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none surpasses the Art of Flying, either in boldness or utility, if brought to that kind of perfection, which many learned mechanics have supposed possible; yet no art of like importance has been more neglected than this, which is principally to be attributed to the decision of of public opinion, which considers all searches after this art as nothing better than a wild goose chase."
The celebrated Bishop Wilkins remarks, amongst other impediments of any strange inventions, or attempts, it is none of the meanest discouragements that they are so generally derided by common opinion, being esteemed only as the dreams of a melancholy distempered fancy. Yet the inquiry into those strange desiderata has been the origin of the greatest discoveries in mechanics, chemistry, astronomy, &c. all of which have conferred so many benefits on mankind."
A mathematician of Philadelphia by the name of Bennet, is now petitioning to Congress for some privileges as to the time of using a machine which he has invented, by which men can elevate themselves from the earth and perform voyages at pleasure. It appears from the remarks of some of the members of the House of Representatives, that they were disposed to consider the whole invention and its object chimerical, and consequently deserving of no attention from the public. How far their opinions of his invention may be false, it remains for Mr. Bennet to show; yet to assert that it is impossible to fly at all, is at once to contradict experiments which have been made, if history is to be credited, and the opinions of many learned philosophers from the remotest times to the present day.
Roger Bacon, a man of great genius, in a work entitled De Mirabile Potestate Artis et Naturæ, expresses himself thus: "Possunt fieri instrumenta volandi, ut homo sedans in medio instrumenti revolvens aliquod, alo artifici liter composito, ærem verberent ad modum avis volantis," that it is possible to make a flying machine, so that a man sitting in the middle, can by some expedient produce a rotary motion, which shall occasion the percussion of artificial wings on the air like the flight of a bird.
It has also been recorded, that at the coronation of Edward VI. an Arragonese descended a rope stretched from the battlements of St. Paul's steeple to the ground, running on his breast as if it had been an arrow from the bow and in the thirteenth century a monk named Elmerus flew above a furlong from the top of a tower in Spain; a flight was also attempted from St. Mark's steeple in Venice; and at Nuremburg, a man named Dante of Perouse, by means of a pair of wings was enabled to fly; while amusing the citizens, he fell on the top of St. Mary's church, and broke his thigh; Besnier, a locksmith of Sable in France, obtained considerable effect from the aid of four wings.
In the year 1808, Mr. Degan, a watchmaker of Vienna, actually realized the most sanguine expectations; it is said he mounted in the air, and exhibited by means of wings, a flight resembling that of a bird.
Bishop Wilkins was so confident of success, that he anticipated, that, at some future day, a person should as readily call for his wings, as his horse, before starting for a journey.
Sir George Cayley, a philosopher of a later day, examined this subject, asserted that it was possible for men to fly, and constructed a small instrument for this purpose, which is described in the 24th volume of Nicholson's journal, which is extremely curious.
From the facts above mentioned, and the opinions of the scientific, it does not appear, that the art of flying and constructing machines for that purpose, are by any means visionary, but founded on strict philosophical principles. A machine has been constructed by Dr. Bushnel of Connecticut, which, by means of manual power, could be propelled under water, and heavy bodies are daily seen propelled by steam, with amazing velocity. Now upon considering the atmosphere in common with water, and the effects produced by mechanical power, being the same on both fluids, it is rational, provided light substances are employed, and these so disposed as to move with sufficient velocity, that similar effects could be produced in the atmosphere; nor does it appear more incredible, that the art of flying could be so improved,
than to believe, that lightning could be brought harmless at the feet of a Franklin-that a lamp could be so constructed by means of a covering of wire gauze, as to give the miner light, while working among gases as inflammable as gunpowder, or that men could ascend in the air, by means of a linen bag filled with hot air. In our country, where the arts languish for want of encouragement, the least mark of ingenuity should be noticed with respect, that all may have an ambition to excel in those, which have, and may, confer such lasting benefits on the world.
