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Of The Suppression Of The Chromatic Sedition

From: Flatland

The agitation for the Universal Colour Bill continued for three years;
and up to the last moment of that period it seemed as though Anarchy
were destined to triumph.

A whole army of Polygons, who turned out to fight as private soldiers,
was utterly annihilated by a superior force of Isosceles Triangles--the
Squares and Pentagons meanwhile remaining neutral.

Worse than all, some of the ablest Circles fell a prey to conjugal
fury. Infuriated by political animosity, the wives in many a noble
household wearied their lords with prayers to give up their opposition
to the Colour Bill; and some, finding their entreaties fruitless, fell
on and slaughtered their innocent children and husband, perishing
themselves in the act of carnage. It is recorded that during that
triennial agitation no less than twenty-three Circles perished in
domestic discord.

Great indeed was the peril. It seemed as though the Priests had no
choice between submission and extermination; when suddenly the course
of events was completely changed by one of those picturesque incidents
which Statesmen ought never to neglect, often to anticipate, and
sometimes perhaps to originate, because of the absurdly
disproportionate power with which they appeal to the sympathies of the

It happened that an Isosceles of a low type, with a brain little if at
all above four degrees--accidentally dabbling in the colours of some
Tradesman whose shop he had plundered--painted himself, or caused
himself to be painted (for the story varies) with the twelve colours of
a Dodecagon. Going into the Market Place he accosted in a feigned
voice a maiden, the orphan daughter of a noble Polygon, whose affection
in former days he had sought in vain; and by a series of
deceptions--aided, on the one side, by a string of lucky accidents too
long to relate, and, on the other, by an almost inconceivable fatuity
and neglect of ordinary precautions on the part of the relations of the
bride--he succeeded in consummating the marriage. The unhappy girl
committed suicide on discovering the fraud to which she had been

When the news of this catastrophe spread from State to State the minds
of the Women were violently agitated. Sympathy with the miserable
victim and anticipations of similar deceptions for themselves, their
sisters, and their daughters, made them now regard the Colour Bill in
an entirely new aspect. Not a few openly avowed themselves converted
to antagonism; the rest needed only a slight stimulus to make a similar
avowal. Seizing this favourable opportunity, the Circles hastily
convened an extraordinary Assembly of the States; and besides the usual
guard of Convicts, they secured the attendance of a large number of
reactionary Women.

Amidst an unprecedented concourse, the Chief Circle of those days--by
name Pantocyclus--arose to find himself hissed and hooted by a hundred
and twenty thousand Isosceles. But he secured silence by declaring
that henceforth the Circles would enter on a policy of Concession;
yielding to the wishes of the majority, they would accept the Colour
Bill. The uproar being at once converted to applause, he invited
Chromatistes, the leader of the Sedition, into the centre of the hall,
to receive in the name of his followers the submission of the
Hierarchy. Then followed a speech, a masterpiece of rhetoric, which
occupied nearly a day in the delivery, and to which no summary can do

With a grave appearance of impartiality he declared that as they were
now finally committing themselves to Reform or Innovation, it was
desirable that they should take one last view of the perimeter of the
whole subject, its defects as well as its advantages. Gradually
introduction the mention of the dangers to the Tradesmen, the
Professional Classes and the Gentlemen, he silenced the rising murmurs
of the Isosceles by reminding them that, in spite of all these defects,
he was willing to accept the Bill if it was approved by the majority.
But it was manifest that all, except the Isosceles, were moved by his
words and were either neutral or averse to the Bill.

Turning now to the Workmen he asserted that their interests must not be
neglected, and that, if they intended to accept the Colour Bill, they
ought at least to do so with full view of the consequences. Many of
them, he said, were on the point of being admitted to the class of the
Regular Triangles; others anticipated for their children a distinction
they could not hope for themselves. That honourable ambition would not
have to be sacrificed. With the universal adoption of Colour, all
distinctions would cease; Regularity would be confused with
Irregularity; development would give place to retrogression; the
Workman would in a few generations be degraded to the level of the
Military, or even the Convict Class; political power would be in the
hands of the greatest number, that is to say the Criminal Classes, who
were already more numerous than the Workmen, and would soon out-number
all the other Classes put together when the usual Compensative Laws of
Nature were violated.

A subdued murmur of assent ran through the ranks of the Artisans, and
Chromatistes, in alarm, attempted to step forward and address them.
But he found himself encompassed with guards and forced to remain
silent while the Chief Circle in a few impassioned words made a final
appeal to the Women, exclaiming that, if the Colour Bill passed, no
marriage would henceforth be safe, no woman's honour secure; fraud,
deception, hypocrisy would pervade every household; domestic bliss
would share the fate of the Constitution and pass to speedy perdition.
"Sooner than this," he cried, "come death."

At these words, which were the preconcerted signal for action, the
Isosceles Convicts fell on and transfixed the wretched Chromatistes;
the Regular Classes, opening their ranks, made way for a band of Women
who, under direction of the Circles, moved back foremost, invisibly and
unerringly upon the unconscious soldiers; the Artisans, imitating the
example of their betters, also opened their ranks. Meantime bands of
Convicts occupied every entrance with an impenetrable phalanx.

The battle, or rather carnage, was of short duration. Under the
skillful generalship of the Circles almost every Woman's charge was
fatal and very many extracted their sting uninjured, ready for a second

slaughter. But no second blow was needed; the rabble of the Isosceles
did the rest of the business for themselves. Surprised, leader-less,
attacked in front by invisible foes, and finding egress cut off by the
Convicts behind them, they at once--after their manner--lost all
presence of mind, and raised the cry of "treachery." This sealed their
fate. Every Isosceles now saw and felt a foe in every other. In half
an hour not one of that vast multitude was living; and the fragments of
seven score thousand of the Criminal Class slain by one another's
angles attested the triumph of Order.

The Circles delayed not to push their victory to the uttermost. The
Working Men they spared but decimated. The Militia of the Equilaterals
was at once called out, and every Triangle suspected of Irregularity on
reasonable grounds, was destroyed by Court Martial, without the
formality of exact measurement by the Social Board. The homes of the
Military and Artisan classes were inspected in a course of visitation
extending through upwards of a year; and during that period every town,
village, and hamlet was systematically purged of that excess of the
lower orders which had been brought about by the neglect to pay the
tribute of Criminals to the Schools and University, and by the
violation of other natural Laws of the Constitution of Flatland. Thus
the balance of classes was again restored.

Needless to say that henceforth the use of Colour was abolished, and
its possession prohibited. Even the utterance of any word denoting
Colour, except by the Circles or by qualified scientific teachers, was
punished by a severe penalty. Only at our University in some of the
very highest and most esoteric classes--which I myself have never been
privileged to attend--it is understood that the sparing use of Colour
is still sanctioned for the purpose of illustrating some of the deeper
problems of mathematics. But of this I can only speak from hearsay.

Elsewhere in Flatland, Colour is now non-existent. The art of making
it is known to only one living person, the Chief Circle for the time
being; and by him it is handed down on his death-bed to none but his
Successor. One manufactory alone produces it; and, lest the secret
should be betrayed, the Workmen are annually consumed, and fresh ones
introduced. So great is the terror with which even now our Aristocracy
looks back to the far-distant days of the agitation for the Universal
Colour Bill.

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