Sieyes was a clergyman devoted to the third estate
Sieyes portrait by Jacques-Louis David (1817)
Sieyes early life
Sieyes was born in Frejus, in southern France, on May 3rd, 1748. He became a priest in 1774 and was called Abbé Sieyes. However, Sieyes did not believe. He was actually found of Enlightenment ideas which he spread widely.
Sieyes role during the French Revolution
Abbé Sieyes became very famous when he published the pamphlet: “What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing. What does it want to be ? Something.” in January 1789. This essay was considered a foundation of the French Revolution of 1789.
Sieyes was elected representative of the Third Estate during the Estates General meeting of May 1789. He proposed the transformation of the Third Estate chamber to a National Assembly. He participated to the Tennis Court Oath, worked on the Constitution and drafted the Declaration of the rights of man and citizen.
Sieyes was a member of the Jacobins Club but stayed in the shadow of Robespierre. He promoted the creation of the French "departements". During the Terror, he voted for the execution of Louis XVI and abandoned his position in the Church.
After the Revolution
He played an important role in the French policy until his death on June 20th, 1836 in Paris. On November 9th, 1799 Sieyes participated in the "Coup d'Etat du 18 Brumaine" which brought Napoleon Bonaparte to power.