Melvill, James Cosmo (DNB01)

MELVILL, Sir JAMES COSMO (1792–1861), last secretary of the East India Company, born at Guernsey in 1792, was the third son of Philip Melvill (1762–1811), afterwards lieutenant-governor of Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, by his wife, Elizabeth Carey (d. 1844), youngest daughter of Peter Dobree of Beauregarde, Guernsey. Henry Melvill [q. v.] was his elder brother. James entered the home service of the East India Company in February 1808. He soon displayed unusual abilities, and rose by rapid steps to the highest permanent position at the East India House. In 1824 he was appointed auditor of Indian accounts. While in this position he gave important evidence in 1830 before a parliamentary committee vindicating the company's conduct of its China trade from the attack of William Huskisson [q. v.], and again in 1832 before another committee on Indian affairs in regard to the accounts of the company (Thorton, Hist. of British Empire in India, 1858, pp. 501, 503). In 1834 he became financial secretary, and in 1836 chief secretary, an office which he held until the termination of the company's existence as a governing body in 1858. After his retirement from the service of the company he was appointed government director of Indian railways, and it is said that he was offered appointments of high rank in the Indian government, but declined them. Melvill was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 14 Jan. 1841, and was created K.C.B. on 5 Sept. 1853. He died at Tandridge Court, near Godstone in Surrey, on 23 July 1861. In March 1815 he married Hester Jean Frances (d. 10 April 1864), youngest daughter of William Marmaduke Sellon of Harlesden in Middlesex. By her he had numerous issue.

[Memoirs of Philip Melvill, 1812; Ann. Reg. 1861, ii. 469; Gent. Mag. 1861, ii. 334; Boase's Collect. Cornub. 1890; London Review, 27 July 1861; Bell's British Folks and British India Fifty Years Ago, 1891.]

E. I. C.