THE SAILING CHARIOT. --
It would be almost as difficult to assign limits to human ingenuity
and invention, as to human ambition. That there are limits which the
one cannot pass, while the other is boundless as the imagination
itself, will not be denied; but the scientific discoveries of the
last half century must make us hesitate before we say such or such a
thing is impossible. In mechanics, in chemistry, and in the
ingenious branches of the fine arts, improvements and discoveries
have succeeded each other with a rapidity which outstretched all
anticipation, and have set all calculations at defiance. No man
will now dare say to any of these branches of science, "thereto
shalt thou go no farther."
To be enabled to make the wind, which "bloweth
where it listeth," subservient to the purpose of propelling huge
vessels on the ocean and thus to form an intercourse with the most
distant parts of the world, was a great triumph of science; but to
be able to steer a vessel with a rapidity that the wind does not
generally afford, in a dead calm, or independent, or even against
the wind, by steam, is a discovery which would not have been credited
a century ago; and other discoveries which were once thought equally
improbably have since been made.
The wind, which has been of such good service
on the ocean, has for ages been used in machinery on shore, such as
the working of mills, &c.
Some individuals have, however, thought it might be used to propel
vehicles on land. In the last century, Stephinus, of Scheveling, in
Holland, constructed a chariot on wheels, to be impelled by the wind,
the velocity of which was so great that it would carry eight or ten
persons from Scheveling to Putten, a distance of forty-two English
miles, in two hours.
Carriages of this kind are said to be frequent
in China; and in any wide level country must be sometimes both pleasant
and profitable. The great inconvenience attending the machine is,
that it can only go in the direction the wind blows, and even not then,
unless it blows strong; so that after you have got some way on your
journey, if the wind should fail or change, you must either proceed
on foot or stand still.
The Hollanders have small vessels, somewhat
of this description, which carry one or two persons on the ice, having
a sledge at bottom instead of wheels; and being made in the form of a
boat, if the ice break the passengers are secured from drowning.
Our engraving presents a perspective view of
Stephinus' Sailing Chariot. The body of it is in the form of a boat;
the axle-trees are longer, and the wheels further asunder, than in
ordinary carriages, in order to prevent its being overturned. The
body is driven before the wind by the sails, guided by a rudder. --