was freed on June 13, 1899, ten days before he penned our letter. In 1906, like Dreyfus, Picquart was exonerated and promoted brigadier general; on October 25th he became Clemenceau’s Minister of War. Picquart is the protagonist in Robert Harris’ best-selling 2013 historical thriller An Officer and a Spy.

In excellent condition and scarce, especially from this period.

ALS Written by Dreyfus’ Defender Ten Days Following his Prison Release

$1800 • item #22211

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