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.
Although London is the capital city of the United Kingdom it was not the first British city to have an operational American consulate. As we have seen, that honour goes to Liverpool. However, the new US republic had its first diplomatic, as opposed to consular, presence in London and established its legation there in 1785, headed by John Adams of Massachusetts as minister plenipotentiary. In 1893, the legation was upgraded to an embassy and was headed by Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.
The first consul in London was Joshua Johnson, a merchant. A native of Maryland, he had moved to London in 1771 as resident partner of the Annapolis merchant firm of Wallace, Davidson, and Johnson. He terminated the partnership in 1774 and he and his family moved to Nantes, in France, where he continued as a merchant from 1778 to 1783. In 1781, he formed a new partnership under the name of Wallace, Johnson, and Muir then returned to London with his family in 1783 and continued with the partnership until January 1790. In August of that year he was appointed consul in London, with offices at 8 Cowper's [or Cooper's] Row, Crutched Friars, Tower Hill. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson reminded Johnson of the importance of the appointment, since the United States had ‘no diplomatic character at that court’ at that time. Accordingly, Johnson was expected to undertake more than the usual consular functions involving commerce and navigation. Jefferson informed him that ‘in your position we must desire something more’. And the ‘something more’ was ‘Political intelligence from that country is interesting to us in a high degree. We must therefore ask you to furnish us with this as far as you shall be able.’ Although agreeing to do so, Johnson said that as Jefferson would know from personal experience of living in France that it was difficult to obtain reliable information without spending considerable amounts of money. This would be ‘inconsistent with my pursuits and not justifiable to my Family’. He returned to the question of finance, noting that Congress was considering a bill to define the duties of consuls and their fees but it had been defeated by the Senate.
Birmingham is a large important city in the midlands. American consular representation there began in 1836 when Alfred Burrish, a local businessman, was appointed consular agent. He was succeeded in 1840 by another local businessman, John Mason Guest Underhill, who served until 1865, but it was not until 1865 that the first American citizen was appointed agent; he was Elihu Burritt of Connecticut. A philanthropist, he was nicknamed ‘the learned blacksmith’ because that had been his earlier career; before taking up his appointment he was heavily involved in world peace movements and other causes. He served until 1869, when another American, J. B. Gould of Maine, was appointed consul. Gould had previously been nominated as consul in Cork but for some reason the appointment had not been taken up. By the time of his appointment to Birmingham there were consular agencies in Leicester, Wolverhampton, Kidderminster and Redditch that reported directly to him.
Birmingham was one of the busiest consulates in Britain. In the year ended 30 September 1871 the value of goods exported to the United States and verified by the consulate and its agencies was almost $8 million. The fee income from certifying the invoices for exported goods earned the consulate and agencies more than $12,000 for the year ended 30 June 1872. In 1878, Eugene Schuyler, a high flier in the Consular Service, arrived in place of Sevellon A. Brown, Chief Clerk of the State Department, who had been nominated but had declined the appointment. Schuyler was an expert on Russia and Central Asia and during the previous 11 years had held posts in Moscow, Reval (renamed Tallinn, Estonia), St Petersburg and Constantinople. Given his background it was obvious that he would not remain long in Birmingham and, indeed, he left the following year. However, during his short time in Birmingham he occupied himself by finishing his translation of Tolstoy's novel The Cossacks. Later in his career he wrote American Diplomacy, which became a standard work on US foreign affairs. In 1879, Wilson King, of Pennsylvania, consul at Bremen, was appointed.
Stoke on Trent, in Staffordshire, known locally as Stoke, was formed in 1910 from an amalgamation of six towns – Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton – and became a city in 1925. The main industry in all these towns was the production of earthenware and stoneware, and among the dozens of companies were world-famous ones such as Royal Doulton, Spode and Wedgwood. Such was the concentration of these industries that the area was known as ‘The Potteries’.
