William Maclay, U.S. Senator

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William Maclay

Birthplace: New Garden Township, PA
Death: Died in Dauphin, PA, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Maclay and Elizabeth Maclay
Husband of Margaret Mary Maclay
Father of Mary Harris Maclay
Brother of Samuel Maclay, U.S. Senator

Managed by: Private User
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About William Maclay, U.S. Senator

A Patriot of the American Revolution for Pennsylvania. DAR Ancestor #: A072950


William Maclay (July 20, 1737 – April 16, 1804) was a politician from Pennsylvania during the eighteenth century.


Maclay pursued classical studies, and then served as a lieutenant in an expedition to 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 practicing 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 State legislature 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. In his journal, which is the only diary and one of the most important records of the First United States Congress, he criticizes John Adams and 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 was also a member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives in 1795, 1796 and 1797;. In addition, he was a presidential elector in 1796, a county judge from 1801 until 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 later 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.

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William Maclay, U.S. Senator's Timeline

July 20, 1737
March 19, 1776
Age 38
Sunbury, Pennsylvania, USA
April 16, 1804
Age 66
Dauphin, PA, USA