MILES, William Augustus.

A Political Mirror;

or, a Summary Review of the Present Reign. With Notes, Explanatory and Historical, and an Authentic List of the Ships and Vessels of War, taken and Destroyed, since the Commencement of Hostilities.

London: Printed for Fielding and Walker, 1779 Stock Code: 143439
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First edition. A scarce and desirable piece of Americana with just eleven institutional copies located worldwide for this first edition; the second edition of the following year omits the list of ships.

Unusually solely the BL copy is located in the UK, the rest in the US - Huntington, Lilly, JCB, NYHS, Yale, Society of the Cincinnati, Clements and a few outliers. In commerce, the only copy listed at auction is Anderson Galleries, 1926 in The Fine Historical Library of Dr. George C. F. Williams, Hartford, Conn.

Miles ran away from school as a boy, supposedly to support Wilkes; he visited America in the 1760s, returning in 1770 to work briefly at the Ordnance office, whose employ he left and whose corruption he exposed in his Letters to Selim. Having obtained a position in the Royal Navy through the influence of David Garrick, he served under Rodney in the West Indies during the War of Independence, he was in Newfoundland in 1779 and was a prisoner of war in St. Lucia two years later. Later he moved to the continent, to Belgium and France, certainly in the latter period operating as a spy, perhaps in government employ or perhaps as a freelance seeking "interest". He was known in Paris during the Revolution and met a number of the leading figures, including Lafayette whom he had previously encountered during his American adventures. He was rewarded for his efforts by Pitt with an annuity, but was to lose this for later criticism of the ministry. In later life he moved towards a more radical stance, supporting Sir Frances Burdett's candidacy, and being forced to leave London political circles due to his attacks on the Prince Regent's profligacy. He died in Paris in 1817 whilst researching a history of the Revolution.

In the present work Miles is highly critical of Mulgrave and Bute, contrasting them to their detriment with the earlier ministry of Pitt the Elder. Wilkes is praised for having "exhibited another instance to the world of the animating superiority of our free constitution." The second part of the essay deals at length with the origins of the war with America in government mismanagement, "Both houses of legislature were prodigal in their abuse of the Americans, whom they stigmatised as cowards and blockheads. Allowing the stigma to be just, it is a reflection on the wisdom and magnanimity of this country to have sued those very cowards and blockheads for a peace, after a contest of four years, in which the strength of this country had been in vain exerted to subjugate them We are now attacked by France and Spain, deserted by Portugal, menaced by Holland, dispossessed of the continent of America, and not only deprived of the affections of three millions of people, and of their commerce, but compelled to contend against their power, at the inconvenient and expensive distance of three thousand miles." Further commenting on the incompetence of the present attempts by Lord North to "recover by violence, what had been lost by folly and oppression". As a demonstration of the ineffectiveness of North's policy he appends a 3-page list of ships "lost, taken or destroyed between the Years 1775 and 1779 by the French and Americans."

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Octavo (201 x 127 mm), 70 pp. Disbound.


Light browning, else very good.


Adams 79-77a; Howes P41; Sabin 63789.


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