EMMANUEL JOSEPH SIEYèS (3 May 1748 – 20 June 1836), most commonly
known as the ABBé SIEYèS (French: ), was a French Roman Catholic
abbé , clergyman and political writer. He was one of the chief
political theorists of the
* 1 Early life * 2 Education * 3 Religious career
* 4.1 Impact on the Revolution
* 5 Assemblies, Convention, and the Terror
* 6 Directory
* 7 Second Consul of
Sieyès was born on 3 May 1748 as the fifth child of Honoré and
Annabelle Sieyès in the town of
Sieyès spent ten years at the seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris.
There, he studied theology and engineering to prepare himself to enter
the priesthood. He quickly gained a reputation at the school for his
aptitude and interest in the sciences, combined with his obsession
over the "new philosophic principles" and dislike for conventional
theology. Sieyès was educated for priesthood in the Catholic Church
at the Sorbonne . While there, he became influenced by the teachings
Bust of Sieyès by David d\'Angers (1838).
Despite Sieyès' embrace of Enlightenment thinking, he was ordained
to the priesthood in 1773. In spite of this, he was not hired
immediately. He spent this time researching philosophy and developing
music until about a year later in October 1774 when, as the result of
demands by powerful friends, he was promised a canonry in
While remaining in ecclesiastical offices, Sieyès maintained a religious cynicism at odds with his position. By the time he took his orders to enter priesthood, Sieyès had "freed himself from all superstitious sentiments and ideas." Even when corresponding with his deeply religious father, Sieyès showed a severe lack of piety for the man in charge of the diocese of Chartres. It is theorised that Sieyès accepted a religious career not because he had any sort of strong religious inclination, but because he considered it the only means to advance his career as a political writer.
WHAT IS THE THIRD ESTATE?
Louis XVI of France
This phrase, which was to remain famous, is said to have been inspired by Nicolas Chamfort . The pamphlet was very successful, and its author, despite his clerical vocation (which made him part of the First Estate ), was elected as the last (the twentieth) of the deputies to the Third Estate from Paris to the Estates-General. He played his main role in the opening years of the Revolution, drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen , expanding on the theories of national sovereignty , popular sovereignty , and representation implied in his pamphlet, with a distinction between active and passive citizens that justified suffrage limited to male owners of property.
Sieyès's pamphlet incited a radical reaction from its audience
because it involved the "political issues of the day and twisted them
in a more revolutionary direction". In the third chapter of the
pamphlet, Sieyès proposed that the Third Estate wanted to be
"something". But he also stated that, in allowing the privileged
orders to exist, they are asking to become "the least thing possible".
The usage of such rhetoric in his pamphlet appealed to common causes
to unite the audience. At the same time it influenced them to move
beyond simple demands and take a more radical position on the nature
of government. In this case, the radical position taken by the Third
Estate created a sense of awareness that the problems of
IMPACT ON THE REVOLUTION
Sieyès's pamphlet played a key role in shaping the currents of
revolutionary thought that propelled
Whereas the aristocracy defined themselves as an élite ruling class
charged with maintaining the social order in France, Sieyès saw the
third estate as the primary mechanism of public service. Expression of
radical thought at its best, the pamphlet placed sovereignty not in
the hands of aristocrats but instead defined the nation of
Sieyès's pamphlet had a significant influence on the structural concerns that arose surrounding the convocation of the Estates general. Specifically, the third estate demanded that the number of deputies for their order be equal to that of the two privileged orders combined, and most controversially "that the States General Vote, Not by Orders, but by Heads". The pamphlet took these issues to the masses and their partial appeasement was met with revolutionary reaction. By addressing the issues of representation directly, Sieyès inspired resentment and agitation that united the third estate against the feudalistic traditions of the Ancien Régime. As a result, the Third Estate demanded the reorganization of the Estates General, but the two other orders proved unable or unwilling to provide a solution. Sieyès proposed that the members of the First and Second order join the Third Estate and become a united body to represent the nation as a whole. He not only suggested an invitation, however, but also stated that the Third Estate had the right to consider those who denied this invitation to be in default of their national responsibility. The Third Estate adopted this measure on 5 June 1789; by doing so, they assumed the authority to represent the nation. This radical action was confirmed when they decided to change the name of the Estates General to the National Assembly, indicating that the separation of orders no longer existed.
ASSEMBLIES, CONVENTION, AND THE TERROR
Although not noted as a public speaker (he spoke rarely and briefly),
Sieyès held major political influence, and he recommended the
decision of the Estates to reunite its chamber as the National
Assembly , although he opposed the abolition of tithes and the
confiscation of Church lands. His opposition to the abolition of
tithes discredited him in the National Assembly, and he was never able
to regain his authority. Elected to the special committee on the
constitution , he opposed the right of "absolute veto" for the King of
Like all other members of the Constituent Assembly, he was excluded from the Legislative Assembly by the ordinance, initially proposed by Maximilien Robespierre , that decreed that none of its members should be eligible for the next legislature. He reappeared in the third national Assembly, known as the National Convention of the French Republic (September 1792 – September 1795). He voted for the death of Louis XVI , but not in the contemptuous terms sometimes ascribed to him. He participated to the Constitution Committee that drafted the Girondin constitutional project . Menaced by the Reign of Terror and offended by its character, Sieyès even abjured his faith at the time of the installation of the Cult of Reason ; afterwards, when asked what he had done during the Terror, he famously replied, "J'ai vécu" ("I lived").
