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The Observations of Senator William Maclay, 1789-1791

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"(Jefferson) had a rambling, vacant look and nothing of that firm, collected deportment which I expected."

Between 1789-1791, Senator William Maclay of Pennsylvania penned his first-person views of the day-by-day happenings of the First Senate of the United States. Personal and colloquial in nature, these commentaries offer contemporary scholars a rich cache of insight into the otherwise closed sessions.

Fortunately, his observations are outlined in both the Journal of William Maclay and the Sketches of William Maclay; now integrated and available within 19th Century Masterfile.

 

Journal of William Maclay, United States Senator, 1789-1791.

The Journal "gives the sentiments expressed by the leading speakers on the most important questions discussed. Among these were the questions of the official title of President, the power of removal from office, the doctrine of a protective tariff, the location of the permanent seat of Government and jurisdiction of the Federal Courts." 

Maclay's account of the inauguration of President Washington in 1789 is noteworthy. "...This great man was agitated and embarrassed more than ever he was by the leveled cannon or pointed musket.

His criticisms of the President, Vice  President Adams (his "Rotundity") and other public men of the time were less laudatory.

J Adams

Sketches of Debate in the First Senate of the United States in 1789-1791

 

In the Sketches, Maclay described each member as he saw him:  James Madison (p. 339), Aaron Burr (p. 322), James Monroe (p.336), Samuel Adams (p. 338), John Jay (p. 342), Alexander Hamilton (pp. 318-321).

He saved his choicest invective for Adams it seems, describing him as “little more than a monkey dressed in fine clothes.”

Explore the first person observations of Senator Maclay today within Paratext's 19th Century Masterfile.

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