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The work of Count Leo Tolstoy entitled The Law of Love and the Law of Violence has never been published in Russia, and consequently was not translated into English with the rest of his works.  A Russian author, M. Halperine-Kaminsky, translated it into French from the manuscript and published it in France.

Shortly after its publication, Paul Bourget’s drama La Barricade was produced in Paris.  This play, based on the idea of inter-class warfare, was the subject of much controversy.  It was even supposed that, in answer, Tolstoy wrote this treatise with its theory of the “Law of Love” as opposed to the “Right of Violence” proclaimed by the French master and his friends.  But this supposition was erroneous, for the book was published first.

M. Halperine-Kaminsky sent Count Tolstoy criticisms of the play from the pens of such well-known writers as Rene Dounic and M. de Mun, and received the following reply:

Mr. Halperine-Kaminsky:

Thank you very much for the articles on The Barricade.  I read the most interesting ones at once.

Yes, it is a very significant phenomenon, and I should like to give you my opinion on this subject.  But I have so little strength left, so short a time to live, and so much work on hand that I doubt if I shall entirely realize my desire.

For the moment, what struck me most in the debates caused by Mr. Bourget’s play is their astonishing mixture of profound erudition, great intelligence, extraordinary elegance of language, and subtle courtesy towards the adversary.  But I am also struck by their most brutal egotism, concerned only with personal and class interest, and absolute ignorance of religious and moral principles, even those which are indispensable to our lives and without which man descends to the level of the beasts.  This is in spite of the invention of marvelous flying machines, or of the wonderful perfection of the artists of the Theatre Français, of the Vaudeville, and the like.

I am particularly surprised that men like M. Bourget and his friends can still speak so seriously of Catholicism in France in 1910, after Voltaire, Rousseau, and many other thinkers.  Nothing proves more clearly how misguided these men have been, not as to their intelligence, but as to their reasoning; not their polish and brilliance, but their morality.  In this conflict it is evident that tous les moyens sont bons.[1]

We know well, they say, that Catholicism is the most vulgar, the most absurd, and the most stupefying of lies, and that it has long since been denounced and stripped bare; but it serves our purposes.  Let us make use of it…

My best wishes,

Leo Tolstoy

It is interesting to see what Tolstoy thought of the state of the world just before the Great War.  In spite of his apparent pessimism, he was as hopeful as Mr. H. G. Wells for the future condition of mankind.  But in his sweeping denunciation of legislators, judges, and all sorts of authorities, he went far beyond the English writer, who says, “Our State could have grown up in no other way.  We had to have these general dealers in human relationship, politicians and lawyers, as a necessary stage in political and social advancement.  Just as we had to have soldiers and policemen to save people from mutual violence.” [2]


Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  (John, 3:19-21)

The worst thing of all is when man begins to fear the truth lest it denounce him.  (Blaise Pascal)

The glory of the good is in their conscience and not in the mouths of men.[3]

The only reason why I am writing this is because, knowing the one means of salvation for Christian humanity from its physical suffering, as well as from the moral corruption in which it is sunk, I, who am on the edge of the grave, cannot be silent.[4]

All thinking people must admit that the present life of Christian nations will deteriorate more and more if we cannot make up our minds to modify it.  The misery of the disinherited and the luxury of the rich increase each day. The struggle of all against all – revolutionaries against governments, governments against revolutionaries, oppressed nations against their oppressors, state against state, the West against the East – is becoming ever more bitter.

Many are aware of this.  Unfortunately, they very rarely see the cause of the lamentable situation, and still less the means of remedying it.  They give all sorts of reasons for it, and propose numerous remedies, but not the right one. 

The cause of the unhappy situation of Christian humanity is the lack of a superior conception of life and a rule of conduct in accordance with it, a rule held in common by all people professing Christianity.

The cure for this situation, a cure neither fantastic nor artificial, but natural, can be found in the practical observance of the conception of life revealed to humanity nineteen centuries ago, and which today answers to the intellectual and moral development of humanity: Christian Doctrine in its true sense.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1►

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[1] Translator’s note – All means are justifiable.

[2] Translator’s note – Men Like Gods, page 283.

[3] Translator’s note – Unattributed epigraphs placed at the beginning of the chapters are quotations from Tolstoy’s works made by the author himself. 

[4] Transcriber’s note – Tolstoy wrote this in 1908.  He did not die until 1910.