Sieyes

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Abbe Sieyes was one of the most influential revolutionary leaders that emerged in the early development of the revolution and one of the very few who survived the reign of terror. Born into a family not of noble birth Sieyes understood the vast injustices the third estate endured under the Old Regime. However Sieyes had one advantage many did not, he had received an education in theology at France’s most prestigious university and in following this, he entered the Roman Catholic Church. Sieyes represented a successful commoner, having risen as far as he could in the clergy shortly after his inception; the fact that he was not aristocracy meant he could go no further. During this time however Sieyes had embraced the ideas of enlightenment thinkers. Following a national invitation from Jacques Necker for writers to state their views on the organization of the Estates General, in 1789 the young liberal, eager to express his opinions, produced a pamphlet entitled “what is the third estate?”. In it he expressed his desire for political representation and participation by the third estate. In doing so, Sieyes paved the way for the third estate to challenge the privileged orders and ultimately demolish feudalism. He worked to make the third estate a dominant force in French political and social reform; "what is the third estate?” was a major contribution in this achievement. The document was a crucial source of political ideas in the revolution. Sieyes became a chief theorist in the French revolution, French consulate, and First French Empire. He rightfully earned the position as representative of the third estate in the Estates General and played a major role in the proclaiming of the National Assembly. Perhaps most importantly, in reference to the movement, Sieyes successfully acted as a mediator between all forces of the revolution and meticulously developed a distinction between active and passive voters in the new government. The last role that Sieyes was to play in the revolution was, what some regard as the end of the revolution, when in 1799 he became one of the instigators of the ‘coup d’etat’ which brought Napoleon Bonaparte to power.