THE RIGHT TO FLY.
NADAR, the hero of the Geant balloon, who appears to be
• an enthusiast in his way, has written a little work• on the newest of the rights of man, one of which neither Tom Paine nor Mr. Bright ever dreamed,—the right to fly. He takes, too, a very humble standard of the rights of man, and only asserts for him a right to go anywhere where any of the lower animals can go, and does not even demand that this species of " liberty, equality, and fraternity " with the lower orders of animals should be exercised without the preliminary sinking of capital,—in itself a discriminating (or undiscriminating, as the case may be) differential duty in favour of the lower animals, even though, with this exception, we should succeed in asserting our right. Now, as we have succeeded, unlimited money being granted, in getting wherever the mole can get and wherever the fish can get, and in beating the fleetest animals on the surface of the earth,—so long as we may be allowed to choose our own racecourse and lay down rails along it,—M. Nadar thinks our immediate grievance is against the birds. Not but what, by the aid of that awkward appendage, a balloon, we can get, by accident as it were, to any point to which a bird can get, but then besides the vexation of so bulky an accompaniment, we have no power worth mention of ourselves guiding these awkward bladders, and are much in the same position as we should be at sea in a tub moored to an enormous floating buoy, and of course without rudder and without sails or steam power. M. Nadar has accordingly founded " a society of encouragement for the study of aviation, or aerial locomotion, by means of apparatus heavier than the air," or, as it might better be called, a society for encouraging competition with birds,—and in the little book before us he expectorates a hundred or two bitter aphorisms, some ingenious and some empty, but all rather inter- jectional, and but very few " touching the crisis vitally," at those scientific men who think it scientifically impossible that man could ever fly. Madame George Sand has furnished M. Nader with a rather pompous little preface, in which the only notable expres- sion is a rather happy one for the men who love to popularize abstract truths,—" ardent vulgarizers " she calls them, not scornfully, but respectfully. On the whole this little volume, though it has its acute points, shows a very large pro- portion of volume to mass of thought, the volume itself being very small and the matter almost infinitesimal,—in fact, resembles too much a small intellectual model of M. Nadar's own Grant balloon,—the equivalent to the hydrogen gas being a very large assortment of fine words of vague and rather volatile meaning. Take this nonsensical assertion, for instance, that " an object must be HEAVIER than the air (or more dense) to exercise an action upon the air, to command the air—in the same way as, in every order of things, it is indispensable to be the strongest in order not to be beaten." M. Nader might just as well say that a ship must be heavier than the sea in order to com- mand the sea, " that is, must be the strongest in order not to be beaten," or that the sea must be heavier than the wind in order to command the wins, or that the heavier the wrestler the more certain of victory,—a maxim which would have proved the folly of David in not wearing Saul's armour because he could barely lift it. M. Nader has also very funny ideas about weight. He remarks, truly enough, that " a skater of ordi- nary weight, say ten stone, is supported by ice of from two to four inches' thickness. Gliding along with all the celerity due to the force of impulsion, he arrives at a crevice where the ice is not more than half an inch thick, and passes over it again and again without having cracked it—how much do the ten stone of our skater weigh upon the crevice ? How often, in America especially, have suspension bridges been seen to give way through a train stationing upon them,—bridges which had till then sup- ported without budging the passage of thousands of fast trains heavily laden ?" and thence deduces these vaguely expressed but wildly false propositions :—" Like all other physical laws, the law of weight is not an absolute, but a relative law. According • The Right to Fly. By Nader, translated by James Spence Harry, with a preface by George Band. London : Casson, Petter, and Galpin. to the different circumstances of its constitution, its action, and its medium, the same body that weighs at one moment does not weigh at another moment." M. Nader evidently does not appre- ciate the fact that a given weight or pressure will be sustained for a second or half a second by a much less resisting power than is needed to sustain it for many seconds or minutes. An ex- press train or skater at full speed is supported during a given time by the resisting force of all the various bases on which it or he rests during that time, while the same train or skater at rest presses constantly against the same supply of resisting force. M. Nader might just as well conclude that weight varies from time to time because a succession of men, relieving each other at inter- vals of a second, can bear a burden for hours together which would crush any one man in a second and a half.
