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The Case of the Death of Vincent Foster by David Martin all rights reserved In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.
The combat of the individual against society, truth against deception, is specific neither to France nor to the end of the nineteenth century. That is the challenging "compare and contrast" essay question that we never had enough time to do full justice to on final exams.
Our only regret is that our professors seemed to leave almost all such analysis to callow students, engaging in much too little of it in their all-too-linear lectures. To demonstrate the strength of the "compare and contrast" method in elucidating history, I propose herewith to apply it to the Dreyfus Affair, which began with the arrest of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in France on suspicion of treason in October ofand the Vincent Foster case, which began with the discovery of the deputy White House counsel's body almost a hundred years later, on July 20, As the Dreyfus Affair disrupted France, the Foster death, and its handling by the authorities, has shown signs that it will haunt the U.
Perhaps too much has been made of the relationship between the official framing of Captain Dreyfus and French anti-Semitism. By regarding it so, we are able to distance ourselves from it, treating it as just one more example of the irrational behavior that mindless bigotry can engender or, alternatively, we are tempted to dismiss it as an episode which has been kept alive in history by the same powerful and influential people who keep reminding us of our collective guilt for allowing the Holocaust.
In either case we would be greatly in error. It is indeed true that Dreyfus was a relatively low-level, anonymous officer in the French army, and mistakes and miscarriages in the imperfect world of jurisprudence, especially military jurisprudence, happen all the time.
But the way in which the case unfolded--and unraveled--did in fact almost tear France apart, actively polarizing virtually the entire society in ways seldom experienced in any country except on occasion during the prosecution of an unpopular war. It may have started as a relatively small case, but it grew into a gigantic affair, "one of the great commotions of history,"  for the same reason that the Foster case has the potential to do the same.
The French government, and virtually the entire French ruling establishment, including the press, put its prestige on the line in defense of a blatant injustice, an eventually provable lie. The fact that Dreyfus was Jewish was no more than incidental to the original suspicion.
An act of treason had demonstrably taken place. Pressure mounted quickly to find the guilty party. German espionage success had been a major contributing factor in the humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. The country was already beset with a general paranoia. The stab-in-the-back explanation for military defeat after World War I was not original with the Germans.
Now, a document divulging military secrets was discovered en route to the traditional enemy. Dreyfus was in a position, or at least almost so, to have been the sender, and he seemed just the right type of quiet, unsociable, stiff, cold, generally disliked person to be capable of the dastardly deed.
That he was of an ethnic group generally suspected of being insufficiently loyal to Mother France was just one more factor persuading the military accusers of Dreyfus' guilt, and some of his key accusers were indeed openly and fiercely anti-Semitic. We can best relate to the situation, however, by recognizing that Jews in France at the time were among the demons du jour, along with Germans, foreigners in general, and Freemasons, much like our current ruling establishment has its militia members, far-right Christian extremists, and even angry white males.
Convinced though they were of his guilt, they were not convinced they could convict him in an open court with the evidence in hand. But too much political capital had already been invested, partly on the basis of strategic leaks to a sympathetic press who puffed the story up, for an innocent verdict to be permitted.
A trial was held in secret before five military judges, and a unanimous verdict of guilty was duly rendered upon the basis of a dossier assembled, and to a degree, manufactured, by the prosecution. The defense was, quite illegally, never permitted to see--in fact, was at the time unaware of--the essential evidence against the accused.
The death penalty for political crimes having been abolished inDreyfus was condemned to life imprisonment on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. Newspapers across the political spectrum all hailed the swift guilty verdict. Further nailing down the case, the false story that Dreyfus had actually confessed was soon published, and reprinted, in various organs sympathetic to the government.
That, the unanimous verdict of the military panel, the opinion of the newspapers, and the natural tendency of the populace to accept the word of authority, was enough to satisfy almost the entire country, at least initially. For the next three years, the case stayed largely out of the public eye, though a few individuals, uneasy about the closed trial and the excessive zeal with which it had to be sold to the public, began probing into the matter, discovering some of the weakness of the case against Dreyfus and uncovering evidence that pointed to another officer by the name of Major Ferdinand Walsin- Esterhazy, a bon vivant of dubious character who was unmistakably a gentile.
Ironically, in his memoirs published inGerman Military Attache Maximilian von Schwarzkoppen revealed that the traitorous major's first overture was made on July 20,ninety-nine years to the day before the Foster death.
Other parallels to the case are striking. One of the largest is the similarity of the national mood. As it neared the end of the century, France was having trouble coping with what was perceived as the decline of traditional values. The following quote refers to the election of Above all, one ought to note the troubling lassitude of the voters--out of ten and a half million who were registered, fewer than seven and a half million votes were cast.Jacksonville State University (JSU) is a regional public university in Jacksonville, feelthefish.comd in , Jacksonville State offers programs of study in five academic units leading to Bachelor's, Master's, Education Specialist, and Doctorate in addition to continuing and distance education programs.
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The thunder-and-lightning example seems like a bad comparison for this kind of situation, in that the false claim is (1) easily observable to be untrue, and (2) utterly useless to the society that propagates it. The Body Shop Essay examples; The Body Shop Essay examples.
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