Seven years after Independence, George Washington appointed James Maury as American Consul in Liverpool. Maury – who had been at school with future president Thomas Jefferson – sailed to Liverpool with fellow diplomats John Adams and John Jay, who then travelled to London and Paris respectively. It may only be by a matter of days, but Liverpool had the world’s first American consulate.
James Maury lived in Liverpool for 40 years, from 1790 to 1829; his house was at 4 Rodney Street, and his office was in Paradise Street, by the Pool. Not all his consulate roles were glamorous – almost his first and last jobs were to bail out American sailors who had been chucked into the Tower of Liverpool for brawling or similar offences committed after getting pie-eyed in one of Liverpool’s 2,300 pubs.
One of Maury’s successors was Nathaniel Hawthorne, US Consul in Liverpool and author of books such as The Scarlet Letter and Tanglewood Tales. Hawthorne hated Liverpool: ‘what with brutal ships’ masters, drunken sailors, vagrant Yankees, mad people, sick people and dead people’. Not a sociable man: in four years ‘I have received and been civil to at least 10,000 visitors … and I never wish to be civil to anybody again.’ Still, there were compensations. One of the consul’s jobs was to certify invoices for exports: at $2 per autograph, and up to 25 invoices a day, it was significant extra income for the poor man.