Don't mess with us...
From Paul Brun's: THE HISTORY OF THE DOUBLE BASS
'Until the 1820s, when Louis Spohr introduced the baton to England, there was no visible manner of giving the time at the London Philharmonic society orchestra. The first violin gave the tempi, and now and then, when the orchestra began to falter, gave the beat with the bow of his violin. For this reason, Louis Spohr felt that "so numerous an orchestra standing so far apart from each other as that of the Philharmonic, could not possibly go exactly together".
To avoid confusion, then, the orchestra had to be regulated. As the concertmaster needed all the help he could get, the main burden of disciplining the orchestral forces and maintaining cohesion fell on the double bass. Leaning on the energetic, percussive tones of the instrument, playing articulated bow strokes, the double bassist established the tempo with a strong, consistent time. He was the core and backbone of the orchestra. Providing the basic impulse at all times, pounding out the notes at crucial moments, his function was to assist the musicians in maintaining perfect ensemble. Initiative and creativity held a premium. Constantly responding to what was going on around him, the double bassist possibly had the most freedom of anyone in the group, but he was under the pressure to make instant decisions when a disruption rippled through the orchestra. Pusillanimity, or simply indecisiveness, were out of the question. It was a daunting, exacting assignment. Among double bass players, Dragonetti in London and Marra in Naples were especially known for their formidable strength and stamina. Such was their stature that the solid, emphatic firmness of their powerful staccato allowed them to stabilize an errant orchestra and infuse a new spirit of life and enthusiasm into the performance by establishing confidence among musicians:
"Towering there, in the limelight, at the corner of the orchestra, one hand on the neck of their gigantic instrument and the other holding the bow, they looked ten heads taller. The other instruments, violins, violas, cellos, brass and strings, woods and drums, all seemed to obey this bow as they would the sceptre of the King of Olympus."'