Correspondence of Henry and Robert Dundas (First and Second Viscounts Melville)

Scope and Content

This collection chiefly consists of official correspondence of Henry Dundas (First Viscount Melville) and his son Robert (Second Viscount Melville), in their capacity as Governor of the Bank of Scotland. Henry Dundas served as Governor from 1799 until his death in 1811. Robert Dundas then served from 1812 until 1851 - almost 40 years.

Much of the correspondence relates to the issue of the remittance of public revenues from Scotland to London. This was a profitable source of income for the banks involved, and for much of the period the Royal Bank of Scotland attempted to convince Dundas that it should have a monopoly, or that the work should be divided among a limited number of banks (with Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank taking the lion's share).

Other topics which are mentioned in the correspondence include: the relationship between Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank, and their relationship with other banks; the economic crises in Scotland of 1793 and 1797, and the role of Bank of Scotland in these; the position of Glasgow in the 1793 crisis; Dundas's relationship with the Duke of Buccleuch (Governor of the Royal Bank and part of Dundas's political interest); the background to Dundas's rivalry with William Ramsay of Barnton (of Mansfield, Ramsays and Company, private bankers, and also a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland), which was rooted in the Ayr Bank crisis; and Dundas's relationship with Sir William Forbes (of Sir William Forbes, James Hunter & Company, Edinburgh private banker).

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Dundas (1742-1811), was born in Edinburgh into an influential legal family. He was the fourth son of Robert Dundas (1685-1753), Lord President of the Court of Session.

Dundas entered the Faculty of Advocates in 1763, but gradually turned away from the legal profession to pursue a political career. He went on to hold a number of influential positions: Solicitor-General for Scotland (1766); MP for Midlothian (1774-1790); Lord Advocate (1775-1783); Privy Councillor and Treasurer of the Navy (1782-1783 and 1784-1800); Keeper of the Scottish Signet (1782); MP for Edinburgh (1790-1802); President of the Board of Control (1793-1801); First Lord of the Admiralty (1804-1805).

In 1791, Dundas entered the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Home Department, a position held until 1794 when he became War Secretary under Pitt the Younger (1794-1801). Ultimately, such was his political power that he was nicknamed 'the uncrowned King of Scotland'.

In 1802 Dundas was elevated to the peerage as the first Viscount Melville of Melville and Baron Dunira, but his career was eventually ruined by an investigation into the financial affairs of the Navy. In 1806 he was impeached by the House of Lords for the misappropriation of public money. Although it ended in an acquittal, the damage was done and he never again held office. An earldom was offered in 1809 but declined.

Robert Dundas (1771-1851) was Henry Dundas's only son. He followed in his father's footsteps, initially pursuing a career in the law, and later in politics.

Dundas served as MP for Hastings (1794), Rye (1796) and Midlothian (1801). From 1800, he was Keeper of the Signet of Scotland. He became a Privy Counsellor in 1807 and was made President of the Board of Control in the same year.

In 1811, Dundas succeeded his father as the 2nd Viscount Melville and also became Lord Privy Seal in Scotland. The following year, again following his father, he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, a position he held from 1812 to 1827, and from 1828 to 1830.

From 1814, Dundas also served as Chancellor of the University of St Andrews and was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1821. He died in Edinburgh in 1851.


Items in this collection are arranged in chronological order.

Access Information

Access is by appointment only, and at the discretion of the Archivist. Closure periods apply to some records less than 100 years old. Please e-mail for further information.

Acquisition Information

The material in this collection originally formed part of the Melville State Papers, which were put up for sale in 1927. Bank of Scotland purchased the bank related correspondence in the early months of that year.

Other Finding Aids

An item level catalogue is available. Please e-mail for further information.

The current catalogue is based on a Calendar of the Melville State Papers prepared by James R. Anderson, Librarian, Baillie's Institution, Glasgow, April 1928.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying of material is permitted at the discretion of Lloyds Banking Group Archives.

Related Material

A portrait of Henry Dundas (First Viscount Melville) was commissioned by the Bank of Scotland from Sir Henry Raeburn in 1802. The portrait is on display in the Bank's head office at the Mound in Edinburgh.


Corporate Names

Geographical Names