Family Lessons 44: Governing the Bells

James and Eleanor Bell were my 9x great-grandparents and hailed from the Anglo-Scottish borders in the seventeenth-century, siring their first child, John Bell, at Bankshead at Lanercost in 1700. The Bells seemed to have straddled Cumberland in England and Dumfriesshire in Scotland. Interestingly, the name is much lauded by North American and Australasian researchers for its associations with 'border reiving'. This refers to the lawless borderlands between the kingdoms of England and Scotland that owed little allegiance to either Crown. The Bells were deemed ‘an unruly clan’, and were well known for their internecine feud with the Grahams which was especially bitter. I am sure that both families were as unpleasant and disagreeable as the other; it is a wonder any of them lived long enough to sire descendants at all.

One of the political philosophers whose works I have been reading is Thomas Hobbes. Contrary to the ideas of liberalism, he called for powerful government that would intimidate the populace into submission:

During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man…and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.

Hobbes may well have had northern borderlands in mind. The remedy would be a powerful state, which he calls Leviathan, a term he borrowed from the book of Job, which describes a powerful dinosaur. I do not know if James and Eleanor Bell were particularly needful of firm management, two characters likely to lapse into thuggery and banditry for want of dire punishment. Yet the Bible teaches that human government, though so obviously imperfect and retarded, is God’s gracious provision. This is why we should pray for those in authority and generally obey them- life without governance will become an even greater chaos than it already is.

Image by Robert Armstrong from Pixabay