Stand for Dreyfus
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
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).
- ENCREVÉ André, "La petite musique huguenote", La France de l'Affaire Dreyfus, Gallimard, Paris, 1994, p. 598
The end of the XIXth century was marked by an anti-Protestantism accentuated by the Dreyfus case and opposing Catholics and Protestants, while the right wing anti-republicans denounced a « Judaeo-Protestant alliance ».
Raoul Allier (1862-1939)
Professor of philosophy, Raoul Allier gets involved in Social Christianity, in the Dreyfus affair, in the preparation of the law of the Separation of Churches and State, in inciting Protestants to support the war effort from 1914, then in contacts between European theology students.
Ferdinand Buisson (1841-1932)
One of the main inspirers of school legislation of the third republic, Ferdinand Buisson was a French politician in favour of laity, co-founder and president of the Human Rights League, and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Gabriel Monod (1844-1912)
François Guizot (1787-1874)
The life of François Guizot spans practically the whole of the XIXth century. He was born into a Protestant family on October 4, 1787 – during the Ancien Régime – and he died on September 12, 1874, as Third Republic was being establishment. He marked his century as an intellectual and as a man of action. The great thinker of French political liberalism, Guizot was to be both the philosopher of representative government and the great organizer of the July Monarchy. His law on Primary Education established the bases of the French school system. A tireless worker, he left behind him a significant work in print and a considerable amount of letters.
André Gide (1869-1951)
André Gide was one of the most well-known writers of the first half of the XXth century. He was born into a protestant family and was brought up in an austere manner – he was a prolific writer and these values were apparent in his work : indeed he was continually torn between the desire for happiness and a dark obsession with sin.
Auguste Scheurer-Kestner (1833-1899)
The Protestants and French political life in the 19th century
The French Revolution enabled the Protestants to be reinserted into political life and the administration.
The vitality of the Protestant community was evident throughout the19th century, especially with two highlights: the July Monarchy(1830-1848) with François Guizot, and the beginning of the Third Republic (years 1870 and 1880).
The Protestants played a key role in reforming primary education, and implementing free, obligatory and secular education.
With their theological and cultural implication, the Protestants were involved in modernising French society. At the time of the Dreyfuss case, many called for a review of the trial.
Throughout the century the often overestimated influence of the Protestants on French society caused a Catholic anti Protestantism reaction.