Ballou, Tolstoi, and Ghandi

    Adin Ballou was especially interested in the cause of non-resistance and had joined a society for
    that cause in 1830, having been inspired by the New Testament ideas on the subject. It was but
    natural that the Hopedale Community printing press would publish some of Ballou’s tracts on this
    subject, such as “On Christian Non-resistance. The great Russian, Tolstoi was devoted to the
    principles of non-resistance and Reverend Lewis B. Wilson, who was a devoted student of Ballou's
    works, decided that these two men, the noted writer in Russia, the humbler one in America, should
    know one another. Accordingly, he sent some of the non-resistance pamphlets with a letter to
    Tolstoi, then an old man of 87 years. Tolstoi was much impressed and wrote to Ballou, “Two of your
    tracts are very well translated into Russian and propagated among believers, and richly appreciated
    by them.” To Reverend Wilson, who had suggested in a letter that Ballou’s writing was not destined
    for theimmortality that his (Tolstoi’s) was sure to enjoy, Tolstoi replied, “He will be in the future
    acknowledged as one of the chief benefactors of mankind,” and again Tolstoi asserted that Ballou
    was “the greatest American writer.” This correspondence was printed in a periodical named “The
    Arena,” published December 1890, compiled by Rev. Wilson. The Arena, here mentioned, is bound
    for careful preservation and may be read at the Bancroft Library.

    Apropos of this correspondence between Tolstoi and Ballou a friend of mine wrote to me that she
    had heard a guest minister applying for a friend in a town near Boston preach on the power of an
    idea,or some such topic. When the minister spoke of a seedling idea nourished in the little town of
    Hopedale (of which many of his congregation had never heard), my friend pricked up her ears, for
    she had visited me here. Then she heard how Adin Ballou’s tracts, printed on a tiny press in the
    Community, had fallen into Tolstoi’s hands. Tolstoi had been in communication with a young man in
    South Africa who had been attracted by Tolstoi’s ideas and writing on non-resistance. The young
    man was an Indian who had fallen afoul pf British Authorities. Tolstoi sent him the Ballou pamphlets,
    printed in Hopedale, in the English with which he was familiar. Are you surprised to know that the
    political prisoner languishing in a South African prison was none other that Ghandi? So little seeds
    grow to great size and create great turns in the history of nations.

    Since writing this last paragraph, I have read that Ghandi was influenced by the writings and
    thought of Thoreau. This must have been the idea of others who wrote of the ”American” influence
    on Ghandi through his communication with Tolstoi.

    This is a subject that can well be worth looking into but takes more research that I have had time
    for. I intend to write to the author of the article I read last week and ask for his authority in naming
    Thoreau as the American who influenced Ghandi so strongly in his non-resistant policy throughout
    his struggles for Indian independence.

    From a paper in the Hopedale Community Historical Society files in the Bancroft Memorial
    Library, Hopedale, Massachusetts, by Rachel Day.

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