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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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William Maclay

MACLAY, William, senator, born in New Garden, Chester County, Pennsylvania, 20 July, 1737; died in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 16 April. 1804. In 1740 his father settled in Lurgan, Franklin County, Pennsylvania he received a classical education, and served as a lieutenant during the French war, taking part in General John Forbes's expedition against Fort Duquesne in 1758, in which he did good service himself at Loyalhannah; also in General Henry Bouquet's march to Fort Pitt and the combat at Bushy Run. When not in active service he pursued the study of law, and was admitted to the bar in 1760. He assisted in surveying the officers' grant on the Susquehanna, in which he shared, as well as other lands. At the close of the war he visited England to consult the proprietors on business connected with the surveys, and after his return he acted as representative of the Penn family. In 1769 he married a daughter of John Harris (q. v.). In 1772, upon the organization of Northumberland county, he was appointed prothonotary, and about this time assisted in laying out the town of Sunbury. He took an active part in the Pennymite war, opposing the claims of the Susquehanna company, and advising Penn not to sell his rights in the Wyoming valley. Although an officer of the proprietary government, he was active in raising and equipping troops for the Continental army, and marched with them to the seat of war, taking part in the battles of Trenton and Princeton. During the Revolution he was assistant commissary of purchases. He was sent to the assembly in 1781, and was subsequently a member of the executive council, judge of common pleas, and a commissioner to carry into effect an act respecting the navigation of the Susquehanna river. In January, 1789, he was elected with Robert Morris to the United States senate, and drew the short term, which expired on 3 March, 1791. In the senate he advanced democratic principles, and led the opposition to President Washington, objecting to his presence in the senate during the transaction of business, assailing the policy of the administration before him, and reprobating the state and ceremony that were observed in the intercourse of the president with congress. He opposed the funding of the debt and the chartering of the United States bank, and was the leader of the movement that resulted in the formation of the Democratic party. On the expiration of his term the legislature elected James Ross, a Federalist, in his place. He then retired to his farm near Harrisburg, was a member of the state house of representatives in 1795, a presidential elector in 1795, a county judge in 1801-'3, and a member of the legislature again in 1803. While in the senate he took notes of the discussions in the open and secret sessions, which, with his observations on contemporary statesmen, was published by George W. Harris under the title of "Sketches of Debate in the First Senate of the United States, 1789-'91 " (Harrisburg).--His brother, Samuel, senator, born in Lurgan, Pennsylvania, 7 June, 1741 ; died in Northumberland county, Pennsylvania, 5 October, 1811, received a classical education, assisted his brother in surveying the officers' tracts in Buffalo valley, and settled there. During the Revolution he saw active service as lieutenant-colonel of the troops of Northumberland county. He was appointed an associate judge of that county in 1792, which office he resigned on his election to congress in 1795. On the expiration of his term in 1'797 he entered the state senate, and in 1801 was chosen speaker. He was still speaker, on 14 December, 1802, when he was elected to the United States senate, and as such signed his own certificate. Still retaining his seat, he presided over an impeachment trial, and continued to preside against the protests of the opposition, until he resigned the speakership on 16 March, 1803. He gave up his seat as state senator on 2 September, 1803, and entered the United States senate at the opening of the session, 17 October, 1803. He resigned on account of failing health on 4 January, 1809.--Samuel's son, William Plunkett, member of congress, born in Buffalo valley, Pennsylvania, 23 August, 1774; died in Milroy, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, 2 September, 1842, was prothonotary of Mutlin county from 1808 till 1816, when he was elected to congress to fill a vacancy. He was reelected at the regular election in 1816 and in 1818. In 1837 he was a delegate to the State constitutional convention, and declined signing the instrument that was framed because it withheld from colored men the right of suffrage.

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