Light on the hill: A history of Tufts College, 1852-1952

Miller, Russell


Forces outside the denomination certainly had their influence in generating interest in education. But the Universalists would never have had either the will to attempt as much as they did or the organizational strength they had achieved by the 1840's and 1850's if competent and devoted leadership had not existed within their own ranks. Hosea Ballou 2d, the first president of Tufts College, helped furnish that leadership; his biography is in a sense the biography of much of the Universalist denomination in the first half of the nineteenth century. Gentle and retiring to the point of self-effacement, studious and meticulously thorough, he was active, in his quiet way, in most Universalist affairs during the crucial early period. In his lifetime he was overshadowed by his great-uncle Hosea Ballou, twenty-five years his senior, who helped shape the theology of American Universalism.[9]  The younger Ballou added the "2d" to his name early in life in order to avoid confusion with his great-uncle. Many people have assumed erroneously, both now and then, that they were father and son. The older Ballou spent some forty years spreading the Gospel and zestfully tackling any religious controversy that arose. By contrast, his great-nephew, an equally dedicated Universalist, exhibited his talents and expended his energies in other directions. He was, above all, the scholar of American Universalism, both by temperament and by accomplishment. He was no polemicist, and when he became a writer and editor, he used his position to counsel "union and peace." When doctrinal squabbles erupted, frequently resulting in recriminatory language and even threatening to disrupt the denomination, he served as peacemaker. He seldom made forays onto the well-populated theological battlefield of his day, preferring to leave such activities to others.

Born in Guilford, Vermont, in 1796, Hosea 2d early showed a love for books. At the age of fifteen, while himself a student of the Rev. Thomas H. Wood, under whose guidance he learned his Latin so well, Hosea 2d became a teacher. For three winters he "boarded around," and during the summer months he worked on the family farm and continued his studies. There were family hopes that he might be able to receive a college education, and with this possibility in view he received excellent basic training in classical subjects.


His later phenomenal proficiency in languages was an outgrowth and a reflection of his lifelong literary inclinations, although he never received the formal higher education which might have directed his intellectual development. During the 1820's he perfected his earlier knowledge of Latin, learned to read "with ease" French, German, and Greek, and acquired "considerable knowledge" of Hebrew.[10] 

Following his decision to enter the Universalist ministry, Hosea 2d studied theology under the elder Ballou. After the great-uncle accepted a call to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Hosea 2d assisted him in the operation of a private school which augmented a meager pastoral income. When he held his own pastorates later, Hosea 2d likewise conducted a private school, at first assisted by his younger brother Levi. In the days before formal theological training was provided, or even considered necessary, by the denomination, candidates for the ministry who had "heard the Call" followed the tradition which Hosea 2d himself had followed of apprenticing under an older and more experienced minister. During his seventeen-year pastorate in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Hosea 2d guided many students in their theological preparation. He worked out a three-year "home-study" course for his students. Among his pupils who became outstanding leaders in the denomination was John Stebbins Lee, the first president of St. Lawrence University, which was founded under Universalist auspices in 1856.[11] 

Throughout his life, Hosea 2d was intensely interested in furthering public education, and he supported it at every opportunity. Clerical influence still dominated the American educational system at all levels, so it was expected that all clergymen in a community would serve on the local school board or committee of visitors. While in Roxbury and Medford, Hosea 2d performed his duty conscientiously, and after his initial appointments were over, he served in elective capacities for many years. For almost five years, from 1854, he was on the eight-man state Board of Education, created in


1837. While on the Board he was a member of its Executive Committee for three years and was also one of the two state visitors to the Massachusetts Normal School at Bridgewater.

Meanwhile, Hosea 2d's participation in the activities of organized Universalism had begun in 1817. For over forty years he served in almost every post that a Universalist could hold in his denomination. His first assignment came at the age of twenty, just after he had accepted his first pastorate, in Stafford, Connecticut. He was appointed a member of a committee of the General Convention to obtain subscriptions for what became Nichols Academy in 1819. It was in that year that he preached the first of many Convention sermons. Within the next decade he had, among other activities, served on committees to visit the regional Associations being organized; been moderator of the General Convention several times; helped review letters of fellowship and ordination; and become "omnipresent at dedications, installations, and associations." Hosea 2d's facility with the written word, his accuracy, his attention to detail, and his willingness to accept responsibility made him a logical choice to do the "paper work" so necessary in any organization. For some fifteen years he was alternate or standing clerk of the General Convention. When the Boston Association of Universalists was organized he became its first secretary. At the General Convention in 1829 he was appointed chairman of a special committee to compile the constitution, by-laws, and other rules for the government of the Convention. When it was necessary to gather statistics on the general state of Universalism in the United States, Hosea 2d was usually appointed to the task. It was quite fitting also that he should serve on committees "to inquire into the literary qualifications of candidates for the ministry." When the proposal was made in 1832 to enlarge the jurisdiction of the General Convention to include the entire denomination rather than the New England region alone, Hosea 2d was one of the two delegates selected to represent Massachusetts on a special committee to consider the feasibility of the plan.

