Saturday, July 18, 2009

The U.S. Consuls before Connolly

After finishing the post on American Consul to New Zealand John D’Arcy Connolly, I wondered what was the story behind his predecessors to the office here in this country. Just about the only one I could have named off the top of my head would have been Captain James Reddy Clendon, back in the early 1840s.

As it turned out, and it usually does – there’s much, much more to the topic.

Captain Clendon was the first diplomatic representative for the United States here. Indeed, he was the second foreign representative of any nation here, after James Busby (for the British Empire). On 12 October 1838, the U.S. State Department appointed him as the United States consul at the Bay of Islands. Two years earlier, ten American shipmasters had petitioned their government to provide a representative in order that something could be done about the disorderliness of that country’s whaling crews. Bearing in mind that New Zealand wasn’t a country as such back then, the choice of a resident British merchant who had dealings with both the whalers and local Maori probably wasn’t thought to be a silly one at the time. It did prove somewhat embarrassing later when, in 1840, Clendon was apparently not only involved to some (still debatable) extent with the preparing of the Treaty of Waitangi, he was a signed witness to the document which established British rule in New Zealand, thus potentially acting against the wishes of the nation paying his salary and providing him with the flag flown over his place of business. To Washington, after all, Britain was a trading rival when it came to the whaling and sealing industries, and then there was the matter of trade with China and around the Pacific Rim to consider. A British New Zealand government would also soon impose regulations on foreign shipping – that of the United States included. To add salt to the wound, Clendon went on, still as a U.S. Consul, to accept office as a Justice of the Peace from the new colonial government, and served as a member of the first Legislative Council under Hobson.

Washington found out a year after the Treaty was signed exactly what Clendon had been up to, and on 20 April 1841 the Acting Secretary of State Fletcher Webster reprimanded Clendon and directed him to resign his commission forthwith (I imagine via a memo which began to make its long journey back down towards New Zealand. It crossed with a final despatch dated six days before that from Clendon saying that he was resigning.)

At this point, it’s worth mentioning a point raised by author Marie King in her book on the history of Russell in the Bay of Islands: all sorts of titles were used for America’s consular representatives here. There were Acting Consuls, Vice-Consuls, Acting Vice-Consuls, Consular Agents and Commercial Agents, as well as the fairly straight forward title of Consul. Clendon himself was more a Commercial Agent than a full consul, because there was nobody here with international recognition to accept his papers of commission on behalf of a home government back in 1838.

Clendon’s successor was, briefly, Captain William Mayhew. He originally hailed from Martha’s Vineyard in the United States, and had established a business at Te Wahapu to cater for the American whaling fleets. The regulations in the wake of British annexation of the country helped to kill off Mayhew’s business. He apparently wasn’t impressed to learn, as well, that Clendon really hadn't done all that much as a consular official for the benefit of Americans in the colony.

John Brown Williams, from Salem, Massachusetts, who had served as consul in New South Wales from around 1839, took over in the Bay of Islands as Consular Agent from 10 March 1842, promoted to Consul the following year. He left the colony in March 1844, and Mayhew was once again in charge – except that he, also, had left, and another American, Henry Green Smith was now the acting Vice-Consul.

Smith, according to Marie King, was more than a shade on the anti-British side when it came to international relations. He had no hesitation, apparently, in telling local Maori all about the heroics of George Washington and a certain War of Independence in the previous century against the British Empire. Smith presented an American flag to Hone Heke who “tied it to the sternpost of his war canoe and refused to remove it.” (King, p. 181) Historian Claudia Orange in her book on the Treaty of Waitangi wrote: “It was probably no accident that Heke’s first attack on the flagstaff had been made soon after American Independence Day …The United States consuls at the Bay of Islands had been regarded as agitators by officials … American nationals may well have promised Heke more support in his stand than the United States government itself would have given.”

Williams returned to the colony in September 1845, but by December he had set himself up in the safer town of Auckland, so until 1848 there was the odd situation of the consulate officially based at the Bay of Islands, while the consul resided and ran a store at Auckland. He next headed to Fiji to be the American consul there, and died in the islands in 1860.

Marie King noted that a Charles B Waetford was given a recess appointment as consul in 1849, but in the end didn’t qualify. James Busby seems to have stepped in as vice-consul. In Auckland, Thomas Lewis was vice-consul in 1852, and James Burtt followed him in 1853. The Governor of New Zealand recognised George B West as United States Consul in February 1858. According to Marie King, West suggested that Auckland become the consulate site, until he had a good think about it, and realised that “Auckland, at present, cannot become a resort for whalers, mainly on account of the numerous inducements for seamen to desert.” He died from consumption in May 1859, aged just 34, and was buried at Russell.

