MALESHERBES, CHRETIEN GUILLAUME DE LA-MOIGNON DE° (1721–1794), liberal French statesman. As minister of the Maison du Roi in 1787, he was responsible with Turgot for the decree granting civic status to "non-Catholics," thus opening the way for effective action by the Jews on their own behalf. Malesherbes' main reason for wanting improved treatment of the Jews was his belief that it would lead to their conversion; he was opposed to the organized Jewish community, considering it as a state within a state. Jewish individuals were not free to convert, said Malesherbes, because they were so closely tied to the whole community. He therefore proposed that Jews be enabled to use public legal registers for their personal status, thus weakening their ties with Jewry. In spring 1788 Malesherbes set up an informal committee to study the question, coopting as advisers men well-disposed toward the Jews, including Pierre Louis *Roederer. Eight Jewish leaders were summoned to the committee, among them *Cerfberr for Alsace, Berr Isaac *Berr for Lorraine, Abraham *Furtado and D. Gradis for Bordeaux. The purpose of the committee was to conduct a preliminary inquiry on a new system for regulating the condition of French Jewry, and to prepare a memorandum. However, meetings were few and the differences between the two delegations, the "Portuguese" and the "German," were so marked that they could not reach agreement. The "Portuguese" memorandum in answer to Malesherbes' questionnaire on the current state of Judaism was later to influence the one presented by Napoleon's representatives to the *Assembly of Jewish Notables and the French *Sanhedrin. In July 1788 the delegates returned home, without having come to any decision. Malesherbes remained a staunch royalist and was later guillotined.
Szajkowski, in: Zion, 18 (1953), 31–79; idem, in: PAAJR, 25 (1956), 119–35; idem, in: JQR, 49 (1958), 63–75; A. Hertzberg, The French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), 323–6; P. Grosclaude, Malesherbes – témoin et interprète de son temps (1961), 631– 49.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.