Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry Dundas (1742–1811)

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Henry Dundas (1742-1811), was born on 28 April 1742, educated at Edinburgh High School and the University of Edinburgh and admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1763. In 1774 he was elected to parliament and next year appointed lord advocate of Scotland. In September 1784 he was made a member of the new board of control constituted under the East India Act. In 1791 he became Home secretary and among other duties had charge of affairs in New South Wales. In 1794 he became secretary for war and the colonies. In 1801 he resigned his offices; next year he was created Viscount Melville and in May 1804 became first lord of the Admiralty. In June 1805 the House of Commons voted that he be impeached for frauds in the Naval Department but in 1806 when tried before the House of Lords he was acquitted. He died at Edinburgh on 28 May 1811.

A fellow Scot, the naval officer and colonial governor James Stirling, named the Melville Water section of the Swan River for the family in 1827 while exploring preparatory to European settlement two years later.  Melville’s son Robert, the second Viscount, was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time.  In 1981 the adjacent city of Melville, a southern suburb of what became Western Australia’s capital, Perth, received Letters Patent from the British College of Arms, allowing the city’s emblem to copy from Melville’s coat of arms. Another naval officer, the surveyor John Septimus Roe, named the Dundas Hills in 1848, in an area which subsequently became the vast shire of Dundas, extending from near Norseman to the South Australian border.

Citation details

'Dundas, Henry (1742–1811)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

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© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • first Viscount Melville
  • Melville, first Viscount

28 April, 1742
Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


28 May, 1811 (aged 69)
Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland

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