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William Maclay

  • Riverfront Park, Front & South Sts. Harrisburg, PA

Born in Chester County in 1737, William Maclay fought during the French & Indian War. Following the conclusion of his service, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1760. Maclay practiced law for some time before becoming a surveyor for the Penn family. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Maclay again served, this time as a commissary. During the 1880s, he worked with his brother-in-law John Harris Jr. to lay out the city of Harrisburg and was also a state legislator. In 1789, Maclay was elected to the newly-formed U.S. Senate for a term of two years. During his time in the Senate, he kept a journal detailing the Senate’s proceedings. Maclay’s journal is the only one of its kind and as such provides valuable insight into the workings of the new nation’s first Congress. Maclay was a vocal Anti-Federalist, and deeply distrusted what he saw as the overreaching power of the President and the Executive Branch of the government. Maclay retired to his home on Front Street following the conclusion of his term in 1791. He died in 1811 and is buried in Old Paxtang Church Cemetery.