Over the years the location of the US consulate changed in line with the municipal changes, but it was always unique since there were no other consulates in any of the towns. The first consular office was an agency established in Tunstall in 1863 headed by Thomas Llewellyn; by 1869 it had been upgraded to a consulate headed by J. S. Runnels and moved to Burslem in 1877 (although it still retained the name of Tunstall), and then finally to Stoke on Trent in 1910. Runnels was succeeded in 1871 by Josiah M. Lucas. Lucas, a lifelong Illinois friend of Abraham Lincoln, had had a fairly chequered career before being appointed to Tunstall. He had been a clerk in the General Land Office, Postmaster of the House of Representatives, an army captain dealing with commissary matters and been nominated (unsuccessfully) for the post of consul at Singapore. In 1873, John Copestake, a local Burslem man, joined the consulate as a junior clerk and began a career that lasted more than fifty-one years. Lucas was followed in 1879 by Edward Ephraim Lane, of Connecticut, who served until 1886. He was evidently held in high regard locally and when he was recalled to the United States he was presented with a silver tea and coffee service by William Woodall, the Member of Parliament for Hanley, on behalf of a number of leading Staffordshire citizens. He died two years after returning to America. Jacob Schoenhof arrived in 1886. He had been born in Germany but had moved to the United States in his early twenties and become a naturalized American citizen. He had been in the wholesale lace business for many years until retiring in 1884. An expert in textile tariffs, wages and economics he was appointed to Burslem by President Grover Cleveland ‘under the belief that his observations there would be of value to the Government’.
Southampton is an important and busy port in the south of England with a long maritime history. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from there, not from Plymouth as is generally thought, only putting in to Plymouth for repairs to their ships. The city was formerly an important port of call for transatlantic liners, and it was also from there on 10 April 1912 that the Titanic sailed on its ill-fated maiden voyage. Nowadays the port is popular with luxury cruise ships. The city has close links with the Isle of Wight, about ten miles distant, which is reached by frequent ferry services.
The US consular presence in the area was inextricably linked with Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, which was where Thomas Auldjo, a local British businessman was appointed vice consul in 1790. However, as we have seen, his appointment was not recognized by the British government on the grounds that there had never before been a foreign consul in Cowes. As a compromise, the government was prepared to recognize him at Poole, on the mainland, and to overlook the fact that he was residing in Cowes. His recognition as vice consul at Poole therefore dates from 1791. His status changed in 1816 when he was recognized as consul at Cowes. Southampton came within the Cowes consular district. Auldjo's successors were Americans Robert R. Hunter, in 1823, and William Whetten in 1842. When visiting England in 1842 Joseph Rodney Croskey met his friend Whetten who decided that the consular post was not worth his retention and resigned it in favour of Croskey. Croskey had been born in Philadelphia but on his father's death had left there at the age of seven and under his London uncle's care was educated in England until the age of 16. Returning to the United States he embarked on a colourful career which included travel and business in Africa and Central America. He duly served as consul from 1844 until 1849, when he was removed from office by the newly elected President Zachary Taylor. In 1850 Charles W. Fenton of New Jersey was appointed consul for both Southampton and Cowes, based in Southampton. However his appointment was shortlived, as he found the emoluments of the post inadequate and resigned later that year.
Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, was once the world's largest coal-exporting port with ships arriving via the Bristol Channel and the Severn Estuary. The first US consular presence in the city opened in 1830 and was an agency, headed by Edward Priest Richards, a local alderman and town clerk. Consular agencies were similar to honorary consulates and were headed by local businessmen and other professionals. Richards was succeeded in 1836 by Richard Jones Todd, a clerk in the customs house, who remained until 1842. During the next twenty years, the agents included Henry H. Parry (a partner in Parry, Brown & Co., who were also vice consuls for Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia), David Brown and Sidney D. Jenkins (a naturalized American citizen).
The first consulate was established in 1861, with Charles Dexter Cleveland of Pennsylvania in charge. He was 59 years of age and had been a leading classicist, having held the chair of Latin at New York University; he was also an abolitionist and a writer of textbooks and poetry. He remained at Cardiff until 1864 when Charles E. Burch, also of Pennsylvania, was appointed. Burch was allowed to trade in addition to his consular duties. It seems that he may have given more attention to the former than the latter because when the consulate was inspected in 1872, three years after he had left, the inspector was not impressed by his record-keeping. He noted: ‘I should judge from the lack of books and accounts during the time that a Mr Birch [sic] officiated here, that that individual had carried off the books and papers with him. Some reports he had made out had not been sent, and were found among the rubbish which he had left for his successor.’ More in sorrow than in anger, the inspector added: ‘This consulate has been subjected to the vicissitudes of good and bad officers to an extent no less notorious than I discovered at many other places.’ Harry H. Davis, another Pennsylvanian, arrived in 1869. The inspector's report on him was a mixed one: ‘Under the present consul at Cardiff the affairs of the office are well attended to as far as books and accounts are concerned.’ However, he added: ‘I may say that all the business of the consulate is transacted by the deputy and vice consul.
