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Sieyès, Abbé (1748–1836)

Junko Takeda


Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès was a Catholic clergyman, a French revolutionary, a political philosopher, and a statesman who played key roles in initiating both the French Revolution and the imperial government of Napoleon Bonaparte that followed. Sieyès was the author of two of the Revolution's seminal documents, What Is the Third Estate? and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen . Born a postmaster's son in Fréjus, in the south of France, on May 3, 1748, Sieyès received an education in theology and philosophy at the Jesuit College in his hometown, and later at the Sorbonne in Paris. He was ordained a priest, or “abbé,” in 1773, and named vicar-general and chancellor by the bishop of Chartres. Despite his ongoing connection to the Roman Catholic Church, Sieyès actively agitated for radical political change. Sieyès entered the political scene in 1789 following King Louis XVI's call for a meeting of the Estates General to resolve the mounting financial and political crises plaguing the country. The Estates General was a body of delegates from the three estates, or orders, of French society: The clergy was identified as the First Estate, nobles as the Second Estate, and commoners as the Third Estate. Because the Estates General had not been convened since 1614, Louis XVI's finance minister, Jacques Necker, also invited writers to propose how this ancient body of delegates ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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