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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Gary Hutchison

Hutchison, Gary D. (2017). ‘The Manager in Distress’ Reaction to the Impeachment of Henry Dundas, 1805-7. Parliamentary History 36(2): 198-217.

Author(s) from Durham


Impeachments have long since ceased to be a feature of British politics. Much scholarly attention has been given to past impeachments, particularly the unsuccessful prosecution of Warren Hastings. Little consideration, however, has been given to the last such case, the impeachment of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, from 1805 to 1807. The Melville scandal held the interest of the country until the middle of 1806, when it was diverted by naval battles. Although generally neglected by historians of the period, the Melville affair was a significant event in the course of then‐contemporary British politics, and of wider society. Examination of the reactions to the attempted impeachment can illuminate a number of developing themes and concerns within both elite circles and in the wider political nation. These include dislike of patronage and the Pittite ‘system’, anti‐Scottish bias, and advocacy of financial and parliamentary reform. Moreover, it helped to revive the radical movement both in parliament and out of doors. While the affair may not have been as significant as the later Mrs Clarke and Queen Caroline scandals, the reactions to it were generally comparable. In fact, reactions to the attempted impeachment presaged reactions to these later events. The issues and passions stirred forth by the proceedings will be shown to have significantly contributed to the revival of a dynamic national political atmosphere which itself enabled and fuelled those reactions.