Adin Ballou

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Adin Ballou

Adin Ballou (April 23, 1803 – August 5, 1890) was an American prominent proponent of pacifism, socialism and abolitionism, and the founder of the Hopedale Community. Through his long career as a Universalist, and then Unitarian minister, he tirelessly sought social reform through his radical Christian and socialist views. He is considered a philosophical anarchist[1] and his writings drew the admiration of Leo Tolstoy,[2] who sponsored Russian translations of some of Ballou's works.


Ballou was born in 1803 on a farm in Cumberland, Rhode Island, to Ariel and Elida (née Tower) Ballou. He was raised a Six-Principle Baptist until 1813 when his family was converted in a Christian Connexion revival.

Ballou married Abigail Sayles in early 1822, the same year he converted to Universalism. His wife died in 1829, shortly after giving birth to a daughter. Later that year, Ballou suffered a life-threatening illness. He was nursed back to health by Lucy Hunt, whom he married a few months later. Hosea Ballou II performed the ceremony. Of four children born to Ballou, only Abbie Ballou reached adulthood.

Ballou was a prominent local historian for Milford, writing one of the earliest complete histories of the town in 1882, "History of the town of Milford, Worcester county, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1881".[3]

Ballou died in Hopedale in 1890. Lucy Ballou died the following year.

Religious and social issues[edit]

Ballou traveled around New England lecturing and debating on Practical Christianity, Christian nonresistance, abolition, temperance, and other social issues.

Practical Christianity[edit]

Ballou believed that Practical Christians were called to make their convictions a reality; they should begin to fashion a new civilization.[citation needed]


In 1830, Ballou aligned himself with the Restorationists, who were upset with the views among some Universalists, that complete salvation and no punishment would follow death. Although Ballou served the Unitarian church, 1831–1842, Ballou continued to identify himself as a Restorationist. The Restorationists believed that the spiritual growth of sinners could be acclaimed only through God's justice, in the afterlife, before they could be restored to God's grace. As a Restorationist, Ballou agreed to edit and publish the Independent Messenger. Ballou's views led to the loss of his pulpit in Milford, Massachusetts. In 1831, Ballou, along with seven other ministers, established the Massachusetts Association of Universal Restorationists.

Christian pacifism[edit]

Ballou converted to Christian pacifism in 1838. Standard of Practical Christianity was composed in 1839 by Ballou and a few ministerial colleagues and laymen. The signatories announced their withdrawal from "the governments of the world." They believed the dependence on force to maintain order was unjust, and vowed to not participate in such government. While they did not acknowledge the earthly rule of man, they also did not rebel or "resist any of their ordinances by physical force." "We cannot employ carnal weapons nor any physical violence whatsoever," they proclaimed, "not even for the preservation of our lives. We cannot render evil for evil... nor do otherwise than 'love our enemies.'"[4]

Starting in 1843, he served as president of the New England Non-Resistance Society.[4] He worked with his friend William Lloyd Garrison until they broke over Garrison's support for violence in fighting slavery. In 1846 Ballou published his principal work on pacifism, Christian non-Resistance. Ballou was also involved with the Universal Peace Union founded in 1866.

During the American Civil War, Ballou stood by his pacifist views, unlike some Christian pacifist leaders.[citation needed]


In 1837, Ballou publicly announced he was an abolitionist. He made anti-slavery lecture tours in Pennsylvania in 1846 and in New York in 1848.

Ballou's antislavery sentiments are exemplified in his 1843 Fourth of July address entitled "The Voice of Duty," in which he called on Americans to honor the foundations of the country by not being selective or hypocritical in their judgment of who should be free: "We honor liberty only when we make her impartial--the same for and to all men." Ballou also responded to those who claimed that abolitionists dishonor the U.S. Constitution, saying that he stood "on a higher moral platform than any human compact." Of the Founding Fathers Ballou stated: "I honor them with all my heart for their devotion to right principles, for all the truly noble traits in their character, for their fidelity to their own highest light. But because I honor their love of liberty, must I honor their compromises with slavery?"


Through the temperance movement, Ballou outlined "three great practical data in ethics":

  1. That righteousness must be taught definitely, specifically, and practically to produce any marked results.
  2. That adherents of a cause must be unequivocally pledged to the practice of definitely declared duties.
  3. That such pledged adherents must voluntarily associate under explicit affirmations of a settled purpose to cooperate in exemplifying and diffusing abroad the virtues and excellences to which they are committed and not act at random in disorganized and aimless individualism.[5]


Ballou rejected "sword sustained government" that imposed its will on the populace by force, "resorting to war, capital punishment, and penal injury for the maintenance of their own existence and authority", as he put it in his book Practical Christian Socialism.[6] In that book, he makes no reference to economic socialism at all, either directly or indirectly. His expression of what is "socialist" is entirely that of ethics.[citation needed]

Hopedale Community[edit]

By 1840, Ballou was convinced his Christian convictions would not allow him to live in the worldly governments. In 1841, he and the Practical Christians purchased a farm west of Milford, Massachusetts and named it Hopedale. The community was settled in 1842.

The practical end of the Community came in 1856 when two of Ballou's closest supporters, Ebenezer and George Draper, withdrew their 75% share of the community's stock to form the successful Hopedale Manufacturing Company. George claimed the community was not using sound business practices. The community, however, continued on as a religious group until 1867, when it became the Hopedale Parish and rejoined mainstream Unitarianism. December 15, 1873, the Trustees of the Community conveyed all right, title, interest and control over to Community Square. Ballou remained as Hopedale's pastor throughout its transformation and finally retired in 1880. Adin Street and Ballou Road in the town of Hopedale, Massachusetts, are named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O. Reichert, William (August 1964). "The Philosophical Anarchism of Adin Ballou". The Huntington Library Quarterly. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  2. ^ Tolstoy, Leo (1894). "The Kingdom of God is Within You": Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion But as a New Theory of Life . Cassell Publishing Company. pp. 8–21.
  3. ^ Ballou, Adin (1882). History of the town of Milford, Worcester county, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1881. Boston: Rand, Avery, & co. (2 vols)
  4. ^ a b Weinberg, Arthur; Weinberg, Lila Shaffer (1963). Instead of violence. New York: Grossman Publishers. p. 375.
  5. ^ Ballou, Autobiography, 223 (abridged)
  6. ^ Practical Christian Socialism


External links[edit]