Another gap, filled by Busby again, then George Henry Leavenworth was appointed as consul in 1860. He seems to have kept his head down, during that period which coincided with the American Civil War, and resigned in 1865, replaced for a time by someone named Merrill as acting-Consul. During Leavenworth’s time, a consular agent named Henry Driver was appointed at Dunedin in 1862, while another was set up at Wellington later (Daniel McIntyre, 1868). Marie King lists a Frenchman named Vilcoq as Leavenworth’s replacement (a commercial agent who suffered a mental breakdown), and a Herman Leib (who was commissioned in April 1866 but declined the appointment in July.)

Captain W G Wright (commissioned December 1866) reached Dunedin in August 1867 and the Bay of Islands two months later. In December 1869, he officially commissioned David Boosie Cruickshank as his "attorney and consular agent in Auckland" (this after the Colonial Secretary had gazetted in September that year that Cruickshank was not authorised to act as a consular agent. Indeed, he wasn’t authorised by the U.S. State Department, either.) Wright retired in 1870, succeeded by a native of Cork, Ireland, but naturalised American citizen, James G White. It was during his term that the consulate finally made its official move away from the Bay of Islands, after White submitted a despatch to Washington in March 1870 pleading the case (one main reason being the gum and flax trade from Auckland) and a large list Auckland businessmen petitioned the Colonial Secretary thus:
“We are informed by Mr. J. M. Dargaville that he has been appointed Consular Agent here, subsidiary to the Consul at the Bay of Islands, for the United States, vice D B Cruickshank, both gentlemen being British, subjects, and consequently disqualified for the more important office of Consul. In view of the relations now existing between the colony and the United States in the matter of the postal contract, and the probable commercial interests arising there from, we think the American Government should be asked to appoint a Consul at Auckland, and we respectfully beg you will agree with us and ask them to do so.

We may mention that there will be no difficulty in finding a suitable person, as we have an American citizen, Mr. Harlan Page Barber, of the firm of Rolph, Sterry, and Co., New Zealand, gum and flax merchants, New York, resident amongst us.”
(Southern Cross, 17 April 1871)

Joseph McMullen Dargaville saw that a nice little earner as consular agent in Auckland was about to slip from his grasp. He wrote to the Colonial Secretary himself, telling the Government that those who had signed the petition were misinformed, and they thought they’d be disadvantaged by the consulate being in the Bay of Islands, with only a consular agent (himself) at Auckland. Of course, Dargaville reassured the Chamber of Commerce, this wasn’t true at all.

“ … it was signed by most of those whose names are to it under the impression that a Consular Agent could not perform all such necessary acts in connection with commercial matters — consular certificates to invoice shipping, &c. — within his consulate as a Consul could perform, and that therefore business documents in Auckland requiring such certificates must be referred to the Consular office at the Bay of Islands to be completed. This mistake arose probably from the fact that the gentleman who acted here on behalf of the United States Commercial Agent at the Bay of Islands, previously to my appointment, was not legally authorised by the Department of State in Washington, and was therefore incapacitated for exercising all the functions properly pertaining to the office of Consular Agent. Since the memorial referred to has been despatched to you, several gentlemen, his Honor the Superintendent amongst others, have been considerate enough to explain to me the misapprehension under which they signed it, stating that they had done so without acquainting themselves with the real state of the case; which had they known, they would not have signed it. I have now in my possession a written document to the above effect, signed by several of the memorialists."
(Southern Cross, 21 April 1870)

White, himself, was the topic of gossip as to why Dargaville was appointed. White assured readers of the Southern Cross (1 May 1871) that, as “the United States Consular Act of August 18, 1856, provides for the appointment of a Consul or Commercial Agent for the colony of New Zealand, and fixes the Consulate at the Bay of Islands, where it has remained up to the present time,” he was empowered “to appoint a Consular Agent at any port or place within said district (New Zealand) when he deemed the interests of his countrymen would be subserved by the establishment of an agency, subject to the approbation and confirmation of the President of the United States and the Department of State. Upon the appointment of the undersigned as" United States' Commercial Agent- for New Zealand, there were but two Consular Agencies regularly established in this district, to wit, Dunedin and Mangonui. Believing that the interest of his countrymen would be subserved by the establishment of a Consular Agency at Auckland, he recommended such course to his Government, and, nominated Mr. Dargaville for the position. This nomination was duly approved and confirmed by the President and the Department of State. It was several weeks after the arrival of the undersigned at his post before any action was taken by him in the premises, several applications having been made to him in the meantime for the position, all the applicants, however, were British subjects, and from amongst them he selected the gentleman whose appointment has been the subject of so much newspaper gossip.”

Despite Dargaville’s campaigning, the consulate did indeed leave the Bay of Islands and set up in Harlan Page Barber’s Fort Street store from 3 October 1871. White wrote a private letter to Dargaville commending him for his service up to that date as consular agent. This, Dargaville published in the public notices of both the NZ Herald and the Southern Cross, to White’s chagrin: it appears that White was only being polite and cordial to a man he had effectively removed from a source of income. He published his own adjustment to the private letter, also in the public notices of both papers: “… upon examination of the unfinished business in Mr. Dargaville’s hands this day, he discovered that he was mistaken in endorsing the manner in which that gentleman had discharged some of the duties of his Agency.”

