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Dundas, Henry, 1st Viscount Melville

A Dictionary of British History

John Cannon

Dundas, Henry, 1st Viscount Melville 


Scottish politician, son of Robert, Lord Arniston, president of the Court of Session. Dundas followed his family tradition and in 1766 was appointed solicitor‐general for Scotland. He was MP for Midlothian 1774–90 and for Edinburgh 1790–1802 when he was created Viscount Melville. A burly figure and a forthright speaker with a broad Scots accent, he became successively lord advocate [S] 1775, joint keeper of the signet [S] 1777, privy counsellor, treasurer of the navy 1782–3 and 1784–1800, home secretary 1791–4, president of the India Board of Control 1793–1801, secretary of state for war 1794–1801, keeper of the privy seal of Scotland 1800, and 1st lord of the Admiralty 1804–5. The list testifies to his indispensable value to Pitt, and Dundas became his right‐hand man as well as his friend and drinking companion.