52. D’Alembert refers to the Esprit des lois (1748) by the great political theorist, Montesquieu (1689–1755). Later d’Alembert claimed that he had dared to render Montesquieu justice in the Preliminary Discourse at a time when no one had yet publicly raised a voice in France to defend him (“Eulogy of Montesquieu,” Encyclopédie, V [1755], xviii). Montesquieu, duly appreciative, asked Madame du Deffand to thank d’Alembert, and supported her vigorous efforts to have d’Alembert accepted into the Académie Française ( Oevres de Montesquieu, ed. A. Masson, III, 1385 and 1475–76). The ideas of Montesquieu are lightly treated in the Preliminary Discourse, but beginning in the second volume of the Encyclopedia d’Alembert undertook to assure that information drawn from Montesquieu was adequately represented by adding to certain articles by other contributors (e.g., “Capitularies” and “Census”). Later he wrote the famous eulogy to Montesquieu at the head of Volume Five of the Encyclopedia. Montesquieu’s application of the analytical method to the study of politics became canon for the Encyclopedia, and eventually most of his work was swallowed up into a multitude of its articles.


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