Ultimately, Sieyès failed to establish the kind of bourgeois revolution he had hoped for, one of representative order "devoted to the peaceful pursuit of material comfort." His initial purpose was to instigate change in a more passive way, and to establish a constitutional monarchy. According to William Sewell, Sieyès' pamphlet set "the tone and direction of The French Revolution…but its author could hardly control the Revolution's course over the long run". Even after 1791, when the monarchy seemed to many to be doomed, Sieyès "continued to assert his belief in the monarchy", which indicated he did not intend for the Revolution to take the course it did. During the period he served in the National Assembly, Sieyès wanted to establish a constitution that would guarantee the rights of French men and would uphold equality under the law as the social goal of the Revolution; he was ultimately unable to accomplish his goal.
After the execution of Robespierre in 1794, Sieyès reemerged as an
important political player during the constitutional debates that
followed. In 1795, he went on a diplomatic mission to
Nevertheless, Sieyès considered ways to overthrow the Directory, and is said to have taken in view the replacement of the government with unlikely rulers such as Archduke Charles of Austria and Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand of Brunswick (a major enemy of the Revolution). He attempted to undermine the constitution, and thus caused the revived Jacobin Club to be closed while making offers to General Joubert for a coup d'état.
SECOND CONSUL OF FRANCE
The death of Joubert at the
Battle of Novi
Sieyès envisioned a Tribunat and a College des Conservateurs to act as the shell of the national government. The Tribunat would present laws and discuss ratification of these laws in front of a jury. This jury would not have any say in terms of what the laws granted consist of, rather whether or not these laws passed. The College des Conservateurs would be renewed from the national list. The main responsibility of the College des Conservateurs was to choose the members of the two legislative bodies, and protect the constitution by right of absorption. By this curious provision, the College could forcibly elect to its ranks any individual deemed dangerous to the safety of the state, who would then be disqualified from any other office. This was a way to keep a closer eye on anyone who threatened the state. The power of the College des Conservateurs was extended to electing the titular head of government, the Grand-Electeur. The Grand-Electeur would hold office for life but have no power. If the Grand-Electeur threatened to become dangerous, the College des Conservateurs would absorb him. The central idea of Sieyès' plan was a division of power.
NAPOLEONIC ERA AND FINAL YEARS
Sieyès soon retired from the post of provisional Consul, which he
had accepted after 18 Brumaire, and became one of the first members of
During the era of the First Empire (1804–1814), Sieyès rarely
emerged from his retirement. When
CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIAL SCIENCES
In 1795, Sieyès became one of the first members of what would become
Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of the Institute of
France. When the
In 1780, Sieyès coined the term sociologie in an unpublished
manuscript. The term was used again fifty years later by the
Sieyès was always considered intellectual and intelligent by his
peers and mentors alike. Through the virtue of his own thoughts, he
progressed in his ideologies from personal experiences. Starting at a
young age, he began to feel repulsion towards the privileges of the
nobility. He deemed this advantage gained by noble right as unfair to
those of the lower class. This distaste he felt for the privileged
class became evident during his time at the Estates of
Aside from his opinions towards nobility, Sieyes also had a passion for music. He devoted himself assiduously to cultivating music as he had plenty of spare time. Along with cultivating music, Sieyes also enjoyed writing reflections concerning these pieces. Sieyès had a collection of musical pieces he called "la catologue de ma petite musique."
Although Sieyès was passionate about his ideologies, he had a rather
uninvolved social life. His journals and papers held much information
about his studies but almost nothing pertaining to his personal life.
His associates referred to him as cold and vain. In particular,
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
* Biography portal
* ^ Sometimes hyphenated to Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès.
* ^ A B Jean-Claude Guilhaumou (2006). « Sieyès et le non-dit de
la sociologie : du mot à la chose ». Revue d'histoire des sciences
* ^ A B C Van Deusen, Glyndon G., p. 11
* ^ A B C D E Van Deusen, Glyndon G., p. 12
* ^ William H. Sewell Jr. (1994). A Rhetoric of Bourgeois
Revolution: The Abbe Sieyes and What is the Third Estate?. Durham and
London: Duke University Press. p. 9.
* ^ A B C Van Deusen, Glyndon G., p. 13
* ^ William H. Sewell Jr., A Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution The
Abbe Sieyes and
What is the Third Estate? p. 14.
* ^ A B C Van Deusen, Glyndon G., p. 15
* ^ William H. Sewell Jr., A Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution The
* Baczko, Bronislaw. "the social contract of the French: Sieyès and
Rousseau." Journal of Modern History (1988): S98–S125. in JSTOR
* Fauré, Christine. "Representative Government or Republic? Sieyès
on Good Government." in The Ashgate Research Companion to the Politics
of Democratization in Europe: Concepts and Histories (2008) pp. 75+
* Furet, Francois, and Mona Ozouf, eds. A Critical Dictionary of the
* Sieyès, Comte Emmanuel Joseph, M. Blondel, and Samuel Edward Finer, eds. What is the Third Estate? London: Pall Mall Press, 1963.
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