Parlement and Pamphlet: Sieyes’ Qu’Est-Ce Que Le Tiers État? And the Missing Link between Medieval and Modern Constitutionalism
16 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2009
Date Written: December 10, 2009
Intellectual and institutional history alike are bound to wonder where new ideas and new institutions originate from, whether they are really new, why and how change occurred. The end of the eighteenth century is widely regarded as one of those moments of change, witnessing "inter alia" a major turning point towards modern constitutionalism. A new notion of the constitution was introduced in theory and practice that went far beyond the mere requirement of the main features of the form of government to be written down in a single and special document. The rise of modern constitutionalism is usually portrayed as essentially innovative. Conversely, by analysing Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes' (1748-1836) 1789 pamphlet, "Qu’est-ce que le tiers état?" as an illustration of the rise of modern constitutionalism and comparing its discourse with the rhetoric of the opposition to arbitrary royal power by the French parlements throughout the eighteenth century, this paper sets out to demonstrate that the transition from medieval to modern constitutionalism was rather a matter of modification and adaptation than a clear break with the past.
Keywords: constitutionalism, judicial review, constituent power, representation, Sieyes
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