But we need not quarrel with M. Nadar for his scientific ideas. He is clearly quite right in arguing that in the abstract, as almost all flying creatures are considerably heavier than the air, even with their lungs inflated, and support themselves in it, not as ships swim in water by virtue merely of their lighter specific gravity, but by mechanical action, it is easy to conceive man with an appara- tus that might support him in the air. M. Nadar has, indeed, some odd notions which appear to mean, if they mean anything, that weight is a positive advantage for flying (instead of a difficulty to be overcome), so long as the muscular or locomotive power increases more rapidly than in proportion to the weight. Yet he is apparently right in saying that the scientific men have exaggerated the force expended by birds in keeping themselves in the air, when they say, for instance, that " man does not possess the ninety-second part of the strength spent by a bird to sustain itself in the air," which M. Nader remarks is equivalent to saying that a goose exerts the force of four men for its slowest flight. And however unlikely it may be that we shall learn to fly under M. Nadar's directions, there can be no doubt that the thing is con- ceivable enough, though the difficulty in getting powerful wind- mill apparatuses for beating the air which should weigh but little themselves, and not require any considerable expenditure of human strength to keep them working, is vastly more formidable than M. Nader thinks it. Whatever we may consider his chance of snows, however, it is amusing to consider with him some of the results of that success however improbable :— "From all the points of the world I see man rising with the promptness of electricity, soaring in the air, and descending like a bird when and where he wishes. Books relate that people formerly travelled on roads of iron in horrible boxes with intolerable slowness, and exposed to insupportable annoyances A frightful lacing motion backwards and forwards shook the traveller from his departure till his arrival ; and a dinning chorus of chains, wood, and shivering windows was the funereal music accompaniment of those unpleasant trains. Daring the long journey the dust entered through the air-holes of those cruel boxes in such quantities as to cover the unfortunate traveller with its stiffing winding-sheet. At that time a voyage was a fearful trial, not undertaken with anything like cheerfulness. Who would believe that man had only to will in order to deserve the aerial routes which now appear to us so charming, and that he preferred suffering for many ages such atrocious torments r Those poor people used to think that they had made a great progress because they travelled somewhat faster on their roads of iron than in their carriages drawn by horses, which were the beginning of all locomotion. They endeavoured to console themselves with certain statistical returns, which seemed to prove tbst the number of road accidents was somewhat diminished. Let it be noted, en passant, that they had not oven been able to discover the equivalent of our parachutes ! Their statistics were perhaps tolerably correct, but when an accident did happen, what disastrous results Hundreds of people crushed, burnt, annihilated, through a mere trifle having been placed across one of their pitiful roads ! How different from our aerial voyages, without shocks, without concussions, and free from noise, dust, fatigue, and danger !"
M. Nadar naturally sees the couleur-de-rose side of flying, but whenever parliament has to discuss the " right to fly," it would, if the right were to be a popular right at least, natu- rally take into account the opposite side,—especially the vari- ous difficulties which such a right would present to the execu- tion of the law. Only consider, if flying became easy and cheap, what difficulties would be presented to the police and the revenue officers. M. Nader might say that a flying police would still be even with flying criminals, but we think there he is mistaken. If many a bird can fly at least 2,000 or 3,000 miles with- out resting, as we believe it can, and elderly gentlemen given to embonpoint are likely, as M. Nader believes, to have the advantage of birds in direct proportion to their weight, it would be an exceedingly easy matter to rob a Vienna bank one evening and perch in Jerusalem the next. The law of alibi would immediately fall into the most terrible con- fusion. The mere differences of longitude would be enough to puzzle ordinary juries as to the time at which the burglar's presenee many hundred miles away could be proved. A man might easily murder a person in St. Petersburg, and his continuous presence in London be sworn to from half an hour before the murder was committed up to half an hour after. Imagine having to require ordinary jurymen to understand questions of longitude so far as they affect time 1 Then as to the mere protective function of the law,—the same number of detectives as we have at present would certainly not be able to protect a thousand times the number of assailable points from the same number of burglars as we have at, present. All the attic windows would in this case be as available for burglary as any other, and unprotected females might waken :any night to and a number of stout-winged ruffians with drapes over their faces perched comfortably on their window-sill, and• engaged in taking out a pane of glass. The Briggs railway-carriage murder gave no trouble at all to the police compared to that which they would have in identifying a Muller who might shoot a flying Briggs with a Minis rifle from a height rather greater than a lark's, -any fine morning, and then disappear to his " bright home in the rising sun," What would be the use of a perfect rookery of police- men flying after him ? There would be no trace in the air of the direction he had taken ; and to fly in all directions at-once would take a population composed solely of flying police. Even if seen as he started off, imagine the difficulty of chasing the criminal through soppy rain clouds, where he would soon throw off the scent. Then the collection of Customs' revenue would clearly become impossible. Thrifty housekeepers would fetch their own groceries from China or Demerara, and of course pass the frontier at night about a: mile and a half above the surface of the earth. Even direct taxation world be diffienit. We suppose we should still need fixed abodes,—nests of some sort,—as birds themselves do not sleep on the wing,—but how to find the nest at the right time? how to enforce a summons on a. person who might have slept in Jamaica yesterday and expect to be in Hong Kong to-morrow?
Again, clearly parents would give up all hope of restrain- ing from elopement by force, if wings became cheap and manage- able. And what would European general officers say to the science of war, if a flight of light glary (we suppose it would be called) from any distance, however incalculable, might turn their flank at any moment ? As for the naval service, it would clearly become impossible, if any sailor ordered to the mast- head as a punishment might go up to the zenith by preference. Clearly railway companies, steam navigation companies, cab- men, horsedealers, and we know not who else, would in the strongest manner object to M. Nadar's "right to fly." We have no doubt that if the law could prevent it, not only Conservatives, but many times the number of Liberal Troglodytes who voted against Reform, would vote—evenwithpassion—against M. Nadar's " right to fly." Why democracy, or any other conceivable politi- cal change, would produce a revolution absolutely infinitesimal in its effect, even in its political effect, to the admission of M. ISTadar's "right to fly !" Fortunately, however, for society M. binder's difficulty is not that of establishing "the right to fly," bat of establishing the power ; and we are not sure whether rational persons, not anxious for bewildering revolution, will wish M. Nader to succeed in inventing any cheap and easy flying apparatus.