Lot 289
  • 289


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  • Important autograph letter signed, in English, to the writer and humanitarian Herbert welsh, regarding the Philippines and appropriate Christian response to violence
2 pages (5 1/4 x 8 3/8 in.; 135 x 213 mm) on paper. Dated "15 Dec. 1902", and signed "Leo Tolstoy"; short closed splits to folds repaired, one or two closed marginal tears repaired.

Catalogue Note

Providing a critique of the American-Philippine war which had just ended, responding to receiving Welsh’s book The Other Man’s Country, a vociferous attack on American policy in the Philippines and affirming his view that violence is never justified. He broadens out his argument to mention events in China and the behavior of “pseudo-Christian” countries and cites Matthew Arnold’s concept of “sweet reasonableness” "…Violence, which in itself is a crime, cannot be used to a certain extent. Deeds as those that have been done in the Philippines, in China, and are daily done in all pseudo-Christian states, will continue till humanity will not accept violence as a means to produce good results, and will accept the chief precepts of Christianity to act on our brethren, not as an animal by violence, but by 'sweet reasonableness' (as Matthew Arnold termed it), which is the only way to act thoroughly and durably on reasonable beings…."    

This celebrated letter was published in 1903 as a response to the violence of the American-Philippine War (1899-1902), which followed on from the Spanish-American War. At least 200,000 people will killed in that conflict, though in fact the figure could have been five times that number. Tolstoy outlines his philosophy of non-violence at all costs, expressed most vividly in his The Kingdom of God is within you (1895). His doctrine of “Non-resistance to evil by force was one of the central tenets of Tolstoy’s belief in his last years. The Philadelphian Herbert Welsh (1851-1941) was a proponent of these ideas. His papers are now in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He is described by the Society thus: “…[Welsh] was very critical of the interventionist role played by the United States after the Spanish American War and took a very vocal stance against U.S. intervention in the Philippine Islands, even writing a book (The Other’s Man Country, 1900) about torture by American soldiers during the Phillipine occupation. His anti-imperialist activism connected with his involvement in international arbitration and his participation in the League of Nations. In the same vein, he was part of the Friends of German Democracy organization, and led efforts to call attention to the injustices committed against people in Turkey, Armenia, and Syria…”