Fear > The Estates > What is the Third Estate? by abbé Sieyès
We have three questions to ask ourselves:
What is the Third Estate? EVERYTHING.
What has it been in the political order until now? NOTHING.
What is it asking for? To become SOMETHING.
Who would darc to say that the Third Estate does not have in itself all that is needed to form a complete nation? It is a man who is strong and robust but still has one arm in chains. Take away the privileged order, and the nation would not be less, but more.
And so what is the Third Estate? It is EVERYTHING but an EVERYTHING shackled and oppressed. Without the privileged order, what would it be? EVERYTHING, an EVERYTHING flourish- ing and free. Nothing can go well without it; everything would go infinitely better without the others.
It is not enough to prove that the privileged orders are not merely useless to the nation but harmful and damaging; it must also be shown that the order of nobility has no place in the organization of society, that it can certainly be a burden to a nation but can never form part of it.
What is a nation? A body of associates living under a common law and represented by the same legisla- ture.
As for its political rights, these too it exercises separately from the nation. The nobility has its own representatives who are in no way empowered to speak for the people. Its body of deputies sit apart; and even if they gathered in one hall with the deputies of the ordinary citizens, it is none the less true that their representation is essentially separate and distinct. It is alien to the nation by its origin, since its mission is not from the people, and by its objective, since its I purpose is not the defence of the general interest but of its own.
The Third Estate, then, contains everything that makes up the nation; everything that is not part of the Third Estate cannot consider itself as belonging to the nation. What is the Third Estate? EVERYTHING.
What can the Third Estate do if it wants to gain its political rights in a way that will be beneficial to the nation? The Third Estate must meet separately; it will not associate in any way with the clergy or nobility and will not vote with them either by order or by head.
But the Third Estate, it
will be said, cannot form the Estates General. All the better! It shall compose
a National Assembly.
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