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Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville

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Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (April 28, 1742 - May 28 1811) was a British statesman.

He was the fourth son of Robert Dundas (1685-1753), Lord President of the Court of Session, and was born at Edinburgh in 1742. He was educated at the high school and University of Edinburgh.

Becoming a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1763, he soon acquired a leading position at the bar; and he had the advantage of the success of his half-brother Robert (1713-1787), who had become lord president of the court of session in 1760. He became Solicitor General for Scotland in 1766; but after his appointment as Lord Advocate in 1775, he gradually relinquished his legal practice to devote his attention more exclusively to public business. In 1774 be was returned to parliament for Midlothian, and joined the party of Lord North; and notwithstanding his speaking Scots and ungraceful manner, he soon distinguished himself by his clear and argumentative speeches.

After holding subordinate offices under the Earl of Shelburne and Pitt the Younger, he entered the cabinet in 1791 as secretary of state for the Home Department. From 1794 to 1801 he was War Secretary under Pitt, his great friend. In 1802 he was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Melville and Baron Dunira. Under Pitt in 1804 he again entered office as First Lord of the Admiralty, when he introduced numerous improvements in the details of the department. Suspicion had arisen, however, as to the financial management of the Admiralty, of which Dundas had been treasurer between 1782 and 1800; in 1802 a commission of inquiry was appointed, which reported in 1805. The result was the impeachment of Lord Melville in 1806, on the initiative of Samuel Whitbread, for the misappropriation of public money; and though it ended in an acquittal, and nothing more than formal negligence lay against him, he never again held office. An earldom was offered in 1809 but declined.

He was friends with John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. Simcoe named Dundas Street after him (now Highway 2 in southern Ontario), and the town of Dundas is also named after him.

A monument to him, modelled on Trajan's Column in Rome, stands in the centre of St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh. Raised "by the voluntary contributions of the officers, petty officers, seamen and marines of these united kingdoms", it was designed in 1821 by William Burn, who was advised by Robert Stephenson after residents of the square expressed concern about the adequacy of the foundations to support a column of such height. A statue of Melville was added to the top in 1828.

See Hon. JW Fortescue, History of the British Army, vol. iv (1907).

Reference


Preceded by:
Isaac Barré
Treasurer of the Navy
1782–1783
Succeeded by:
Charles Townshend
Preceded by:
Charles Townshend
Treasurer of the Navy
1784–1800
Succeeded by:
Dudley Ryder

Template:Succession box one to two

Preceded by:
Secretary of State for War
1794–1801
Succeeded by:
Lord Hobart
Preceded by:
James Stuart-Mackenzie
Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland
1800–1811
Succeeded by:
Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville
Preceded by:
The Earl of St Vincent
First Lord of the Admiralty
1804–1805
Succeeded by:
The Lord Barham

Template:End box

Preceded by:
New Creation
Viscount Melville Succeeded by:
Robert Dundas
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