Friday, November 23, 2012

Adin Ballou - A Pioneer in Pacifism

There is an individual who preceded Gandhi who believed strongly in progressive causes that were far ahead of his time.  His name was Adin Ballou, born on April 23, 1803 on a farm in Cumberland Rhode Island.  Ballou became a proponent of pacifism, believed in socialist ideals and vociferously opposed slavery.  All of these conceptions were exceedingly radical for his time.  His views were to profoundly influence Leo Tolstoy who translated his writings into Russian.

He was raised as a Baptist, but converted to Universalism in 1822 – a religious orientation that accepts its precepts as applicable to all of humanity and that embraces all religious beliefs; that same year he married Abigail Sayles.  Unfortunately, Abigail died in 1829 shortly after she gave birth to their first child.  Ballou later married Lucy Hunt.  Of his four children, only one actually reached adulthood, Abbie Ballou. 

Ballou was a passionate believer in what he referred to as, "Practical Christianity."  According to this point of view, Christians were duty-bound to translate their religious convictions into reality.  He traveled all through New England arguing for this approach towards living.  Among the types of social action he supported were Christian nonresistance, abolition, and temperance.  In this capacity, he aligned himself with the Unitarian church from 1831 through 1842, but considered himself to be a Restorationist - Restorationists were at odds with members of the Unitarian church over a number of theological issues.


When Ballou was almost forty years old he founded the Hopedale Community – Fraternal Community No. 1 in Worcester County, Massachusetts in 1842.  Ballou and his like-minded followers purchased a 600 acre plot of land on which they built houses for its members along with textile factories and religious houses.   The stated purpose of this enterprise was to create what he envisioned to be a utopian society and was a synthesis of an industrial-based community with spiritual values. 

The underlying purpose of this community was to put into practice, his ideal of Practical Christianity, for he felt that the primary responsibility of its occupants was to engage in social reform.  Ballou essentially modeled the socially active intent of the community upon the life and works of Jesus Christ.  Its emphasis was on equality, love and sharing.  He had hoped that unlike other such communities, it would endure because rather than being isolated, it would be intimately involved in the life of the people around them.  The overall goal of the community was to serve as a model for social reform during the Civil War period.  The values of the community included: temperance, the abolition of slavery, women's rights, spiritually-based living and education.  On many occasions, Ballou was called upon to settle disputes that occurred periodically between members of the community; this gave him an opportunity to apply his principles to real life situations.

One of the most important contractual arrangements between members of Hopedale and the organization was that each member would invest his property in the community in order to sustain it.  Despite the best efforts of its members, Hopedale became bankrupt after fourteen years of existence (1856).  The land was subsequently purchased by George and Ebenezer Draper and transformed into a textile factory town with the Hopedale manufacturing company at its center.  The Draper brothers were actually members of the community who withdrew their seventy-five percent share.  This was a serious blow to Ballou for the community was exceedingly important to him.  Yet in spite of his feelings, he remained friends with the Drapers.   The community remained as a religious group, however, and eventually became the Hopedale parish with Ballou as its minister.  There is a thoroughfare called Adin Street in the town of Hopedale named after its illustrious resident. 


A core value in Ballou's belief system was pacifism.  In 1938, he converted to Christian Pacifism and was one of the authors of the Standard of Practical Christianity that was completed in 1839.  The following is an excerpt from this document.

"We cannot employ carnal weapons nor any physical violence whatsoever to compel moral agents to do right, or to prevent their doing wrong — not even for the preservation of our lives. We cannot render evil for evil, railing for railing, wrath for wrath, nor revenge insults and injuries, nor layup grudges, nor be overcome of evil, nor do otherwise than "love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us.

"We cannot indulge the lust of dominion, nor exercise arbitrary authority, nor cherish bigotry, nor be egotistical, nor receive honorary titles, nor accept flattery, nor seek human applause, nor assume the place of dignity. We cannot be pharisaical, self-righteous, nor dogmatic. We cannot do evil that good may come. We cannot resent reproof, nor justify our faults, nor persist in wrong-doing.