V. MR. BENNETT'S PETITION TO CONGRESS.
THE application of Mr. Bennett to Congress, for an exclusive privilege to fly through the air, is so inconsistent with the immemorial freedom of that element, which, above all others, we should carefully preserve from a monopoly, that though far from wishing to cramp the wings of Genius, I cannot but hope the petition will not be granted that Congress should, at any rate, act with caution upon the subject, will, I think, be admitted, when it is considered, that if the Art of Flying can indeed be perfected, such airy speculations as those of Messrs. Bennett and Lee, will become very common, and attract numerous other enterprizing spirits; in which event, a thriving source of revenue might be opened to the government, by granting out the immense tracts of æther spread over the Union, now lying idle, and abandoned to the birds, applying to the sales the same principles observed in the disposal of our Western Territories. It might be well to attend to this hint, as I fear, without some such assistance from above, we have very little chance of ever being extricated from the various financial embarrassments which our blessed system of borrowing and banking has brought upon us. While our resources in land are daily diminishing, the atmosphere constitutes a vast and untouched fund, which may be rendered highly available and useful, and would cer
tainly form a very appropriate support for a Republican Government, as it would tend to bring it into a more direct literal dependence upon the breath of the people.
It should further be borne in mind, that the object of Mr. Bennet is immediately at variance with the long established privileges of a worthy and active class of individuals: I mean our seamen, dancing-masters, and adopted French citizens, who spend a large portion of their lives at a considerable elevation above the surface, but whose rights are not the less to be respected on that account, by their more terrestrial brethren. Some late writer has computed that a Frenchman passes the greater part of the time between the Heavens and the Earth; and though it may be somewhat exaggerated, it cannot be considered very erroneous. By the way, it is truly extraordinary, when we recollect the known volatility of their temperament, that our friends the French should not have taken the lead in volitation, and been the first revivers of the Dædalean art. Should Mr. Bennett come into conflict with any of the above descriptions of persons, it is impossible to conceive of any end to the contest, as it would doubtless be carried on as long as the parties remained above ground, and there would be no chance of its ceasing until after they had returned to their mother earth.
It may be well for Mr. Bennett to bear in mind, that the officers of our navy and army have been very successful of late in teaching our enemies the art of flying, and, I make no doubt, stand ready to repeat their lessons, whenever the occasion may call for it: any interference with them, therefore, in their peculiar vocation, is a matter of delicacy, and ought to be avoided. it yet must be confessed, that the confining the right Mr. Bennett contends for to a single individual, would in some views be desirable, for it would certainly be no small inconvenience, and nothing less than a public evil, to have flights of projectors coming upon us, and the air darkened by speculators, who would enjoy a manifest advantage over every pedestrian competitor, and be enabled to look down all opposition, and pounce and prey upon the community at will.
I cannot but suspect that Mr. Bennett must be something of a poet, from his aiming at so exclusive a pretension over all who would mount as high as himself, and from the disposition he shows, like many others of the poetic tribe, to soar on borrowed plumes, and pinions not given him by nature. I hope, however, that he will not be allowed to take the air exactly in the style he proposes, and thus render it indeed a " chartered libertine ;" but that Congress will forthwith compel him to make an experiment before them, and put him to flight with the least possible delay.
VI. THE FLYING MAN.
ALTHOUGH few would acquiesce in the proposition of Lord Bolingbroke, that it would be better to be a brute, having four legs and a long tail, and to be guided and governed by unerring instinct, than to have two legs and no tail, and to be called a man, and liable to error; yet, there are none, perhaps, who have not at some time or another coveted the wings of a bird; of such a bird, that is, as no militia-man should dare to shoot on a holiday, nor scullion decapitate on the eve of a festival. To fly from the crimes, the follies, the cares, the grossness, and the frivolities of this world; to escape from its humid and noxious vapours; to fly to the objects of our love; to ascend into the atmosphere of Heaven; to mingle with the stars in the zodiac, and track immortal spirits in their homes! What beautiful facilities of happiness might we thus enjoy.
But men do not deserve wings. Poor, sordid, groveling creatures, they come out of the earth, and their affections are bent on the earth-and they sink into the earth; and not one half of them dream of the beautiful canopy which is over their heads, and the unseen spirits which observe them from above. It is related of a miser, that he made an essay to fly, but as his gold was happiness with him, and he was nothing without his gold, his pockets were too ponderous for his flight, and he fell amid the shouts of contempt, into the mire to which