Of The Suppression Of The Chromatic Sedition

: 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.