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French Revolution
French Revolution

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2.2 The Third Estate as the voice of the nation

Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836) trained as a priest and became assistant to a bishop. He had no religious vocation, however, and his fame arose as the author of a highly influential pamphlet, What is the Third Estate?, published in January 1789, on the strength of which Sieyes was elected a deputy to the Estates-General. Four editions or 30,000 copies of the book came out within months of its appearance, at a time of heightened consciousness that great changes were afoot. What is Sieyès's argument, how does he present it, and what is the significance of his book?