Given that America had been a group of British colonies until the end of the third quarter of the eighteenth century, it obviously neither sent nor received consuls. The overseas interests of its sailors and merchants was the responsibility of British consuls. All that changed when the colonies achieved independence and nationhood. The United States now had to be responsible for its own diplomatic and commercial relations with other countries. Therefore, an executive department for administering this had to be created. The colonists were well aware of this and had taken the first steps towards doing so shortly before the Declaration of Independence.
In November 1775, the Second Continental Congress appointed a secret committee, chaired initially by Benjamin Franklin, to correspond with friends and sympathizers in Britain, Ireland and other parts of the world. This was the Committee of Secret Correspondence, which was renamed the Committee for Foreign Affairs in April 1777, with Thomas Paine as its first secretary. However, this committee system of government, and particularly of running foreign affairs, was frequently criticized, and in January 1779 Congress instructed the committee to obtain information about the ways in which other countries administered not only their foreign policy but also other topics. As a result, the committee had a further name change on 10 January 1781 to the Department of Foreign Affairs, headed by a Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The first holder of the office, Robert R. Livingston, was not offered the post until August and mulled it over before accepting it on 20 October. He held the appointment until 4 June 1783 before resigning. He was succeeded almost a year later by John Jay, who served from 7 May 1784 until 4 March 1789. On 27 July 1789 Congress formally established the department, but less than two months later, on 15 September, gave it a number of additional domestic responsibilities, such as custody of the Great Seal of the United States. As a consequence of these new functions it was renamed the Department of State, and was headed by a secretary of state. The first holder of this office was Thomas Jefferson, who was appointed on 26 September 1789 but did not take up his duties until almost six months later, on 22 March 1790.
Situated some three miles inland from the Firth of Forth, Dunfermline was for several hundred years the capital of Scotland. The town is also the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, the famous industrialist and philanthropist.
Manufacturers in Dunfermline had to travel to the Edinburgh consulate to have their invoices certified before they could export their goods to the United States. As is explained in the Edinburgh and Leith consulate history (Chapter 15), a group of Dunfermline manufacturers wrote to Colonel John Robeson, the Edinburgh consul, in February 1871 asking him to have a consular agency established in Dunfermline with John Burn Doig as agent. This would save them making the twice-weekly, 34-mile journey to Edinburgh. (The Forth Railway Bridge, which eventually would considerably shorten their journey, did not open until almost twenty years later.) Robeson wrote to the Department that month supporting the request, adding that more than eight hundred of the previous year's two thousand invoices verified at his consulate had come from Dunfermline. The Department agreed to the proposal and 20-year-old Doig was appointed on 24 March. In 1872, the business of verifying invoices was described by a government inspector as ‘quite large’, and for the three quarters ended 31 March 1872 generated fee income of $1,740. Doig remained as consular agent until 1877 when he was replaced by George H. Scidmore of Ohio who was appointed as vice consul. The following year a further agency was opened in nearby Kirkcaldy headed by Andrew Innes, a local solicitor and notary public.
Dunfermline became a commercial agency in 1881, rather than a consular agency, and was headed by Henry Ray Myers, with James Penman as vice commercial agent. Myers had been born in Germany but had become a naturalized American citizen. From 1881, the offices occupied one room in St Margaret's Hall, St Margaret Street. The agency's normal routine was shattered in March 1883 when W. H. Josts, a wealthy New Yorker, committed suicide by shooting in Myers's residence. Newspaper reports suggested that he did so because of an unsuccessful divorce suit.
Growing up in Edinburgh, I was always fascinated by the colourful national flags and coats of arms of the many consulates in the city. I was also struck by the unusual, at the time, sight of the left-hand drive chauffeur-driven car conveying the American consul around town. Years later, when working as a civil servant, a colleague and I took the American Consul General Norman Singer for an official lunch at one of Edinburgh's top hotels. This was my first encounter with a consul.
I maintained my interest in the consular world over the years and on leaving the civil service decided to examine the topic in more depth. I undertook graduate research at Durham University into a history of every country that has ever had a consulate in the United Kingdom, from earliest times until the year 2000. This was a unique project and included a major survey of all existing consulates, conducted by means of an extensive questionnaire. Cathy Hurst, the American consul in Edinburgh at the time, was kind enough to do a ‘test drive’ of the draft questionnaire to check for possible flaws in its design. More than two hundred career and honorary consuls representing almost seventy countries participated in the survey. This was about 60 per cent of the total number of consulates, and the data produced results that gave for the first time a detailed picture of the activities and duties of consuls working in the UK.
