MILES, William (1797-1878), of Leigh Court, Abbots Leigh, Som.
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Family and Education
b. 13 May 1797, 1st s. of Philip John Miles* of Leigh Court and 1st w. Maria, da. of Dr. John Whetham, dean of Lismore. educ. Eton 1811; Christ Church, Oxf. 1815; L. Inn 1818. m. 12 Sept. 1823, Catherine, da. of John Gordon of Clifton, Glos., 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 7da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1845; cr. bt. 19 Apr. 1859. d. 17 June 1878.
Lt.-col. N. Som. yeoman cav. 1839, col. 1843-67.
Miles, the eldest son of an immensely wealthy Bristol banker and West India merchant, declined to contest Chippenham in 1820 and was out of the House for ten years. At the general election of 1830, when his address was given in the Official Return as Beesthorpe Hall, Nottinghamshire, he came in for New Romney on the Dering interest, after a token contest. He was unopposed in 1831. The Wellington ministry listed him with his father among the ‘moderate Ultras’ who were at bottom ‘friends’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., presented a New Romney petition against it, 24 Mar., and voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. On 5 July he attacked the reintroduced bill as a ‘a speculative’ and ‘dangerous reform’, by which ‘every enthusiast sees a path opened ... to the long-cherished political utopia of his ardent but distempered imagination’: it was, he said, ‘the prelude to greater concessions, and an incentive to more democratic demands’. He voted against the second reading the following day, for an adjournment, 12 July, and against the partial disfranchisement of his former constituency, 27 July. He was one of the minority of ten who voted for Hunt’s amendment to the borough franchise proposals, 25 Aug. He voted against the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. He divided against government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. On 30 Sept. he objected to the ‘lowness’ of the qualification proposed by Hobhouse in his bill to reform select vestries and, claiming to be the spokesman of the Bristol vestries, moved the exemption of such bodies as had sole control over church charities. The sense of the House was against him and he did not press the issue.
Miles, who was evidently not the most assiduous of attenders, was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. He voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading 22 Mar. 1832. He divided for the Liverpool disfranchisement bill, 23 May, against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, for a tax on Irish absentee landlords, 19 June, and in censure of ministers over the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July. On the boundary bill, 22 June 1832, he strongly objected to the proposal to include in the Bristol constituency large areas previously belonging to Gloucestershire and Somerset, but his protests were disregarded.
Miles unsuccessfully contested Somerset East at the 1832 general election, but he came in there unopposed on a vacancy in 1834 and held the seat, with only one contest, for over 30 years. He emerged in the 1840s as one of the leading Protectionist backbenchers and was rewarded by Lord Derby with a baronetcy in 1859.1 By then he was a very rich man, having succeeded his father to a handsome personal fortune, in addition to his Somerset estates and Jamaican sugar plantations, in 1845.2 He was a partner in the family’s Bristol bank and West India mercantile house from that date until his death in June 1878.3