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Tuning From The Bass
by [?]

We are living in times that are wonderfully meek and mild; and Fear, the stern old schoolmaster, is looked upon with suspicion. It is curious how we reverse the fashions of our ancestors. We flaunt in shameless abandon what they veiled in blushing modesty; but we make up for it by hiding what they had no hesitation in displaying. Our teeth, for example. It is considered the depth of impropriety to show your teeth nowadays, except in the sense in which actresses show them on post cards. But our forefathers were not afraid of showing their teeth, and they made themselves feared and honoured and loved in consequence. Yes, feared and honoured and loved; for I gravely doubt if any man ever yet taught others to honour and love him who had not first taught them on occasion to fear him.

The best illustration of what I mean occurs in the story of the Irish movement. In the politics of the last century there has been nothing so dramatic, nothing so pathetic, and nothing so tragic as the story of the rise and fall of Parnell. Lord Morley’s tense and vivid chapters on that phase of modern statesmanship are far more thrilling and far more affecting than a similar number of pages of any novel in the English language. With the tragic fall of the Irish leader we need not now concern ourselves. But how are we to account for the meteoric rise of Parnell, and for the phenomenal power that he wielded? For years he was the most effective figure in British politics. There is only one explanation; and it is the explanation upon which practically all the historians of that period agree. Charles Stewart Parnell made it the first article of his creed that he must make himself feared. His predecessor in the leadership of the Irish party was Isaac Butt. Mr. Butt believed in conciliation. He was opposed to ‘a policy of exasperation.’ He thought that, if the Irishmen in the House exercised patience, and considered the convenience of the two great political parties, they would appeal to the good sense of the British people and ensure the success of their cause. And in return–to quote from Mr. Winston Churchill’s life of his father–the two great parties treated Mr. Butt and the Irish members with ‘that form of respect which, being devoid of the element of fear, is closely akin to contempt.’ Then arose Parnell. He held that the Irishmen must make themselves the terror of the nation. They must embarrass and confuse the English leaders, and throw the whole political machinery of both parties hopelessly out of gear. And in a few months Mr. Parnell made the Irish question the supreme question in the mind of the nation, and became for years the most hated and the most beloved personality on the parliamentary horizon. Nobody who knows the history of that troublous time can doubt that, but for the moral shipwreck of Parnell, a shipwreck that nearly broke Mr. Gladstone’s heart, the whole Irish question would have been settled, for better or for worse, twenty years ago. With the merits or demerits of his cause I am not now dealing; but everybody who has read Lord Morley’s Life of Gladstone or Mr. Barry O’Brien’s Life of Parnell must have been impressed by this striking and dramatic picture of a lonely and extraordinary man espousing an apparently hopeless cause, deliberately selecting fear as the weapon of his warfare, and actually leading his little band of astonished followers within sight of victory.

It is ridiculous to say that fear possesses no moral value. Whenever I hear that contention stated, my mind invariably swings back to a great story told by Sir Henry Hawkins in his Reminiscences. He is telling of his experiences under Mr. Justice Maule, and is praising the judicial perspicacity of that judge. In a certain murder case a boy of eight was called to give evidence, and counsel objected to so youthful a witness being heard. Mr. Justice Maule thought for a minute, and then beckoned the boy to the bench.