Liverpool, in the north-west of England, was the country's premier port and had extensive shipping links with the United States. So it was a natural choice of location for one of the first two consulates established in Britain by the fledgling US republic in 1790.
In view of his important place in consular history in Britain James Maury, the first consul, merits a brief biography in this chapter. He was born on 3 February 1746 near Charlottesville, Virginia, the son of the Reverend James Maury. The latter, who was born in Dublin, had a small one-room school in Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, in which he taught classical languages, mathematics and literature. Young James attended his father's school and his fellow pupils included a unique coterie of future presidents: James Madison, James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson, all of whom remained his lifelong friends. He was married twice; first in 1782 to Catherine Armistead of Virginia (she died in Liverpool in 1794 without issue, and is buried in Fredericksburg, Virginia) and second in 1796 to Margaret Rutson an Englishwoman (she died in Liverpool in 1830 and is buried there). He had four sons and one daughter, all of whom were born in Liverpool: James (1797), William (1799), Matthew (1800), Ann (1803) and Rutson (1805).
For several years, Maury had occupied himself as a merchant in Fredericksburg, Virginia. However, after the Revolution he decided to seek pastures new in England and intended to move to Bristol but was dissuaded from going there by Thomas Jefferson who said that Liverpool offered greater business prospects. Maury took this advice and he and Catherine arrived in Liverpool in August 1786. He had been keen for some time to obtain a consular post and within a few weeks of arriving in Liverpool wrote to Jefferson, who was by then American minister to France, on 17 September 1786:
Almost ever since you left America have I been waiting for the Consular arrangement to take place, til at length I became quite tired of remaining in Suspense and came out. My friends in Congress, however, still assure me I am continued on the list of Candidates. […]. If in the Course of your Correspondence it occur, you'll much oblige me by putting our friends in Mind of me.