"We cannot excommunicate, anathematize, or execrate an apostate, heretic, or reprobate person otherwise than withdrawing our fellowship, refusing our confidence, and declining familiar intercourse.

"We cannot be cruel, even to the beasts of the earth. We cannot be inhuman, unmerciful, unjust, unkind, abusive, or injurious to any being of our race. We cannot be indifferent to the sufferings of distressed humanity, nor treat the unfortunate with contempt. But we hold ourselves bound to do good, as we have opportunity, unto all mankind; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, minister to the sick, visit the imprisoned, entertain the stranger, protect the helpless, comfort the afflicted, plead for the oppressed, seek the lost, lift up the fallen, rescue the ensnared, reclaim the wandering, reform the vicious, enlighten the benighted, instruct the young, admonish the wayward, rebuke the scornful, encourage the penitent, confirm the upright, and diffuse a universal charity."

Ballou remained a staunch and undaunted advocate of pacifism even within the midst of the Civil War (1861-1865) when passions were exceedingly high on both sides of the conflict.  Many other pacifist leaders abandoned this belief during the war on account of their strong anti-slavery sentiments.   This war ultimately resulted in the deaths of over 600.00 individuals from both North and South.

In 1866, during the post-Civil War era, Ballou along with his colleagues including Joshua P. Blanshard, Henry C. Wright, Alfred H. Love and Lucretia Mott created the Universal Peace Union (UPU).  The UPU took an uncompromising pacifist position; its goal was to work towards the amelioration of the causes of war and tolerate, "…no compromise with the principles of love and nonviolence…"

The members of the UPU upheld the basic principles of love and nonviolence. Specifically they preached immediate disarmament and worked for a general treaty among nations, arbitration, and unconditional submission to an international tribunal. 

The UPU denounced imperialism, compulsory military training, memorials and war demonstrations, war taxes, capital punishment, lynching of African Americans, the spread of white imperialism in Africa, the exclusion of Asian immigration and the continued denial of rights to native Americans.  Because of their work, Pennsylvania laws were relaxed towards conscientious objectors.  The UPU was active in promoting the rights of women. Many women served equally with men on all executive committees and working committees. Women made up at least 50 per cent of the membership of UPU and they were active in the organization's agenda. Early in its career the UPU believed that peace might be obtained in industry through arbitration. In 1880 members helped settle a dispute between the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Reading Railroad management. Alfred Love, the president of the UPU, was the arbitrator in this action.


In his book entitled, Christian Non-Resistance, Ballou described an essential aspect of his core belief in the following way, "Faith, then, in the inherent superiority of good over evil, truth over error, right over wrong, love over hatred, is the immediate moral basis of our doctrine." 


The issue of slavery during this period of the nation's history was exceedingly divisive as the ultimate brutality of the Civil War would attest.  Since the capacity to enslave another human being against their will necessarily requires the continuous application of violence or the threat of violence, it is no surprise that Ballou would be an adamant foe of slavery.  He proclaimed his abolitionist stance in 1837 and traveled through the states of New York and Pennsylvania to make his position known.  His sentiments were captured in an address he made on the Fourth of July 1843 in which he proclaimed, "We honor liberty only when we make her impartial – the same for and to all men."   Where Ballou differed from some of his colleagues in regards to the methods used to achieve the goal of the abolition of slavery was in his insistence that it be a non-violent struggle.


Ballou died on August 5, 1890.  Although he never has been fully recognized for his decades of tireless work for the causes of peace and social justice, his thoughts, ideas and actions have had a major impact on those who would follow.  In fact, what Ballou referred to as moral power or non-injurious force is, in many ways, analogous to Gandhi's Satyagraha – truth-force that he – Gandhi – applied many years later in his non-violent struggle to free the Indian people from British domination.

No comments: