Malesherbes, Chrétien Guillaume de Lamoignon de

Malesherbes, Chrétien Guillaume de Lamoignon de

(krātyăN` gēyōm` də lämwänyôN` də mälzĕrb`), 1721–94, French minister of state. After serving as counselor to the Parlement of Paris, he succeeded (1750) his father as president of the Court of Aids at Paris. His father, then chancellor of France, made him director of the press, the chief censor. His liberal policy permitted the publication of the EncyclopédieEncyclopédie
, the work of the French Encyclopedists, or philosophes. The full title was Encyclopédie; ou, Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts, et des métiers.
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. Fearing royal absolutism, he opposed the dissolution of the parlementparlement
, in French history, the chief judicial body under the ancien régime. The parlement consisted of a number of separate chambers: the central pleading chamber, called the Grand-Chambre; the Chambre des Requêtes
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 in 1771 and was exiled to his country estate. On the accession of Louis XVI (1774), Malesherbes was appointed secretary of state for the royal household. His responsibilities included ecclesiastical affairs, the administration of Paris and some provinces, and appointments at court. He attempted to improve prison conditions and limit the use of lettres de cachetlettre de cachet
, formerly in French law, private, sealed document, issued as a communication from the king. Such a letter could order imprisonment or exile for an individual without recourse to courts of law.
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. Malesherbes resigned (1776) after the failure of the reform program of his friend A. R. J. TurgotTurgot, Anne Robert Jacques
, 1727–81, French economist, comptroller general of finances (1774–76). The son of a rich merchant, he showed precocious ability at school and at the Sorbonne.
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. For the next 13 years he campaigned for the civil rights of French Protestants and Jews. Recalled in 1787, he was made minister without portfolio but resigned the next year and retired from political life. In 1792, at his own request, he was appointed a defender of Louis XVI in the king's trial. Malesherbes was soon afterward arrested and guillotined as a royalist along with his daughter and grandchildren.

Bibliography

See biography by J. M. S. Allison (1938); study by E. P. Shaw (1966).

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