Self-educated and early thrown upon his own resources, he began in 1814 to earn his living by working in a clock factory in Plymouth, Conn., and for many years after 1815 he peddled books and merchandise, chiefly in the southern states.
He was self-educated, but after reading law and being admitted to the bar (1744) his success was immediate.
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 was largely self-educated, and before he was of age was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar.
But he was not entirely self-educated; at sixteen he entered the college of his native place, though his family was so poor that he could not procure the necessary books, and had to borrow them from his mates in order to copy the lessons.