Title: Viscounts Melville papers Creator: William L. Clements Library Inclusive dates: 1600-1851 Bulk dates: 1780-1830 Extent: 14 linear feet Abstract:
The Viscounts Melville papers contain the letters of British statesman Henry Dundas, 1st viscount Melville, and of his son Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd viscount Melville, first lord of the admiralty. The collection contains incoming correspondence and some copies of letters and drafts of memoranda by the Melvilles. The papers are almost entirely political in nature and deal with English, Scottish, American, Indian, and European affairs.
Language: The material is in English Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Henry Dundas, 1st viscount Melville (1742-1811) was born in Edinburgh and educated at Edinburgh University. He began practicing law in 1763, and three years later became solicitor general for Scotland. Melville entered Parliament for Edinburghshire in 1774, and within a year was appointed lord advocate. In 1777, he was made joint keeper of the signet.
Melville proved to be an effective spokesperson for the North ministry, supporting the American War, arguing against any acknowledgment of American independence, and opposing economic reform. In 1781, Melville began his long involvement in India affairs as chairman of the secret committee investigating the Carnatic Wars. In the second Rockingham ministry, Dundas continued as lord advocate and was a member of the Privy Council. Under the Shelburne administration, Dundas was made treasurer of the navy, and held the position from 1782 to 1800. In 1783, he returned to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Edinburghshire, and spoke in defense of Shelburne's peace preliminaries. Melville served as lord of trade from 1784 to 1786, and over the next twenty years held various prominent positions, such as William Pitt's secretary of state for the Home Office (1791-1794), president of the Board of Control for Indian Affairs (1793-1801), secretary at war (1794-1801), and first lord of the admiralty (1804-1805). As a military leader, Melville played a major role in the conduct of the war with France. Politically, he dominated Scottish politics in Parliament, defended government control of the East India Company, and opposed abolishing the British slave trade. He was forced to resign from the Admiralty in 1805 when accused, and later acquitted, of misappropriating funds.
Melville married Elizabeth Rannie (d.1847) in 1765, and through her gained the title of Melville. They divorced in 1778, and in 1793 he married Lady Jane Hope (d.1823). He was created Viscount Melville in 1802.
Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd viscount Melville (1771-1851), was the only son of Henry Dundas and Elizabeth Rannie. He entered politics as private secretary to this father, and was elected to Parliament for Hastings in 1794, for Rye in 1796, and for Edinburghshire in 1801. That same year he was appointed joint keeper of the signet for Scotland. In 1807, the Duke of Portland appointed him president of the Board of Control for Indian Affairs, and he remained in the position throughout the Perceval ministry. Prime Minister Robert Jenkinson, Lord Liverpool, made Robert Dundas first lord of the admiralty, an office he held from 1812 to 1830. During his admiralty tenure, he oversaw British naval operations against the Americans during the War of 1812, and against the French, including the Battle of Trafalgar. He also managed Britain's peacetime drawdown of naval forces.
Robert married Anne Saunders (d. 1841) in 1796 and took her name. Together they had six children, including Henry Dundas, later 3rd viscount Melville.
The Viscounts Melville papers (14 linear feet) contain the letters of British statesman Henry Dundas, 1st viscount Melville, and his son Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd viscount Melville, first lord of the admiralty. The collection contains approximately 1,500 Henry Dundas items and 850 Robert Dundas items, and is primarily comprised of incoming official correspondence, some copies of outgoing letters, and drafts of memoranda by the Melvilles. The papers are almost entirely political in nature and deal with English, Scottish, American, Indian, and European affairs.
The Henry Dundas papers chiefly concern British political affairs and military engagements in France, America, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Russia, Spain, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Minorca, Portugal, Corfu, Trieste, Malta, Sicily, the West Indies, the East Indies, and South America. The majority of these span 1794 to 1805, and relate to his tenure as secretary at war and first lord of the admiralty.
Included in the collection are:
Memoranda on British trade
Letters dealing with Indian and British patronage
Military intelligence reports, defense plans, and secret naval memoranda concerning the war with France
Secret reports on internal affairs of France covering 1791 to 1795 from his nephew George Buchan, Financier Walter Boyd, and J. Bedinfield
Intelligence on English prisoners of war in France, including details on the treatment of prisoners
Memorials that provide details on individual service member's careers
Dealings with the Danish East India Company
Miscellaneous naval material, such as reports on ship construction and repairs and on the fleets of other nations
American affairs consumed much of Melville's attention in the 1780s and 1790s while he served on the Committee of the Private Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations. Topics discussed include compensation claims from American Loyalists for losses during the war, and claims of British merchants against Americans for unpaid debts incurred during the war. Of particular interest are the letters between Melville and Grenville that relate to American debt issues (1785-1805 with a concentration in 1792). Also of note are letters from Thomas Jefferson and members of Congress concerning the 1794 Jay Treaty between England and the United States. Also present are the trial briefs prepared for Dundas' defense during his 1806 impeachment proceedings.