During the more than thirty years that Hosea 2d held pastorates in various Universalist churches in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and in fact throughout his lifetime, he manifested scholarly propensities. He contributed over 100 articles and reviews to Universalist periodicals, co-edited at various times two Universalist


papers, edited a scholarly journal which he had founded, edited the first American edition of a European work in religious history, and published a collection of psalms and hymns for Universalist use.[12]  His major research contribution was a history of Universalism during the first six centuries of the Christian era which probably did more than anything else to establish the author's reputation as a Universalist scholar.

Hosea 2d's career as a writer had begun as a youth when he wrote, by his own admission, bad poetry. His first significant prose efforts appeared in 1820 in the Universalist Magazine. This had been established the previous year by his great-uncle for the purpose of expounding and defending Universalist principles and for publishing sermons, and it was the first Universalist paper regularly published in the United States. For four years (1822-26) Hosea 2d was co-editor, together with Hosea the elder and Thomas Whittemore. Hosea 2d's active mind was constantly at work planning projects of an historical bent which would shore up the foundations of Universalism. He hoped, for example, that someone would undertake to collect a Universalist theological library of primary sources. As it turned out, he became one of the organizers of the Universalist Historical Society at the General Convention in 1834, served as its first president, and was later corresponding secretary for the Society in Massachusetts.

In 1830 there existed over half a dozen Universalist serial publications, mostly in the form of the weekly newspapers so popular before the Civil War. The best known, and probably the most widely read, was the Trumpet and Universalist Magazine, published on Cornhill in Boston. Like so many similar publications, the Trumpet went through numerous changes of title and format after it had been started as the Universalist Magazine in 1819; it lasted for almost half a century. But something seemed lacking among denominational publications. There was no organ that served "as a safe depository for the more labored Essays, for systematic Disquisitions on doctrine, and for occasional Reviews of such works as are peculiarly interesting to Universalists." In short, a journal was needed to supplement existing publications and to


traverse ground more esoteric and less popular than was covered in weekly newspapers or other publications for the family circle. The result was the Universalist Expositor, which made its first appearance in the summer of 1830. The character of the new publication was made clear in the first issue: It was to consist chiefly of "dissertations on points of Biblical Literature, critical interpretations of texts, explanations of Scriptural phrases and subjects; doctrinal Dissertations; and Expositions, both illustrative and historical, of Religious Truth in general." When occasion demanded, there might also be included reviews of religious works, "such Sermons as shall be judged of lasting as well as of immediate interest"; even "the embellishments of Poetry" would not be entirely neglected. Contributions were solicited, with the promise that as soon as the list of subscribers was sufficient, "a suitable reward" would be paid.

The man behind this experiment in scholarly publication was Hosea 2d. He felt certain that a bimonthly or quarterly journal was appropriate for a denomination that had been well established and was spreading with gratifying rapidity. The elder Ballou's name was carried as co-editor on the title page of the first volume, but it was Hosea 2d that carried the initial burden of the magazine. Appropriately enough, he wrote the first article, complete with extended footnotes.[13]  Tucked away in the middle of the first issue was also a poem from his pen, inspired by a verse from Habakkuk. His other contribution to the first volume was an article on "Observance of Sunday among the Primitive Christians." Unfortunately, publication was suspended after the second volume for lack of patronage. Nothing daunted, Hosea 2d revived the journal as the Expositor and Universalist Review in 1833. A second revival became necessary in 1838, and this effort lasted only two years, making six volumes in all. Hosea 2d's ministerial colleagues seem to have been unprepared for the profundity of his scholarship. The launching in 1844 of the Universalist Quarterly, the lineal descendant of the Expositor, was more successful. This publication, of which


Hosea 2d was editor for twelve years, lasted thirty years beyond his death in 1861.

Through the columns of such newspapers and periodicals as have been mentioned can be traced the growing interest in and concern for education among Universalists. It was, for example, in the Expositor that a handful of persistent Universalists called for the elimination of sectarianism in the public schools and for augmented Universalist efforts to do something about the problem. Even more significant in many ways was the use of Universalist publications as a vehicle for advertising the need for an educated clergy and for the establishment of one or more institutions of higher learning under denominational sponsorship.


[9] See Ernest Cassara, Hosea Ballou: The Challenge to Orthodoxy (Boston: Universalist Historical Society, 1961).

[10] Most of the books in his extensive personal library, now in the Tufts University Library and consisting of a large proportion of foreign language works, are extensively annotated in the language in which the books were written.

[11] For further information about Hosea 2d's students, and for detailed biographical data not included here, see Hosea Starr Ballou, Hosea Ballou 2d (Boston: E. P. Guild, 1896).

[12] The European work was J. C. L. Simonde de Sismondi's History of the Crusades against the Albigenses in the Thirteenth Century (Boston: B. B. Mussey, 1835).

[13] "A Dissertation on the Phrase, Kingdom of Heaven, as used in the New Testament." His articles were the most fully documented of any to appear in the journal. He was also responsible for most of the book reviews, and it was evident that he read carefully the books he reviewed.

  • Light on the Hill, the history of Tufts College, was published to coincide with the centennial of the institution in 1952. A second volume was published in 1986. This edition was created from the 1966 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume I.
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