Hosea Ballou (1771-1852), American Universalist clergyman, was born in Richmond, New Hampshire, on the 30th of April 1771. He was a son of Maturin Ballou, a Baptist minister, was self-educated, early devoted himself to the ministry, became a convert to Universalism in 1789, and in 1794 became a pastor of a congregation at Dana, Massachusetts. He preached at Barnard, Vermont, and the surrounding towns in 1801-1807; at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1807-1815; at Salem, Massachusetts, in 1815-1817; and as pastor of the Second Universalist Church in Boston from December 1817 until his death there on the 7th of June 1852. He founded and edited The Universalist Magazine (1819; later called The Trumpet) and The Universalist Expositor (1831; later The Universalist Quarterly Review); wrote about 10,000 sermons, many hymns, essays and polemic theological works; and is best known for Notes on the Parables (1804), A Treatise on Atonement (1805) and Examination of the Doctrine of a Future Retribution (1834); in these, especially the second, he showed himself the principal American expositor of Universalism. His great contribution to his Church was the body of denominational literature he left.

From the theology of John Murray, who like Ballou has been called "the father of American Universalism," he differed in that he divested Universalism of every trace of Calvinism and opposed legalism and trinitarian views.

Consult the biography by Thomas Whittemore (4 vols., Boston, 1854-1855) and that by Oscar F. Safford (Boston, 1889); and J. C. Adams, Hosea Ballou and the Gospel Renaissance (Boston, 1904).

His grand-nephew, Hosea Ballou (1796-1861), born in Halifax, Vermont, on the 18th of October 1796, preached to Universalists in Stafford, Connecticut (1815-1821); and in Massachusetts, in Roxbury (1821-1838) and in Medford (1838-1853); and in 1853 was elected first president of Tufts College at Medford, serving in that office until shortly before his death, which took place at Somerville, Massachusetts, on the 27th of May 1861. He was the first (1847) to urge the necessity of a Universalist denominational college, and this did much towards the establishment of Tufts. He was associated with the elder Hosea Ballou in editing The Universalist Quarterly Review; edited an edition of Sismondi's History of the Crusades (1833); and wrote the Ancient History of Universalism, down to A.D. 553 (1829; 2nd ed., 1842).

Maturin Murray Ballou (1820-1895), son of the first Hosea, was a pioneer in American illustrated journalism, edited Gleason's Pictorial and Ballou's Monthly and many collections of quotations, and in 1872 became editor-in-chief of the Boston Daily Globe, of which he was one of the founders. He wrote a life of his father (1860), and a History of Cuba (1854).