Sen. William Maclay (Anti-PA)

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Sen. William Maclay (Anti-PA)'s Geni Profile

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William Maclay

Birthplace: New Garden Township, Chester County, Province of Pennsylvania
Death: Died in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Burial: Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Maclay and Eleanor Maclay
Husband of Margaret Mary Maclay
Father of John (dsp) Maclay; Mary Harris Awl; Esther Hall; Jean Lyon; William 1 Maclay and 2 others
Brother of Dr. John Maclay; Samuel Maclay, U.S. Senator; Charles Maclay and Eleanor Maclay

Occupation: US Senator
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sen. William Maclay (Anti-PA)

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.

  • MACLAY, WILLIAM Ancestor #: A072950
  • Service Source: PA ARCH, 1ST SER, VOL 7, PP 586-7; 6TH SER, VOL 11, P 284; BELL, HIST OF NORTHUMBERLAND CO, PP 179, 190

He was the son of Charles Maclay and Eleanor Query, and was born July 20, 1737, in New Garden township, Chester county, Pa. In 1742 his parents removed to Hopewell township, Franklin county, where he grew up to man's estate. He was at Rev. John Blair's classical school, in Chester county, when the French and Indian war broke out, and desiring to enter the Provincial service, Mr. Blair recommended him as a "judicious young man and a scholar."

He was appointed an ensign in the Pennsylvania battalion, subsequently promoted to lieutenant, and served under Forbes and Bouquet. He afterwards studied law and was admitted to the York county bar, April 28, 1760. He was appointed one of the deputy surveyors of the Province, and until the Revolution was busily engaged as the assistant of Surveyor General Lukens on the frontiers. By direction of the Proprietaries he laid out the town of Sunbury, where he erected a stone house and resided until the close of the war.

During that struggle he marched with the Northumberland county associators, participating in the battles of Trenton and Princeton. He was afterwards appointed assistant commissary of purchases. In 1781 he was elected to the Assembly, and filled many offices in the county and State, while in 1780 was chosen to the United States Senate, taking his seat there as the first senator from Pennsylvania. A diary of the proceedings of these two years was kept by Mr. Maclay, the original of which was in the possession of his grandson, William Maclay Lyon. Upon leaving the Senate he took up his permanent residence in Harrisburg, where he built the stone house yet standing at the corner of Front and south streets.

He represented the county of Dauphin in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1795 and 1803, and was a Presidential elector in 1796, and from 1801 to 1803 one of the associate Judges of the county. He died at Harrisburg on the 15th of April, 1804. In the old Paxtang churchyard is a flat marble stone with this inscription:

Sacred | to the memory of | William Maclay, Esq., | late of 

Harrisburgh, | who departed this life April 16, 1804, | Aged 68 years. | In the death of this valuable member of | Society his Country has lost an enlightened | citizen and his family their only support. | He held some of the most honourable offices | in Pennsylvania and the United States | and discharged their duties with firmness | and integrity. | To an enlarged and superior mind he added | the strictest morality and served his God | by improving himself in virtue and knowledge. | He has gone to receive a glorious reward | for a life spent in honour and unsullied by crime. | His afflicted wife and children raise this stone | over his grave and have no consolation but | in the remembrance of his virtues.

O'er thy loved tomb shall angels bend, | And true affection tribute 

pay, | To mourn the Father, Husband, Friend, | Untimely torn by Death away. | Tho' power and honour could not save | Thy mortal part from Death's abode, | Th' ethereal spirit bursts the grave | and seeks the bosom of its God.

 "Words of truth for once told on a tombstone," said William Darby, 

the geographer, who knew Mr. Maclay well. For further notes concerning him see "History of Dauphin County." []

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Sen. William Maclay (Anti-PA)'s Timeline

July 20, 1737
New Garden Township, Chester County, Province of Pennsylvania
Age 32
March 19, 1776
Age 38
Sunbury, Northumberland County, Province of Pennsylvania
September 19, 1778
Age 41
Age 43
March 19, 1783
Age 45
Age 46
May 5, 1787
Age 49
April 16, 1804
Age 66
Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States