Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville


Portrait of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville

Henry Dundas, the 1st Viscount Melville was born in 1742. He was a lawyer and a skilled politician who dominated Scottish politics at the end of the 18th century. He used his position to elevate many Scots in the East India Company and built a loyal following amongst Scottish MP's. He served as MP for Midlothian from 1774 to 1779 and for Edinburgh from 1790 to 1802.

He was good friends with the British Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger and apparently the two regularly attended debates in the House of Commons while drunk. Dundas served in Pitt's cabinet in 1791 as secretary of state for the Home department and he was the War Secretary from 1794 to 1801. He was elevated to the peerage in 1802 as Viscount Melville however in 1806 he was impeached for misappropriation of funds and although acquitted he never held office again.

His power in Scotland was for a time unrivalled and he was known as "the uncrowned king of Scotland" and "Harry the ninth". When the revolution broke out in France and social unrest swept the country effigies of Dundas, rather than the king, were burned by the Scottish people. He was an old fashioned politician and adept at manipulating the corrupt politics of the time cleverly supporting the position which best advantaged him and without any obvious principles or ideals.

He died in 1811 and in 1828 a statue of him was placed atop the column in St Andrew Square in Edinburgh.