Having successfully put my PhD behind me, I wanted to continue with my interest in consular relations. At first I thought about researching the French Consular Service and, equipped with my undergraduate degree in French, felt confident enough to read official archives. But after some preliminary research I found that the topic did not hold enough appeal. My thoughts turned again to that lunch with the American consul in Edinburgh and led to an extended visit to Washington, DC, and to College Park, Maryland, where the State Department archives are stored, and to visits to the Department and the embassy in London. I also combed numerous other archives throughout the United States and Britain and corresponded with many officials and private individuals, some of whom were retired diplomats. This book is the result.
Independence did not prove to be the panacea that would cure the new American nation's ills. There were further major military battles to be fought. This time however they were not against a foreign power, but against fellow countrymen. The abolition of slavery had long been a vexatious topic: in broad terms, the southern states, and in particular their cotton plantation owners, favoured the retention of slavery whereas the northern states did not. Confederate President Jefferson Davis said that the ‘northern majority was tyrannous because it actively opposed slavery, and so secession was practically justified as well as constitutionally proper’. US President Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, maintained that ‘One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.’ With such diametrically opposed stances there was no room for compromise. The southern states therefore decided to secede from the Union.
The ensuing Civil War pitted Americans against each other. The Union, or North, fought to prevent the break- up of the United States of America, while the Confederacy, or South, fought to establish a separate Confederate States of America. The first shots were fired in April 1861 when Confederate troops bombarded Fort Sumter, a US military post situated on an island within the harbour of Charleston, South Carolina. The engagement lasted only about 36 hours; there were no casualties and a surrender was quickly negotiated. Although the war began without casualties, by its end the losses were enormous. Estimates of the number who died range between 530,000 and 620,000, greater than the total number of Americans killed in both world wars. To put this into a more modern perspective, 620,000 dead represented 2 per cent of the American population; in 2002, 2 percent would have been five million.
Action was not confined to American soil, however, and Britain, the old enemy, found itself caught up in events. All southern US ports were blockaded by the US Navy and this had an unexpected and unintended consequence.
Falmouth is a small maritime town in Cornwall, in the south-west of England. The story of the American consular presence there is unusual in two respects: with only one exception, during a presence of more than a hundred years not only were all the consuls members of the same Quaker family but they were also British nationals. Additionally, the same family, by the name of Fox, provided American consular representation in nearby Plymouth for almost seventy-five years. Indeed, the family had a remarkable record of being consuls for a number of countries well into the end of the twentieth century. For example, between 1859 and 1965 they represented 36 different countries at Falmouth, Plymouth, Southampton and Totland Bay.
Edward Long Fox was nominated as the port's first American consul by George Washington on 19 February 1793 and the appointment was confirmed by the Senate the following day. He had trained at Edinburgh University and was a busy physician, and very active in the new field of establishing ‘lunatic asylums’. However it is doubtful if he actually took up the appointment because just over a year later Washington rescinded it, saying: ‘It now appears that the name of the person intended to be nominated is Robert Weare Fox. I therefore nominate [him].’ The appointment was approved the following day. Robert Weare Fox, the elder, was a mine owner, merchant and shipping agent in Cornwall and principal partner in the family firm of G. C. Fox & Co. The consulate was operated from the company premises at Arwenack Street, Falmouth. He served until his death in 1818, apart from a break of two years due to the war between the United States and Britain from 1812 to 1814. When the war was declared he ‘took down the American coat of arms, stored away the American flag, and waited for the war to run its course. At its conclusion, up went the coat of arms and the American flag, and Mr Fox resumed his duties.’5 He was succeeded by his son Robert Were Fox (the spelling of their middle names was different), a distinguished geologist and physicist who was also a supporter of religious emancipation and the abolition of slavery.
Ireland was part of Great Britain until 1922 when it became the Irish Free State, a dominion within the British Commonwealth. The United States opened its first consulate in Ireland in Dublin in 1790 and six years later it opened another in the north of the island, in Belfast. While the Dublin consul was an American, the Belfast one was British – James Holmes, a local merchant who served for almost twenty years until 1815 when he was succeeded by James Luke, another local businessman. It was not until 1830 that an American, Thomas W. Gilpin of Philadelphia, was appointed. He served until 1842 and had a second appointment from 1845 until 1847. Also in 1830, the first consular office in Londonderry was opened, headed by Thomas Davenport as vice consul. Between then and 1920 the Belfast and Londonderry offices were variously consulates, vice consulates and consular agencies. There were also other consular offices between 1842 and 1908 in Newry, Ballymena, Sligo and Lurgan, which were subordinate to Belfast and Londonderry. In the southern part of the island there were consular offices at various times, sometimes for only short periods, in Athlone, Ballina, Cobh, Cork, Crookhaven, Dundalk, Galway, Kingstown, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford.
