Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
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Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville PC and Baron Dunira (28 April 1742–28 May 1811) was a Scottish lawyer and politician. He was the first Secretary of State for War and the last person to be impeached in the United Kingdom. His son, Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount (14 March 1771–10 June 1851), was at various times Keeper of the Signet of Scotland, First Lord of the Admiralty, and a member of Parliament.
Henry Dundas was Solicitor General for Scotland from 1766, and Lord Advocate from 1775. He was Senior Commissioner on the new Board of Control, established by Pitt's India Bill of 1784, and his unwavering objective was to formulate a financially effective India policy, controlling, or at least, containing the power of the East India Company. "Dundas is more active and diligent than any other, but also selfish and Scotch. His interest is pillage and patronage: pillage by conquest and patronage at home," wrote one of his detractors in Parliament, George Canning. Patronage--the gift of commissions in India in return for votes and support at home--become a flourishing industry.
After holding subordinate offices under William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, and William Pitt the Younger, Dundas entered the cabinet in 1791 as Secretary of State for the Home Department. It was during this period that he was influential in obstructing the abolition of the slave trade. Appointed Minister for War on the outbreak of the Wars of the French Revolution, Dundas was Pitt's closest advisor and planner for Britain's military participation in the First Coalition. He is largely held responsible for the lack of organization and confused planning in the Flanders Campaign, especially the aborted siege of Dunkirk in September 1793.
From 1794 to 1801 he was War Secretary under Pitt, his great friend. From about 1798 on he pleaded frequently to be allowed to resign on health grounds, but Pitt, who relied on him greatly, refused even to consider it. In 1802 he was elevated to the Peerage of the United Kingdom 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 Dundas 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. This was the last impeachment trial ever held in the House of Lords. Another reason for his retreat could have been Pitt's death in 1806. An earldom was offered in 1809 but declined.
The collection includes correspondence and documents formerly owned by the First and Second Viscounts Melville, Henry Dundas and Robert Dundas. The materials come from the Dundas family archives and consist of ten bound volumes and four boxes of unbound manuscripts. The bulk of the papers relate to British India with a smaller but still substantial subset dealing with Scottish politics, patronage, and pensions. With a few exceptions the collection comprises incoming correspondence and enclosures to Henry and Robert Dundas but not their replies. Documents in the collection are primarily in English with a few in French.
The papers in this collection were given to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries by the estate of Professor Holden Furber (1903-1993) in 1993. Furber used many of the materials in the collection to write his first book Henry Dundas, First Viscount Melville, 1742-1811 (Oxford, 1931). They are cited in Appendix C, pp. 315-17. Furber purchased most of the collection from the London bookseller Francis Edwards sometime after 1928. Edwards himself purchased the items at the 1927 Sotheby's sale of Dundas family papers from the collection of Violet Marie Louise Dundas (wife of Henry Dundas, 5th viscount Melville).
All of the bound volumes and many of the manuscripts listed in this finding aid can also be found described in the 1927 Sotheby's and 1928 Edwards' catalogs. These catalogs, with manuscript annotations by Furber and others, can be found in the University of Pennsylvania Libraries Rare Book & Manuscript Library:
Sotheby's February 23, 1927 sale: Catalogue of valuable autograph letters, historical documents & printed books, comprising the Melville papers : ... the property of Violet, viscountess Melville ... which will be sold by auction by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge [part 3], London, 1927. [Call number: Z997 M523 1924]
Francis Edwards' May 1928 catalog: The Melville papers : original letters and documents relating to the East but mainly concerning Bombay, Madras, and Mysore 1780-1815 : from the collection of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville. London : Printed by Geo. B. Flower, 1928. [Call number: Z997 M5232 1928]
Estate of Holdern Furber, 1993
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Mitch Fraas
- Finding Aid Date
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