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Dreyfus' acquittal documents scanned and available

The Dreyfus affair dragged on for 12 years, from the moment Captain Alfred Dreyfus was found guilty of espionage and treason committed against France, in 1894, until his final acquittal without appeal, following his second trial in 1906. The affair included a long string of dramatic episodes and personae, among whom there were officers in the army, politicians, journalists, public figures, writers, artists, civil servants and legal personalities. One of the main protagonists of the final drama, namely of Dreyfus' irrefutable acquittal, was Manuel Achille Baudouin, the General Prosecutor during Dreyfus' second trial. Baudouin, who was born in Tours in 1846, was a rising star in the French legal system. From his youth he was known for his outstanding intellect, his patent ability to reach the truth and for his phenomenal capacity for hard work. In 1904, as an objective professional of the law, Baudouin asserted that essential evidence used to find Dreyfus guilty had been forged already in 1899, and that the accusations brought against Dreyfus seemed baseless. Once Baudouin had reached his conclusion, he acted relentlessly to convince the court to reassess the original ruling.

​ Manuel Achille Baudouin
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Baudouin prepared an 800-page report and presented it to the court in 1905. The document includes hundreds of pages of precise legal and evidential analysis. Following the document's analysis, the court ruled, on July 12th 1906, that Dreyfus shall be acquitted with no possibility of appeal. In addition to the written document, Manuel Achille Baudouin also made a lengthy oral statement before the court. In his detailed exposition he succeeded in systematically demolishing the ruling of the 1894 military court, which had reached its distorted conclusion behind closed doors. 12 years after the original ruling, justice was done, to a great extent thanks to the General Prosecutor Baudouin.

 

Baudouin went on to have a brilliant legal career. In 1911 he rose to the position of President of the Court of Appeals, in which capacity he served until his death in 1917. The renowned judge was granted a full military funeral, as requested by the Minister of Justice in recognition of Judge Baudouin's outstanding service.

 

As fate would have it, Baudouin's descendants left France and immigrated to Canada. Moreover, Baudouin's great-grandson, Jean-Louis Baudouin, became a judge in Montreal. The Canadian judge kept in his possession precious documents belonging to the General Prosecutor who was instrumental in Dreyfus' acquittal: hundreds of hand-written pages, the notes used to establish his case in his oral presentation before the court of appeals. This extensive historical document has not been published yet and is not generally known. Judge Jean-Louis Baudouin thought that this important material should be deposited at a suitable institution in Israel. Therefore, he contacted the National Library of Israel, through a colleague from the legal circles in Montreal, Mr. Ronald Levy.
 
The matter came to the attention of Dr. Betty Halpern-Guedj of the National Library who spared no effort to have the material reach the National Library for the benefit of scholars and of all those interested in the Dreyfus Affair. Thanks to the good will Judge Jean-Louis Baudouin, who thus eternalizes his great-grandfather's role in history, and thanks to Mr. Ronald Levy's intervention, the hundreds of pages with Judge Manuel Achille Baudouin's notes are open to the public on the National Library's website. Those interested may follow the legal reasoning and the unveiling of evidence which led to the complete acquittal of Captain Alfred Dreyfus.

 

Among the many remarks made by Manuel Achille Baudouin, an interesting one, of the more general kind refers to "The absolute inability of the military legal system when it acts as it does today, to shed light on any issue whatsoever, even when the matter at hand is not complicated." Baudouin minced no words in assessing the shaky fundaments of Dreyfus' guilty sentence emitted by the original military court: "The very base of the accusation does not stand: there is no crime, there is no wrong doing, in itself. Dreyfus was found guilty though he was innocent: the ruling cast at him must be annulled, with no possible appeal in this matter… If the court admits that the borderau is an actual act of treason, it now faces both with Dreyfus' patently proven innocence as well as with Esterhazy's proven guilt, the same Esterhazy who admits that he is the person who concocted the damning document, as he did…"

 
Now, in a moving and unexpected twist of History, high quality scans of hundreds of manuscript pages in Judge Baudouin's own hand are deposited at the National Library. The vast material, which includes not only Baudouin's thoughts and words, but also the legal references he used, as well as a rich system of color marking in the text, is a unique source for understanding Dreyfus' acquittal, and for deciphering the trajectory of the affair which shook France, the Jews in France and elsewhere and the whole World during the 12 years between 1894 and 1906 in what is still relevant to matters which preoccupy the Jewish as well as the European public at the beginning of the 21st century.


The first page of Baudouin's notes