Belfast was a busy consulate and the total value of goods exported to America from its district during 1871 and the first quarter of 1872 exceeded £2.5 million, or almost $11 million, and the consulate earned almost $16,000 in fees from certifying these goods. The goods were not shipped direct to America but via Liverpool. The consulate had only one subordinate agency, at Ballymena. In 1881 the consulate moved premises to 5 Donegal Square, and the following year it established an additional agency at Lurgan. In 1885 George Washington Savage, born in New York, was appointed, and nominated his son John Marbacher Savage as his vice consul. Both would later serve in Dundee. Savage was succeeded by Samuel Ruby (1889– 1893) and James B. Taney (1893– 1896). In 1896, Taney appointed Malcolm T. Brice as his vice and deputy consul. Brice was also an American citizen, a native of West Virginia, who after graduation at the Linsly Military Academy in 1893 had gone to Belfast to attend art school in 1894 and then entered the consulate as clerk the following year.
Dublin, together with Liverpool, was among the first consulates established in Britain by the new US republic in 1790, and at that time Ireland was still part of Britain. William Knox of New York was appointed consul and arrived on 24 November, thereby just missing by a few months the distinction of being the first American consul in Britain, as James Maury began his appointment at Liverpool in September. As an example of the ill-preparedness of the new Consular Service, one of Knox's first purchases a week or two after arrival was commissioning a local engraver to manufacture a consular seal in brass. This should already have been issued to him on appointment.
Knox's performance seems to have been somewhat erratic. Writing from Cork less than a year after taking up his appointment, he informed Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson that: ‘Business of an indispensable but private nature having required me to be England [sic] for some time past has been the cause of your not receiving in due course the return directed in the Instructions I had the honor to receive from you.’ However, he promised that as soon as he returned to Dublin he would send a report on the arrivals of American ships during 1791. He also hoped that the government would make provision for payments to their consuls, as was the custom of other countries: ‘for my own part were my private resources such as to admit of it, I should with great cheerfulness serve our country without any pecuniary consideration’. Two months later, he sent a long letter to President Washington informing him of how friendly Ireland was towards the United States and of the many contacts he had made. He continued at length about his financial difficulties (which was probably the main reason for the letter).
Not being possessed of a fortune I was only capable of taking with me [to Ireland] a temporary
supply of the means for my support, trusting that Congress during the last session
would have passed a Consular Act, which would have embraced a provision for their consuls;
but I find I have calculated erroneously, and that error (although I hope not criminal) has
involved me in much anxiety for my support in this country.
The first American consul, as opposed to commercial agent, was Colonel William Palfrey, appointed by the Continental Congress in November 1780 to reside in France. However, transatlantic crossings were extremely hazardous ventures in those times, and the unfortunate Colonel Palfrey was lost at sea very soon after leaving America. He was succeeded in June 1781 by Thomas Barclay an American merchant living in France who, more than a year previously, had been recommended by John Adams for the post of consul general in London. However, the first consular appointments under the United States Congress did not take place until 1790, and this marked the establishment of the Consular Service. But considerable improvements were needed which required the introduction of frequent new legislation up to the beginning of the twentieth century.
The Early Days: A Time of Frequent Legislative Change
On 9 August 1785, the Continental Congress ordered John Jay, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to report on the number of consuls and vice consuls that Congress should appoint, and their locations. Jay reported on 19 September that, in the case of Britain, he thought there ought to be a consul general in London who should nominate the number of consuls required in the country. However, he concluded his report by advising that in order to avoid the not inconsiderable expense of appointing a consul general it might be more prudent to give the Minister in London powers as a consul general. In a further report on 13 October, he recommended that the Minister should have the powers of a consul general for the whole of Britain. At the same time, he felt there was little use for consuls until such time as the United States had a commerce treaty with Britain. But, like a good diplomat, he hedged his bets, adding that if he were mistaken in his opinion then he thought consulates might be established in London, Bristol, Dublin and Cork. He was unsure about having consulates in Scotland, as ‘the far greater part of the American trade to Scotland [was] carried on in British vessels.’ Congress resumed consideration of the report on 24 October, debating an amendment that consuls general or consuls should not receive salaries or fees; they referred it for further debate, which took place three days later when the proposed ordinance failed to get the necessary votes and was lost.
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