Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, lived from 28 April 1742 to 28 May 1811. He was a lawyer and politician who became the last person to be impeached in the United Kingdom. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Henry Dundas was born in Dalkeith, the fourth son of Robert Dundas, Lord Arniston, Lord President of the Court of Session. He was educated at Edinburgh's Royal High School before going on to study at the University of Edinburgh. In 1763, at the age of 21, he became a member of the Faculty of Advocates, the body of lawyers allowed to practise as advocates in the Scottish courts. He rapidly rose up the ranks of the legal profession, becoming Solicitor General for Scotland in 1766 and Lord Advocate in 1775.
In 1774 Dundas became Member of Parliament for Midlothian. He went on to hold a number of junior ministerial posts before becoming a member of the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1791. William Pitt the Younger appointed him War Secretary from 1794 to 1801, and in 1802 he was given a Peerage and became Viscount Melville and Baron Dunira. In 1804 he became First Lord of the Admiralty. However the following year a commission of inquiry which had been established in 1802 reported on Dundas's handling of Admiralty finances, for which he had been responsible as War Secretary in the 1790s. As a result Dundas was impeached in 1806, on the charge of misappropriation of public money. He was acquitted, but never again held government office. He was said to have been offered an earldom in 1809, but turned it down.
Henry Dundas died in 1811. In 1821 the Melville Monument, designed by architect William Burn and in the form of a tall column, was erected in the centre of St Andrews Square in Edinburgh. A statue of Dundas by sculptor Robert Forrest was added to the top in 1828. The town of Dundas in Ontario was also named after him.