DASHWOOD, Sir Francis, 2nd Bt. (1708-81), of West Wycombe, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1741 - 1761
1761 - 19 Apr. 1763

Family and Education

b. Dec. 1708, 1st s. of Sir Francis Dashwood, 1st Bt., M.P., of West Wycombe, by his 2nd w. Lady Mary Fane, da. of Vere, 4th Earl of Westmorland and 7th Lord le Despenser; gd.-s. of Francis Dashwood, Turkey merchant and alderman of London. educ. Eton 1725; Grand Tour (France, Italy) 1729-31. m. 19 Dec. 1745, Sarah, da. and coh. of George Gould of Iver, Bucks., wid. of Sir Richard Ellis, 3rd Bt., of Wyham, Lincs., s.p. suc. fa. 1724; the abeyance of the barony of le Despenser was terminated in his favour 19 Apr. 1763.

Offices Held

P.C. 20 Mar. 1761; treasurer of the chamber 1761-2; chancellor of the Exchequer 1762-3; ld. lt. Bucks 1763- d.; keeper of the great wardrobe 1763-5; jt. postmaster gen. 1766- d.


Dashwood succeeded his brother-in-law, Sir Robert Austen, 4th Bt., as M.P. for New Romney, with the support of Henry Furnese. In 1754 he was classed by Dupplin as an Opposition Whig, unconnected with any of the leading parties.

In September 1755 Pitt sounded Dashwood through Dodington about his attitude towards the subsidy treaties;1 and in the debate of 13 Nov. Dashwood spoke and voted against them. About this time Horace Walpole ranked him among the thirty best speakers in the House.2 In December, when Dodington and Furnese took office, an approach was made to Dashwood. On 16 Dec. Henry Fox, who had first intended him for the Admiralty, offered him the post of comptroller of the Household or ‘an employment that shall, in your own eye and in that of the whole world, be at least as good’. Dashwood refused; it was, he said, his express opinion

that those would be unworthy of, and useless to, an Administration who should occasionally alter their opinions of any before adopted constitutional and great national points ... Therefore I must entreat you, Sir, to be fully assured and convinced that neither the Admiralty nor the comptroller’s staff, nor anything better, were ever of primary considerations with me.3

Instead, he threw in his lot with Bute and the Prince of Wales.

His papers contain a draft militia bill, 29 Dec.1755, and two draft pamphlets: ‘A Sketch for a National Militia’, 29 Dec. 1755, and ‘Reasons for the Speedy Regulation of a Formidable Militia’, 18 Feb. 1756. He spoke in favour of the two militia bills of 1756 and 1757, and became the first colonel of the Bucks. militia.

Another matter which he had much at heart was the case of Admiral Byng. On 17 Feb. 1757, when Byng’s sentence was notified to the House, Dashwood spoke against his expulsion and moved for ‘the letter of the court martial’. ‘His view, he said, was, by considering the warmth of their recommendation, to lead to some application for mercy.’ On 23 Feb. he moved for the 12th Article of War, under which Byng had been condemned:

He said he had felt great animosity against the unhappy sufferer from the first representations; but his opinion was totally changed by the trial. That at most he could only impute misjudgment to Mr. Byng. To the court martial he must impute it more strongly, who, he thought, had condemned the admiral unjustly.

And on 25 Feb. he spoke on behalf of Augustus Keppel for a bill to enable the court martial ‘to declare what had been their intention in pronouncing Mr. Byng guilty’. Horace Walpole, who described Dashwood as ‘a man distinguished by no milkiness of temper’, praises the humanity he showed towards Byng.4

In the struggle between Edward Dering and Rose Fuller at New Romney, 1756-60, Dashwood took no part, and steadfastly refused to meddle in the affairs of the corporation. This cost him his seat, and in 1761 he was returned by Dodington for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis.

In the new reign Dashwood shared the fortunes of Bute. On 16 Jan. 1761 Bute told Dodington that he had refused to ally himself with Newcastle unless Dashwood, Charles Townshend, and Lord Talbot were offered ‘such places as he wished’.5 When Bute became secretary of state Dashwood was made treasurer of the chamber, and when Bute took the Treasury, chancellor of the Exchequer. The measure which marked his period at the Exchequer was the unpopular tax on cider; it aroused violent opposition and was never judged on its merits. He resigned with Bute, accepted court office, and was transferred to the Lords. As one of Bute’s friends he was dismissed by the Rockinghams, but returned under Chatham. By then he was of little political significance.

Dashwood travelled widely, visiting Denmark and Russia, and was one of the founders of the Society of Dilettanti. His reputation has suffered greatly from the imputations of Horace Walpole, and the hackneyed stories about the Medmenham Club are probably exaggerated. His tenure of the Post Office shows him to have been an honest and competent administrator.

He died 11 Dec. 1781.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Betty Kemp


  • 1. Dodington, Diary, 374.
  • 2. Mems. Geo. II, ii. 144.
  • 3. Dashwood mss.
  • 4. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, ii. 312, 318, 328.
  • 5. Diary, 429.