to Medmenham abbey, Dashwood erected a church on a neighbouring hill, which, as Churchill put it in 'The Ghost,' might 'serve for show, if not for prayer,' and Wilkes was equally caustic in his references to Dashwood's church 'built on the top of a hill for the convenience and devotion of the town at the bottom of it' (Memoirs, ed. Almon, iii. 57-9).
On 15 April 1754 Dash wood was re-elected to parliament for New Romney, and when the Buckinghamshire militia was raised on the outbreak of the seven years' war in 1757, Dashwood became its first colonel with Wilkes as his lieutenant-colonel. In the same year he made a praiseworthy effort to save the life of Admiral Byng (Walpole, Mem. of George II, ii. 318, 323 sqq., 336). On 28 March 1761 he found a new seat in parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis ; he was re-elected on 9 June 1762 on his appointment as chancellor of the exchequer, which he owed to his dependence upon Bute. 'Of financial knowledge he did not possess the rudiments, and his ignorance was all the more conspicuous from the great financial ability of his predecessor Legge. His budget speech was so confused and incapable that it was received with shouts of laughter. An excise of four shillings in the hogshead, to be paid by the grower, which he imposed on cider and perry, raised a resistance through the cider counties hardly less furious than that which had been directed against the excise scheme of Walpole' (Lecky, History, ed. 1892, iii. 224). Dashwood accordingly retired with Bute from the ministry on 8 April 1763, receiving the sinecure keepership of the wardrobe. On the 19th he was summoned to parliament as fifteenth baron Le Despencer, the abeyance into which that barony had fallen on 26 Aug. 1762, on the death of his uncle, John Fane, seventh earl of Westmorland and fourteenth baron Le Despencer, being thus terminated in Dashwood's favour. He was now premier baron of England, and in the same year he was made lord-lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, being succeeded in the colonelcy of the militia by John Wilkes.
As Baron Le Despencer he now sank into comparative respectability and insignificance. He took a disgraceful part with John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich [q. v.], in raking up charges against their common friend Wilkes in connection with the 'Essay on Woman,' and during Lord North's long administration from 1770 to 1781 he was joint postmaster-general. When, however, Chatham fell down in a swoon during his last speech in the House of Lords, Despencer was almost the only peer who came to his assistance. He died at West Wycombe after a long illness on 11 Dec. 1781 (Gent. Mag. 1781, p. 594), and was buried in; the mausoleum he had built there. His wife died on 19 Jan. 1769, and was also buried at Wycombe. He left no legitimate issue, and the barony of Le Despencer again fell into abeyance ; his sister Rachel, widow of Sir Robert Austen, third baronet of Bexley, Kent, illegally assumed the title Baroness Le Despencer, but on her death the abeyance was once more terminated in favour of her cousin, Thomas Stapleton, sixteenth baron. His granddaughter, Mary Frances Elizabeth, succeeded in 1848 as seventeenth baroness, and her son, Evelyn Edward Thomas Boscawen, seventh viscount Falmouth, succeeded as eighteenth baron Le Despencer on 25 Nov. 1891. Dashwood's baronetcy passed, on his death, to his half brother, Sir John Dashwood-King (1716-1793).
Dashwood's portrait, painted by George Knapton, belongs to the Dilettanti Society ; he is represented as one of the monks of Medmenham, holding a goblet inscribed 'Matri Sanctorum,' and in an attitude of devotion before a figure of the Venus de' Medici ; the motive of the picture is 'both indecorous and profane' (Cust, Dilettanti Soc. p. 217 ; Almon, Mem. of Wilkes, iii. 59). Another portrait of Dashwood, painted by Hogarth, has been engraved, and a third, anonymous, and now belonging to Viscount Dillon at Ditchley, is reproduced in Barker's edition of Walpole's 'Memoirs of George III' (1894, i. 204).
[A volume of Dashwood's correspondence extending from 1747 to 1781 is in Egerton MS. 2136, and letters from him to Wilkes are in Addit. MS. 30867. See also Journals of the Lords and Commons; Official Return of Members of Parl. ; Old Parliamentary History ; Lists of Sheriffs, P.R.O. ; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886 ; Horace Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, vols. i-v. and vii., Memoirs of George II, ed. Lord Holland, and of George III, ed. Barker; Wraxall's Hist, and Posthumous Mem., ed. Wheatley ; Almon's Mem. and Corresp. of John Wilkes, ed. 1805; Bubb Dodington's Diary, ed. 1809, passim; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Letters ; Chesterfield'*! Letters; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill ; Charles Johnston's Chrysal, 1768; Churchill's Poems, The Ghost and the Candidate ; Bedford Correspondence ; Thomson's Hist, of the Royal Soc.; Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, viii. 236, ix. 454 (where he is confused with Thomas Stapleton, his successor in the barony) ; Mahon's Hist, of England ; Leeky's Hist, of England ; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire; Collinson's Somerset; Doran's 'Mann' and Manners at the Court of Florence ; Cust's