Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/73

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58
SIFAKA—SIGALON

General of France after the interval of more than a century and a half, and the invitation of Necker to writers to state their views as to the constitution of the Estates, enabled Sieves to publish his celebrated pamphlet, "What is the Third Estate?" He thus begins his answer,—“Everything. What has it been hitherto in the political order? Nothing. What does it desire? To be something.” For this mot he is said to have been indebted to Chamfort. In any case, the pamphlet had a great vogue, and its author, despite doubts felt as to his clerical vocation, was elected as the last (the twentieth) of the deputies of Paris to the States General. Despite his failure as a speaker, his influence became great; he strongly advised the constitution of the Estates in one chamber as the National Assembly, but he opposed the abolition of tithes and the confiscation of church lands. Elected to the special committee on the constitution, he opposed the right of "absolute veto" for the king, which Mirabeau unsuccessfully supported. For the most part, however, he veiled his opinions in the National Assembly, speaking very rarely and then generally with oracular brevity and ambiguity. He had a considerable influence on the framing of the departmental system, but after the spring of 1790 his influence was eclipsed by men of more determined character. Only once was he elected to the post of fortnightly president of the Constituent Assembly. Excluded from the Legislative Assembly by Robespierre's self-denying ordinance, he reappeared in the third National Assembly, known as the Convention (September 1792–September 1795); but there his self-effacement was even more remarkable; it resulted partly from disgust, partly from timidity. He even abjured his faith at the time of the installation of the goddess of reason; and afterwards he characterized his conduct during the reign of terror in the ironical phrase, J’ai vecu. He voted for the death of Louis XVI., but not in the contemptuous terms La mart sans phrases sometimes ascribed to him. He is known to have disapproved of many of the provisions of the constitutions of the years 1791 and 1793, but did little or nothing to improve them.

In 1795 he went on a diplomatic mission to the Hague, and was instrumental in drawing up a treaty between the French and Batavian republics. He dissented from the constitution of 1795 (that of the Directory) in some important particulars, but without effect, and thereupon refused to serve as a Director of the Republic. In May 1798 he went as the plenipotentiary of France to the court of Berlin in order to try to induce Prussia to make common cause with France against the Second Coalition. His conduct was skilful, but he failed in his main object. The prestige which encircled his name led to his being elected a Director of France in place of Rewbell in May 1799. Already he had begun to intrigue for the overthrow of the Directory, and is said to have thought of favouring the advent to power at Paris of persons so unlikely as the Archduke Charles and the duke of Brunswick. He now set himself to sap the base of the constitution of 1795. With that aim he caused the revived Jacobin Club to be closed, and made overtures to General Joubert for a coup d’etat in the future. The death of Joubert at the battle of Novi, and the return of Bonaparte from Egypt marred his schemes; but ultimately he came to an understanding with the young general (see Napoleon I.). After the coup d’etat of Brumaire, Sieyès produced the perfect constitution which he had long been planning, only to have it completely remodelled by Bonaparte. Sieyès soon retired from the post of provisional consul, which he accepted after Brumaire; he now became one of the first senators, and rumour, probably rightly, connected this retirement with the acquisition of a fine estate at Crosne. After the bomb outrage at the close of 1800 (the affair of Nivose) Sieyès in the senate defended the arbitrary and illegal proceedings whereby Bonaparte rid himself of the leading Jacobins. During the empire he rarely emerged from his retirement, but at the time of the Bourbon restorations (1814 and 1815) he left France. After the July revolution (1830) he returned; he died at Paris on the 20th of June 1836. The thin, wire-drawn features of Sieyès were the index of his mind, which was keen- sighted but narrow, dry and essentially limited. His lack of character and wide sympathies was a misfortune for the National Assemblies which he might otherwise have guided with effect.

See A. Neton, Sieyès (1748–1836) d’apres documents inedits (Paris, 1900); also the chief histories on the French Revolution and the Napoleonic empire.  (J. Hl. R.) 


SIFAKA, apparently the name of certain large Malagasy lemurs nearly allied to the Indri (q.v.) but distinguished by their long tails, and hence referred to a genus apart—Propithecus, of which three species, with several local races, are recognized. Sifakas are very variable in colouring, but always show a large amount of white. They associate in parties and are mainly arboreal, leaping from bough to bough with an agility that suggests flying through the air. When on the ground, to pass from one clump of trees to another, they do not run on all fours, but stand erect,

The Crowned Sifaka (Propithecus diadema coronatus). From Milne-Edwards and Grandidier.

From and throwing their arms above their heads, progress by a series of short jumps, producing an effect which is described by travellers as exceedingly ludicrous. They are not nocturnal, but most active in the morning and evening, remaining seated or curled up among the branches during the heat of the day. In disposition they are quiet and gentle, and do not show much intelligence; they are also less noisy than the true lemurs, only when alarmed or angered making a noise which has been compared to the clucking of a fowl. Like all their kindred they produce only one offspring at a birth (see Primates).  (R. L.*) 


SIGALON, XAVIER (1788–1837), French painter, born at Uzes (Gard) towards the close of 1788, was one of the few leaders of the romantic movement who cared for treatment of form rather than of colour. The son of a poor rural schoolmaster, he had a terrible struggle before he was able even to reach Paris and obtain admission to Guerin's studio. But the learning offered there did not respond to his special needs, and he tried to train himself by solitary study of the Italian masters in the gallery of the Louvre. The "Young Courtesan" (Louvre),