Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès : biography
Emmanuel Joseph SieyèsSometimes hyphenated to Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès. (3 May 1748 – 20 June 1836), most commonly known as the Abbé Sieyès (), was a French Roman Catholic abbé, clergyman and political writer. He was one of the chief political theorists of the French Revolution, and also played a prominent role in the French Consulate and First French Empire. His 1789 pamphlet What is the Third Estate? became the manifesto of the Revolution, helping to transform the Estates-General into the National Assembly in June 1789. In 1799, he was the instigator of the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire (9 November), which brought Napoleon Bonaparte to power. He also coined the term "sociologie" in an unpublished manuscript, and made significant theoretical contributions to the nascent social sciences.Jean-Claude Guilhaumou, « Sieyès et le non-dit de la sociologie : du mot à la chose », Revue d'histoire des sciences humaines, n°15, 2006 .
Sieyès was born on 3 May 1748 as the fifth child of Honoré and Annabelle Sieyès in the town of Fréjus in southern France.Van Deusen, Glyndon G., p. 11 Sieyès' father was a local tax collector who made a humble income, and while the family had some noble blood, they were commoners. Sieyès' first education came by way of tutors and of the Jesuits. He also spent some time at the collège of the Doctrinaires of Draguignan. Sieyès originally wanted to join the military and become a soldier, but his frail health, combined with his parents' piety, led him instead to a religious career path. The vicar-general of Fréjus offered aid to Sieyès, because he felt he was obliged to his father.Van Deusen, Glyndon G., p. 12
Second Consul of France
The death of Joubert at the Battle of Novi and the return of Napoleon Bonaparte from the Egypt campaign put an end to this project, but Sieyès regained influence by reaching a new understanding with Bonaparte. After 18 Brumaire, Sieyès produced the constitution which he had long been planning, only to have it completely remodelled by Bonaparte, who thereby achieved a coup within a coup – Bonaparte's Constitution of the Year VIII became the basis of the French Consulate.
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 became known around the school because of 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 of John Locke, Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, the Encyclopédistes, Quesnay, Mirabeau, Turgot, and other Enlightenment political thinkers, all in preference to theology. In 1770, he obtained his first theology diploma ranking at the bottom of the list of passing candidates, a reflection of his antipathy towards his religious education. In 1772, he was ordained as a priest, and two years later he obtained his theology license.William H. Sewell Jr., A Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution The Abbe Sieyes and What is the Third Estate? (Durham and London:Duke University Press,1994)9.
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 Brittany.Van Deusen, Glyndon G., p. 13 Unfortunately for Sieyès, this canonry went into effect only when the preceding holder died. At the end of 1775, Sieyès acquired his first real position as secretary to the bishop of Tréguier where he spent two years as deputy of the diocese. It is here that he sat in the Estates of Brittany and became disgusted with the immense power the privileged classes held. In 1780, the bishop of Tréguier was transferred to the bishopric of Chartres. He became aware of how easy it was for nobles to advance in ecclesiastical offices compared to commoners. Sieyes was an ambitious man; therefore, he resented the privileges granted to the nobles within the Church system and thought the patronage system was a humiliation for commoners.William H. Sewell Jr., A Rhetoric of Bourgeois Revolution The Abbe Sieyes and What is the Third Estate? 14. Sieyès accompanied him there as his vicar general where he eventually became a canon of the cathedral and chancellor of the diocese of Chartres.
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