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Radical Translations

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  • Noble: person was born noble.
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Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès


  1. Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen has translation uncertainty author
  2. Essai sur les privilèges has translation author
  3. Notice sur la vie de Sieyès, Membre de la première Assemblée Nationale et de la Convention, écrite à Paris, en messidor, deuxième année de l'ère républicaine (vieux style, juin 1794) has translation author
  4. Préliminaire de la Constitution française, reconnaissance et exposition raisonnée des droits de l'homme & du citoyen has translation author
  5. Qu'est-ce que le Tiers État? has translation author


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As a political thinker, Sieyès combined the visionary role of philosopher-legislator with the ease of a seasoned bureaucrat. Ordained into the priesthood in 1773, he obtained his first position as secretary to the Bishop of Tréguier two years later. It was while sitting in the Estates of Brittany that Sieyès became aware of the immense power held by nobles and noticed the ease with which they advanced through the ranks of ecclesiastical office compared to commoners. He sought to address these issues head-on in the first of his celebrated pamphlets. Once he became an elected representative of the Third Estate in the recently convened Estates-General, Sieyès revealed himself to be a successful political opportunist but he was no orator. He owed his place in the Chamber to his three pamphlets, which had made him famous and read like the work of someone for whom political change was a matter of desperate urgency. David Runciman has compared Sieyès' role during this time to a young Lenin during the first, abortive Russian Revolution of 1905, when he was driven to distraction by the unwillingness of his fellow Marxist revolutionaries to seize the moment and make something happen. See David Runciman, Review of Michael Sonenscher, ed., 'Emmanuel Sieyès: Political Writings' (Hackett, 2003).