What Is the Third Estate? These ideas came to have an immense influence on the course of the French Revolution. The questions and responses are:. Thus, he asserts, it should replace the other two estates entirely.

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As a member of the clergy, and therefore of the first estate, he did not let his privileges influence him, and he worked hard to help the third estate rise to the level of its rightful stature. Representatives from these three estates had traditionally met in something called an Estates-General , which met when the French king would call for it to meet.

When they were called upon to meet again, in , they did so in the wake of a major shift in understanding the nature of representation. Traditionally, the first estate was made up of members of the clergy, the second estate was made up of the nobility, and the third estate was made up of commoners, or everybody who was not of the clergy or nobility.

They were all ruled by a king, who was considered a part of no estate. Previously, the Estates-General only met during times of conflict and crisis. He was the son of a postmaster and notary, and while he did not live extravagantly, he lived fairly comfortably. When he was seventeen, he joined the Seminary of Saint-Suplice in Paris and made a good reputation for himself. While he was there, he broadened his knowledge and started learning about things that would become his passion later on in life.

He showed an interest in the writings of the French Enlightenment, which would influence his decisions and passions. As a clergyman, he was very popular and moved up its career ladder quite quickly. In , by the time he was twenty-five, he was ordained a priest. During his career as a priest, he wrote several works. Two of his works were anonymous and the third is now considered theory by historians.

However, it became clear even before the Estates-General met that the first two estates would vote against any of the reforms that the third estate might suggest, especially if those reforms infringed upon their traditional rights and privileges; and this caused a lot of debate and frustration.

Shockingly, he stated that the nobility had no place in their modern society that was progressing. He argued for the importance of making a national assembly to better represent the majority of the population that created the wealth of the nation. The pamphlet argued for a drastic change in political power in the French legislative system.

It challenged the inequality of power in the Estates-General and questioned why the largest and most hardworking part of society had the least amount of power, and why they had only one vote compared to the combined votes of the clergy and nobility, who made up only three percent of the entire French population.

This pamphlet was radical for the time, because it questioned the right and legitimacy of the first two estates to represent the nation of France at all. What is the third estate? What, until now, has it been in the existing political order? What does it want to be? His theories were at first viewed very favorably by reformers and it earned him a seat at the Estates-General as a representative of the third estate, where people took him seriously and listened to what he had to say.

The king had to call the Estates-General together because the two privileged estates did not want to surrender their tax exemptions. This is a very interesting story and a greatly descriptive article.

I has never heard about this French revolutionary character before until this semester in my SMC class. The fact that the third estate held a majority of the population and yet had little to no impact on the way things were run showed that a change was needed. I had no idea that he was a member of the first estate clergy, but I think it is more interesting that a man of his status would take into consideration the thoughts and views of the third estate, since they were taken advantage of.

What a great article and I really taught me more of who Seyes was personally. Abbe Sieyes was very brave at that time to publish a pamphlet that objected to the Estates General representation.

Even though Sieyes was a part of the First Estate, he still believed in the power of the Third Estate and believed they needed to be represented fairly since they made up the majority of France.

I especially liked his argument for the Third Estate wanting to be something, which prompted the start of the French Revolution. I am shocked that the French actually practiced voting, well at least some sort of voting, but it turns out the minority right and majority rule was yet something they were being ignorant at, and it seemed like the third estate was a joke.

His role in the revolution is really big and He played his part and made sure that the first and second estates got the message loud and clear. This is a well-written and interesting article! The life of Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes introduced new ideas about the lawfulness of the three traditions estates. Nonetheless, Sieyes was willing to raise awareness about the inequalities through his pamphlets, even though he was part of the third estate.

Great article! As I was reading this article, I did share some objections to the voting system of the Estates of Imperial France. Even though the system itself was not inherently objectionable since every group had the same amount of votes within the legislature, the system was taken advantage of by members of the noble and clerical estates. However, even though he strived to attack the inequality of the system, in the end, he also shifted the foot of oppression from the nobles and clergy to the foot of the Third Estate.

Reasons for this included calling all nobles and clergy as immoral and the Third Estate as righteous, even though both sides held corrupt persons. In addition, instead of creating equality between the nobility and clergy and commoners, the commoners took over the entire assembly. I have never heard about him prior to this reading but it is clear to see that he was a great man. I think the author did a good job of telling the story of Abbe Sieyes first and then showed how he influenced the formation of a new French government.

The article gives a great description on the three Estates of France and how the clergy and nobility for years controlled the third estate or the commoners. The commoners were fed up with the taxation and starvation that was prominent in France. This sparks the French Revolution. It was so interesting to learn about him and despite being in a different estate than the 3rd one, he still wanted to try and make a difference for those dealing with injustices in the third estate.

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The Abbé Sieyès and the Social Contract: the Nation behind the Polity

Society, Theory and the French Revolution pp Cite as. To ask the question of the Third Estate is equivalent to asking, what is society, or to use a language more appropriate to the period, what is the nation? As the pamphlet proceeds, it will become obvious that the answer to the original question is given by the equivalence: the Third Estate is everything because it is the nation, because it is society. This may cause one to wonder about the status of the first two estates. In particular, one might wonder if formerly, when the Third Estate was nothing, the first two estates were everything. The response, however, is a clear no.


Abbé Sieyès



What Is the Third Estate?


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