Below is a selection of notable items:
January 14, 1735: Report to the Great Britain Board of Trade on the state of American and West Indies commerce and fortifications, covering 1734-1735 (40 pages)
May 5 and July 14, 1763: Secretary of State Charles Wyndham, 2nd earl of Egremont to the Privy Council, concerning trade in the American colonies after the French and Indian War and a proposal to create a frontier military force
June 12, 1784: Dr. John Halliburton to Henry Melville, relating his struggles as a Loyalist who fled from Rhode Island to Halifax during the American Revolution
July 10, 1791: Lady Eglantine Wallace's account of the plan for the French Royal Family's attempted escape
November 19, 1794: Draft of the Jay Treaty (American Treaty of Commerce, signed by Lord Grenville, along with a copy of a letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Hammond regarding the treaty, 81 pages)
August 3, 1798: Mary Scott's description of the young King of Prussia
July 18, 1799: Anonymous letter from a secret service agent in Göttingen concerning "cloak and dagger" operations to send intelligence through Frankfurt
June 29, 1804: Secret intelligence from Admiral William Cornwallis concerning attacks on Brest and plans to burn the French fleet there
October 17, 1807: William Sweetland's report on the Barbary Coast enclosed in a Sir Charles Flint letter
The Robert Dundas Melville papers relate primarily to his office as first lord of the admiralty from 1812 to 1830. These include material concerning the War of 1812, and secret admiralty memoranda documenting ship locations and movements, strength of forces, and instructions to and from various British admirals. Notably, Melville received copies of intercepted letters from Albert Gallatin, John Quincy Adams, John Speyer, S. Bourne, and R. G. Beasley to President James Madison from 1813 to 1814. The collection also provides insights into American-British tensions in the Great Lakes region in the years after the war. Between 1815 and 1820, Melville received many reports and letters related to the treatment of scurvy in the navy.
Below is a selection of notable items:
June 6, 1812: Lord Keith's "Observations upon the Coast of America"
January 6, 1813: Richard Bickerton concerning proposed attacks on Boulogne and Dieppe
October 6, 1813: Admiral George Tate to Robert Melville containing a complete list of the Russian fleet
November 23, 1813: George Campbell's plans for constructing naval vessels in the Great Lakes, with detailed ship diagrams
February 26, 1814: Britain Navy Commissioner Samuel Bentham's detailed report on the Battle of Lake Erie (25 pages)
July 15, 1814: Charles and George Baillie's presentation of a petition for abolishing the British slave trade
March 1815: Many letters concerning the Duke of Orleans's plan to escape England
September 25, 1815: Manuscript draft to Thomas Moore regarding communications about the "Merchants of Liverpool & Manchester engaged in the trade to Spanish South America."
November 1815: Dr. William Beaty's letter on the value of providing lemon juice and vinegar to sailors for health at sea
April 25-August 6, 1820: Anthony Maitland, 10th earl of Lauderdale, to Robert Melville concerning Trieste and Malta with detailed information on affairs
August 25, 1823: Account of scurvy patients received yearly at naval hospitals at Haslar, Plymouth, Yarmouth, Deal, and Paington for the years 1803-1822
1825: Lord Auckland's report on prize ship laws
The Bound Volumes series (7 volumes) is comprised of the following material:
The Melville Correspondence, 1780-1830 (146 items), containing official letters to and from the viscounts Melville
Frederick Duke of York letters to Melville (32 letters), relating to militia and military matters, and including a color portrait of the Duke, and 1804 and 1810 accounts for field work expenses incurred by the Home Office, covering the years 1795 to 1803
"Precis of Mr. Dundas's Correspondence with the Several Departments of his Majesty's Government," covering the Portland and Perceval ministries (46 pages), March 1807-July 23, 1810
Four bundles of military letters and documents concerning conflicts in Europe, covering the years 1793, 1794, 1795, and 1804-1813
Wellesley, Richard Colley, 2nd earl of Mornington, 1st marquess.
Wellington, Archer Wellesley, 1st duke.
Westmorland, John Fane, 10th earl, 1759-1841.
Whitworth, Charles, 1st earl.
Willoughby de Eresby, Clementina Sarah Drummond Burrell, baroness, d. 1865.
Willoughby de Eresby, Peter Robert Burrell, 2nd lord Gwydir, 21st baron, 1782-1865.
Windham, William, 1750-1810.
Wood, Sir James Athol, 1756-1829.
Wood, Sir Matthew, 1768-1843.
York, Prince Frederick August, duke of Albany, 1763-1827.
The following map originally accompanied a letter from Captain Peter Puget, enclosed in Sir William Cornwallis to Melville, June 29, 1804. It is now located in the Clements Library Map Division: Puget, Peter John. Harbor At Brest. 1804.
The following drawing is located in the Clements Library Graphics Division: George Campbell diagrams for constructing naval vessels in the Great Lakes (November 23, 1813)
The following books are located in the Clements Library Book Division: