Melville, Henry Dundas, First Viscount
- Melville, Henry Dundas, First Viscount
Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, was a major architect of British naval and India policy. Dundas was the Scottish lieutenant of his close friend William Pitt the Melville, Henry Dundas, First Viscount 467 Younger, and as first lord of the admiralty in Pitt’s last administration has been credited with creating the fleet that won the Battle of Trafalgar. Dundas initially made his name as a legal reformer in Scotland and a supporter of Lord North in London. He was one of the earliest to back Pitt as an alternative to the unworkable 1783 coalition of North and Charles James Fox. The American war of 1775–1783 had convinced Dundas that Britain should aim at an empire of trade rather than settlement, it being his view that colonies of emigrants would inevitably seek independence. He applied these insights in Pitt’s 1784 India bill, which discouraged Britons from settling permanently in India and also strengthened the control of the ministry over the East India Company; Dundas duly became the first president of the board of control on that office’s creation in 1793.
On the creation of the office of secretary of state for war and colonies in 1794, Dundas took that post. He was throughout the 1790s a staunch advocate of a naval, imperial, and economic war against the French, as opposed to campaigns on the European continent. He left office on Pitt’s resignation in 1801, but returned, again under Pitt, as first lord of the admiralty in 1804. There he energetically organized the building of ships of the line. The closing stages of his career were marred by a corruption scandal, which resulted in his having the dubious distinction of being the last British minister to have been impeached by the House of Commons, although he was acquitted in the House of Lords.
See also <>; <>.
Ehrman, John. The Younger Pitt. 3 vols. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996;
Fry, Michael. The Dundas Despotism. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers 1972;
Marshall, P. J. Problems of Empire: Britain and India, 1757–1813. London: Allen and Unwin, 1968;
Rodger, N.A.M. The Command of the Ocean. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004.
MARK F. PROUDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914.
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