Edinburgh's Melville Monument and links with the slave trade.


During past visits to Edinburgh (Scotland's capital) I have always been intrigued by the massive, 140 ft tall, monument to Viscount Melville which sits in its own square in the heart of the city's financial district. Despite having a good grounding in Scottish/British history I had never before heard of the gentleman.

According to recent press reports, there is a clash of views within an expert panel set up by Edinburgh Council to agree wording on a new plaque dedicated to Henry Dundas who became Viscount Melville (1742 –1811). The heart of the debate centres on Melville's role as First Lord of the Admiralty during the 18th century when he oversaw expansion of the British Empire albeit at the cost of a delay in the abolition of slavery. (Slavery was allowed in the West Indies colonies and British ships transported slaves.)

 Britain abolished slavery in 1833 but some argue the abolition should have occurred earlier and that Melville 'dragged his heels'. However, others point out that slavery was not solely within the gift of Melville who had to contend with a pro-slavery Parliament.The debate continues.

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