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William Maclay (Pennsylvania senator)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Maclay
United States Senator
from Pennsylvania
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 4, 1791
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byAlbert Gallatin
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1737-07-20)July 20, 1737
New Garden Township, Province of Pennsylvania
DiedApril 16, 1804(1804-04-16) (aged 66)
Dauphin, Pennsylvania
Political partyAnti-Administration Party
Spouse(s)Mary McClure Maclay (nee Harris, daughter of John Harris, Sr.)[1]
ResidenceHarrisburg, Pennsylvania
OccupationLawyer, surveyor, Pennsylvania Legislature, U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania

William Maclay (July 20, 1737 – April 16, 1804) was a politician from Pennsylvania during the eighteenth century. Maclay, along with Robert Morris, was a member of Pennsylvania's first two-member delegation to the United States Senate. Following his tenure in the Senate, he served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on two occasions, as a county judge, and as a presidential elector. He is known for his journal providing historical information on the 1st United States Congress.


Maclay pursued classical studies and then served as a militia lieutenant in the Battle of Fort Duquesne in 1758. He went on to serve in other expeditions in the French and Indian Wars. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1760. After a period of practising law, he became a surveyor in the employ of the Penn family, and then a prothonotary and clerk of the courts of Northumberland County in the 1770s. During the American Revolution, he served in the Continental Army as a commissary. He was also a frequent member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the 1780s. During that period, he was also the Indian commissioner, a judge of the court of common pleas, and a member of the executive council.

After the ratification of the Constitution Maclay was elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1789 to March 4, 1791. He received a two-year term instead of the usual six-year term for senators after he lost a lottery with the other Pennsylvania senator, Robert Morris. In the Senate, Maclay was one of the most radical members of the Anti-Administration faction.

He constantly feuded with Vice President John Adams in the Senate after Adams rejected Maclay's political deal to support his vice-presidential candidacy during the 1789 presidential election. In July 1789 he issued a resolution requiring the President to request the Senate's permission to dismiss Cabinet members, but it was defeated by Vice President Adams's tiebreaking vote when Adams convinced Tristram Dalton and Richard Bassett to withdraw their support. During Senate debates over the Residence Act establishing the site of the U.S. permanent national capital and seat of government Vice President Adams worked with Morris, who preferred Philadelphia as the capital, to defeat Maclay's motion placing it near his landholdings on the Susquehanna River.[2]

In his journal, which is the only diary and one of the most important records of the First United States Congress, he criticizes Vice President Adams and President George Washington. He also criticized many of their supporters who ran the senate and included particularly senators, believing that their ways of running the Senate were inefficient. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to be re-elected by the state legislature of Pennsylvania.

Maclay retired to his farm in Dauphin, Pennsylvania, but he was also a member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives in 1795, 1796, and 1797. In addition, he was a presidential elector in the 1796 presidential election, a county judge from 1801 to 1803, and a member again of the state House of Representatives in 1803. He was married to the daughter of John Harris, Sr., of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He died in 1804 and was interred in Old Paxtang Church Cemetery in Harrisburg. Several of his relatives were also politicians, including his brother, Samuel Maclay, and his nephew, William Plunkett Maclay.


  1. ^ "The Maclays of Lurgan", Maclay, Edgar Stanton, 1889, Olgivie Press, Brooklyn New York, U.S. A., p.15
  2. ^ "U.S. Senate: John Adams, 1st Vice President (1789-1797)". Retrieved 2020-12-29.


External links

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
 U.S. senator (Class 1) from Pennsylvania
1789 – 1791
Served alongside: Robert Morris
Succeeded by
Albert Gallatin
This page was last edited on 22 March 2021, at 11:12
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