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Auldjo's main role was the "patronage of commerce and its liberation from embarrassments in the British dominions": he was charged with the task of protecting the interests of all American citizens engaged in trade and thereby reducing, as far as possible, any disadvantage or loss from British interference. Beyond these official duties Auldjo was also involved in intelligence. He was enjoined to send "from time to time regular information from you of whatever occurs within your notice interesting to the United States." Much of the language of the communications with Auldjo is couched in these guarded, neutral terms, suggesting that Auldjo's real value to Jefferson was as a source of strategic information on economic, commercial or maritime matters.
Whatever the published role of the Cowes consuls there was probably much activity we will never know of. Merchants could frequently find themselves in difficult situations in a world of international trading restrictions and embargoes. Overcoming such restrictions on behalf of their merchants may well have involved consuls in both official and unofficial activities.
Written Jan 25, 2007
THE COWES CONSULS
Little is known about the role played by the consuls of foreign powers based at Cowes during the 18th and 19th centuries. Several nations, all with important maritime trade, were sufficiently impressed with the location of Cowes as a port to station a consul there. New research is beginning to uncover information about this aspect of Island history, via communications between the American Consul to Cowes and Thomas Jefferson.
In 1789 Thomas Jefferson was ambassador of the fledgling United States to France. In an era of political upheaval and complex international trading arrangements, he prided himself on his connections and the useful information they provided. In October of that year he stopped over in Cowes while awaiting a ship back to America. He stayed with an East Cowes trader, Thomas Auldjo. Auldjo had not only entertained and lodged Jefferson, but had also helped procure protection for Jefferson's belongings from the prying eyes of the Cowes customs service. Jefferson commented that Auldjo had given him "every possible attention and friendly assistance" and was sufficiently impressed to recommend him as Consul for the United States at Cowes. In 1790 Jefferson officially wrote to Auldjo offering him the commission from the President.
Written Jan 25, 2007
Favorite thing: COWES WEEK.
The town hums with activity. Watching the starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron Startline, seeing yachts tack close inshore "beating up" Cowes Green. Catching the after race party atmosphere on the high street.
Then there are the local sights - Osborne House (Queen Victoria saw "America" win the America's cup from the lawn)
Even better try to get on the water to watch the racing. Or if you are an active sailor try and catch a ride - there are always boats looking for crew.
Fondest memory: My second Cowes Week.
- Racing on a class 1 yacht, winning races and being rewarded with tickets to yacht club balls. Black tie dinners, dancing and then trying to sail fast the next morning.
Written Mar 24, 2008