Dargaville angrily wrote to the papers in response, accusing White of just being sour because he owed Dargaville’s firm money and was about to be adjudged a bankrupt. White denied emphatically that this was the reason for his turnaround in opinion: Dargaville, he said, was slow in relinquishing the consulate seal and papers, and refused to part with the former without payment of £2 10s (which he claimed was how much he had to pay Cruickshank in turn). Then Dargaville tried to have White’s commission as consul annulled due to the bankruptcy proceedings in December 1871 – but White countered this by producing evidence of his discharge to the State Department early in 1872. Finally, after months of wrangling, Dargaville’s resignation as American Consular Agent was officially gazetted in May 1872. (Southern Cross, 2 May 1872)

Harlan Page Barber (c.1847-1914) was the United States Consul and commercial agent in Auckland, White’s successor, from August 1872. He was described by White as “a gentleman of good character and standing in this place.” (NZ Herald, 9 October 1971, in an account of the centenary of the Auckland office). American-born Barber was a representative of the firm Rolfe, Sterry & Co, gum merchants. During his period as consul, he became involved as co-respondent in a divorce case at the Supreme Court in early 1874 between William Carpenter and Harriet Eliza Innis Carpenter, with Barber accused of having “intimate relations” with Mrs. Carpenter and even fathering a child out of wedlock (he was still unmarried at the time). His reputation, however, remained unbesmirched. After his time as consul, he appears to have successfully continued his mercantile career as an importer of walnuts and pecan nuts, exporter of gum and flax, and held shares in a number of goldmining companies. He died in 1914, without obituary, and is buried at St Stephen’s Cemetery in Parnell.

Briefly, in 1879, Barber’s successor seems to have been a gentleman named G W Griffith (apparently, a former consul in Copenhagen), before Alexander Hamilton Shipley was appointed later that year. (There's an announcement for a function in the Observer of 3 August 1883 which indicates that Griffith was still Consul at that stage, however. ) Shipley's Vice-Consul was Thomas Tallman Gamble (c.1833-1886), born in New York (although local papers here assumed he came from Morristown, New Jersey). “He took part in the American Civil War, serving in the Federal cavalry in several engagements, and at the close of the war had attained the rank of major.” (NZ Herald, 30 April 1886) Gamble arrived in Auckland in November 1880, taking over the agency of the Pacific Mail Company. He returned to America, then came back here as Vice-Consul, in Shipley’s stead. (In 1883, going by the above Observer notice, he was acting-Consul for Germany as well). He died without warning in his office on 29 April 1886, from apoplexy, and was buried in St Mark’s cemetery in Remuera. His exact gravesite is unmarked today; in 1966 the church authorities at St Marks applied to have all but a few of the notable gravestones removed to turn the cemetery into lawn. Those few headstones that remain are beside one of the cemetery’s walls.

Gamble’s sudden death left the consulate without representation, until Captain Francis Ropes Webb stepped in as acting Consul until the appointment of John Tyler Campbell in January 1887. Campbell was the man promoted to a post in China, leaving the position open for John D’Arcy Connolly in 1889.

A footnote – why we say “American Embassy” today and not “United States Embassy”:
“Mr Hay, Secretary of State, has ordered that the inscriptions "United States Embassy" and "United States Consulate " shall no longer appear on the Embassy and Consular seals, and that all new record books and seals must bear the words "American Embassy" and "American Consulate". Mr Hay likes the dignity and simplicity of the term "American," and, moreover, there are several United States besides those of America and this, he says, leads to a good deal of confusion in foreign countries.”
(Feilding Star, 18 November 1904)

Additional to the post: Terry Foenander, who runs a terrific site on the American Civil War, has advised that Thomas T Gamble's name was given as Tallman on his pension documents. I got the "Tallinus" in my original post version from the online BDM register. I might see what the library's microfiche tell me later today. (I did, and the handwritten death index for 1886 has "Thomas Tallman Gamble". Thanks for setting me straight, Terry.) It's now corrected. There's an entry about his gravesite, also done by Terry Foenander, here. (I found he's buried in site No. 140 -- but his headstone was not one of those retained by the church authorities, according to a list compiled by Gwen Reiher, Beryl Pook and Jack Bray in 1985, "St Marks Church: Churchyard Tombstone Inscriptions".)


“The First United States Consul in New Zealand”, Louis Wasserman, The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Aug. 1949), pp. 363-368, available via

“Consulate Started With Row”, Elsdon Craig, NZ Herald 9 October 1971

A Most Noble Anchorage: A Story of Russell & the Bay of Islands, Marie King, 1992

The Treaty of Waitangi, Claudia Orange, 1987

NZ Gazettes, NZ Herald, Southern Cross, New Zealander, Auckland Star, Australian Newspapers online, via National Library of Australia

No comments:

Post a Comment