The papers are composed of: a letter to an unnamed correspondent mentioning Sir Joseph Banks, 1791; letters to Lt. Governor Wentworth regarding the militia in Nova Scotia, 1793-1794; a letter to W. A. Jackson, Wimbledon, 1800; a letter of Dundas, 1811; and, a document signed by Dundas and King George III, granting a military post to T. Brisbane, 1791.
Papers relating to Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811)
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 237 Coll-430
- Dates of Creation1791-1811
- Language of MaterialEnglish.
- Physical Description6 letters, 1 manuscript document
- LocationGen. 1732 Melville; Gen. 1790, no.79; Gen. 1875, no.75; Dc.1.15/1, 3-4; Dk.8.4/3 Melville
- Direct Link
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Henry Dundas was born on 28 April 1742. He was educated at the Royal High School and at Edinburgh University. He was admitted to the Scottish Bar (became a member of the Faculty of Advocates) in 1762, and became Solicitor-General for Scotland at the age of twenty-four. In 1774, Dundas was elected MP for Midlothian which he represented until 1790, apart from a brief period in 1782 when he represented Newtown, Isle of Wight. From 1790 until 1802 he was MP for Edinburgh. Dundas was appointed Lord Advocate in 1775, Keeper of the Signet in 1782, and Keeper of the Privy Seal in 1800. He was also Treasurer for the Navy, 1782-1783, and 1784-1800, and also held posts at the Home Office and the War Office. From the power base that he had been able to build up, he wielded great power at Westminster and even in Imperial affairs, for example in 1784 securing from the East India Company the government of India for Westminster. Also in 1784, Dundas brought in a Bill for the restoration of forfeited Jacobite estates in Scotland - a move regarded with popularity. His energy and planning behind the Egyptian campaign of 1801 was also applauded. In 1802, he successfully managed the general election in Scotland on behalf of Henry Addington, Lord Sidmouth (1759-1844) winning forty-three of the then forty-five Scottish seats for the Tories. The same year, Dundas accepted a peerage and became Viscount Melville of Melville and Baron Dunira. He became First Lord of the Admiralty in May 1804. The downfall of Dundas - to some, Henry the Ninth, the uncrowned King of Scotland - came with his impeachment for 'high crimes and misdemeanours' in 1806. This rose out of a report into the office of Treasurer for the Navy and the suspicions that had fallen on him while holding the post. Although he was acquitted, and it was clear he had not embezzled any money, he was guilty of considerable negligence. Dundas had in effect been defeated by his own Bill that had been carried through in 1785 for better regulation of the office of navy treasurer and preventing misappropriation of funds. In 1809 he declined an earldom. Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, died in Edinburgh on 28 May 1811. He was buried at Lasswade, Midlothian. There is a columnar monument to Dundas in St. Andrews Square, Edinburgh.
Conditions Governing Access
Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.
Document signed by Dundas and George III, purchased 1964, Accession no. E64.6. Letter mentioning Banks, acquired November 1970, Accession no. E70.49. Letter of 1811, purchased June 1971, Accession no. E71.17.
The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins publishers, 1994. (2) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.6. Drant-Finan. London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1908.
Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.
Other Finding Aids
Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.
Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.