In 1900 the French government granted a general amnesty to everyone involved in the notorious Dreyfus Affair, in which anti-Semitic members of the military establishment had framed Alfred Dreyfus, who was falsely convicted of treason and spent years in prison before being released and pardoned. Dreyfus and his supporters wanted justice, not a pardon for a crime he never committed. The French government, however, wanted an end to the controversy. To prosecute the wrong-doers would have stirred the national passions, which had been stirring for far too long already.
Emile Zola, in an open letter to the President of the Republic, wrote this sentence:
The view that one can save a people from the disease that gnaws it by decreeing that the disease no longer exists is myopic indeed. [L’Aurore, 22 December 1900]
Plus ça change . . .