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Adin Ballou (April 23, 1803August 5, 1890) was a 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.


Ballou was born in 1803 on a farm in Cumberland, Rhode Islandmarker to Ariel and Edilda 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 died in Hopedale in 1890. Lucy Ballou died the following year.

Religious & Social Issues

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

Practical Christianity

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


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 only be acclaimed through God’s justice, in the afterlife, before they could be restored to His 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, Massachusettsmarker. In 1831, Ballou, along with seven other ministers, established the Massachusetts Association of Universal Restorationists.

Christian pacifism

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.'"

Starting in 1843 he served as president of the New England Non-resistance Society. 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 Civil War, Ballou stood by his pacifist views when other Christian pacifist leaders did not.


In 1837, Ballou publicly announced he was an abolitionist. He made anti-slavery lecture tours in Pennsylvaniamarker in 1846 and in New Yorkmarker 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 whom 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.

The Hopedale Community

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, Massachusettsmarker 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 wasn't 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 in the town of Hopedale, Massachusettsmarker is named after him.

See also


  1. Ballou, Autobiography, 223 (abridged)
  • Ballou, Adin. 1854. Practical Christian Socialism: A Conversational Exposition of the True. Fowlers and Wells. Google books full text
  • Ballou, Adin. "The Voice of Duty: An Address at the Anti-Slavery Picnic at Westminister, Massachusetts July 4, 1843." Antislavery Literature Project. 2008. 19 Feb 2008. Link
  • Gougeon, Len. "Ballou, Adin." American National Biography Online . Feb 2000. 19 Feb 2008. Link
  • Hughes, Peter. "Ballou, Adin." Unitarian Universalist Historical Society. 2007. 19 Feb 2008. Link

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