Viscount Melville Henry Dundas, a British statesman, born in Edinburgh about 1741, died there, May 27, 1811. He was of the ancient family of Dundas of Arniston, received his education at the high school and university of Edinburgh, and was admitted to the bar in 1763. His celebrity as an advocate gained him the appointment of solicitor general in 1773; he was returned to the house of commons for the county of Edinburgh in 1774, and was made lord advocate of Scotland in 1775. He was afterward member of parliament for the city of Edinburgh till his advancement to the peerage. Though he had been a supporter of the administration of Lord North, his familiarity with affairs made him a valuable accession to the administrations of Rockingham and Shelburne, which quickly succeeded, in the second of which he held the office of treasurer of the navy. This ministry was obliged to give way before the combined opposition of Fox and Lord North, who came together in 1783 to form the coalition ministry, the opposition to which was headed by Pitt and Dundas. The latter had been appointed chairman of a secret committee of the house of commons to inquire into the condition of British India and the causes of the war in the Carnatic, and he made an elaborate report, in which he exhibited a complete mastery of the subject.

When Pitt was called to the helm of affairs with a majority in parliament against him, he was powerfully aided by Dundas, who again held the office of treasurer of the navy, and in Pitt's absence led the ministerial party in the house of commons, and whose dexterity as a debater and minute acquaintance with Indian matters were of especial value in carrying Pitt's India bill through parliament against a very serious opposition. Dundas became president of the board of control under this bill in 1791, and entered the cabinet as secretary of state for the home department. He exchanged this post for that of secretary of war in 1794, when he introduced a bill for restoring the estates in Scotland forfeited on account of the rebellion of 1745. The investigations of Dundas into eastern affairs originated those discussions which terminated in the impeachment of Warren Hastings; but he took no active part either for or against Hastings. He was the principal supporter of Pitt during the wars with France, and resigned his offices upon the retirement of that statesman in 1801, when he laid before parliament a favorable statement of the condition of the East India company's affairs.

In 1802 he was raised to the peerage with the titles of Viscount Melville and Baron Duneira, and on Mr. Pitt's return to power in 1804 became first lord of the admiralty. He quickly retired from this office, having incurred a charge of violating one of the statutes which he himself had proposed, by which the treasurer was forbidden to receive any perquisites or make any private or individual use of the public money. The articles of impeachment were prepared by the most celebrated leaders of the opposition, and the trial opened April 29, 1806. It resulted in the acquittal of Lord Melville by triumphant majorities. From this time he took part only occasionally in the debates of the house of lords, and spent the most of his time in Scotland. Edinburgh contains two public monuments to his memory. He published several political pamphlets. - His only son, Robert, second Viscount Melville, born March 14, 1771, was first lord of the admiralty in 1812-'27, during which time several arctic voyages were organized, and some discoveries were named after him.

He again held the office in 1828-'30, and died June 10, 1851.