DUNDAS, Henry, Viscount Melville (1742–1811), politician. LS to Chas.W. Dilke, 1797


DUNDAS, Henry, Viscount Melville (1742–1811), politician. LS to Chas.W. Dilke, 1797

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LAST PERSON IMPEACHED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

DUNDAS, Henry, first Viscount Melville (1742–1811), politician. Letter signed to Chas. W. Dilke, Navy Pay Office, 22nd May 1797, 3 sides folio, heavily criticizing Dilke for not attending properly to matters in the Pay Office "I find my Paymaster has written repeatedly to you respecting the delay in dispatching the Business sent to you from the Inspectors Branch of my Office. I beg to acquaint you that I have requested the Navy Board to write upon this subject to Commissioner Saxton and to recommend that no Claim shall be solved at any time or paid to any Agent until all Claims are finished which you may then have in your hands from the Inspectors Branch ............... I now inform you of the necessity of exerting your Authority over the junior Clerks whom you shall appoint to make out the Remittance Bills, as I shall not admit any excuse whatever on your part - you may remove any of them from their Situation if you find it necessary ................... I shall hold you responsible to me for the due execution of this particular Business and will not allow the necessity of retaining you in your present Situation if the Claims from the Inspectors Branch shall not be duly cleared off and dispatched previous to any payment being made to any Agent or Officers or others......". Docketed on the reverse. Top (blank) areas of paper soiled with small tears.


Dundas served as treasurer of the Admiralty between 1782-1800, and was also Secretary of State for War. The Paymaster referred to was Alexander Trotter, who Dundas had appointed in 1785, and the recipient of this letter was Charles Wentworth Dilke (1742/3–1826) a chief clerk in the paymaster branch of the Admiralty (and a literary critic).

In 1802 a commission of inquiry into the Navy's finances was appointed, following which suspicion arose as to the financial management of the Admiralty during Dundas's term as treasurer 1782-1800 (covering the period of the present letter). The commission reported its findings in 1805, resulting in 1806 in the impeachment of Dundas, now Viscount Melville, for the misappropriation of public money. It found out in particular that Melville had not, as required, kept at the Bank of England official disbursements allocated to him though not yet spent. Since he refused to co-operate in showing where else they had gone, the focus of the investigation switched to his subordinate, Alexander Trotter, paymaster of the navy. Trotter eventually admitted to having drawn money from the bank and laid it out in investments of his own, a practice by no means uncommon among public servants at the time, if in this case expressly prohibited by law. Though it ended in an acquittal for Melville, and nothing more than formal negligence lay against him, he never again held office. This was the last impeachment trial ever held in the House of Lords. (ODNB)

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