ADIN BALLOU (1803-1890) grew up on a farm in Cumberland, Rhode Island. When he was 11 his family was converted by the Christian Connexion, under whose auspices he began preaching at age 18. Shortly afterward he converted to Universalism. He served as Universalist minister in New York City and in Milford, Massachusetts, 1824-31. In 1831 he was one of a group of Universalists who seceded to form their own denomination, the Massachusetts Association of Universal Restorationists. While serving a Unitarian church in Mendon, Massachusetts, 1831-1842, he was for nearly a decade a leader of the Restorationist movement.
During the 1830s Ballou became increasingly interested in reform causes, notably temperance and abolitionism. In 1838 he was converted to the cause of peace and Christian non-resistance. His promotion of social causes was a major factor in the breakup of the Restorationists in 1839. In 1842 he organized Fraternal Community No. 1 (later called the Hopedale Community) in Hopedale, Massachusetts.
This community, founded on non-resistant principles, repudiated participation in any government that relied upon ultimate recourse to coercive force. The people of Hopedale experimented with various forms of socialism, rejecting pure communism and eventually adopting a joint-stock constitution. The community survived and largely prospered for 14 years before the largest shareholders engineered its sudden collapse in 1856 and converted the community into a company town.
During the Hopedale years Ballou edited the community’s newspaper, the Practical Christian, and wrote his major works, Christian Non-Resistance (1846) and Practical Christian Socialism (1854). During the Civil War he was nearly alone among abolitionists in maintaining his pacifist principles.
He remained in Hopedale as minister of the Unitarian church, retiring in 1880. Late in life he wrote a number of historical books, including the History of the Hopedale Community, History of the Town of Milford, and his Autobiography. In the last year of his life he corresponded with Leo Tolstoy, upon whom Ballou’s exposition of Christian non-resistance had a great influence.