Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The first U.S. Senator: "rigid and uncomplying in my temper"
Journal of William Maclay, United States Senator from Pennsylvania, 1789-1791 ^ | after 1791 | William MacClay

Posted on 09/08/2002 6:39:26 PM PDT by mrsmith

"...Memorandum: Get, if I can, The Federalist without buying it. It is not worth it. But, being a lost book, Izard, or some one else, will give it to me. It certainly was instrumental in procuring the adoption of the Constitution. This is merely a point of curiosity and amusement to see how wide of its explanations and conjectures the stream of business has taken its course.
...unfortunately, intrigue and cabal take place of fair inquiry. Here an observation forces itself upon me: that, in general, the further any measure is carried from the people, the less their interests are attended to.
...The silliest kind of application came from our VicePresident that the Senate should direct him to sign some bills for furniture got for Mr. Otis. I opposed it, as I know Otis. There is, in all probability, some roguery in it.
... I had, to be sure, the greatest share in this debate, and must now have completely sold (no, sold is a bad word, for I have got nothing for it) every particle of court favor, for a court our House seems determined on, and to run into all the fooleries, fopperies, finches, and pomp of royal etiquette; and all this for Mr. Adams.
...Up now rose Grayson, of Virginia, and gave us volley after volley against all kinds of titles whatever. Louder and louder did he inveigh against them. Lee looked like madness. Carrol and myself exchanged looks and laughs of congratulation. Even the Vice-President himself seemed struck in a heap--Izard would have said rotundity. Grayson mentioned the Doge of Venice in his harangue, as he was mentioning all the great names in the world. "Pray, do you know his title?" said the Vice-President from the chair. "No," says Grayson, smartly, "I am not very well acquainted with him."
...On going first among Indians, I have observed decent white people view them with a kind of disgust; but, when the Indians were by far the most numerous, the disgust would, by degrees, wear off, indifference follows, and by degrees attachment and even fondness. How much more likely are the arts of attention and obsequiousness to make an imitative impression!
...It now seems evident that remarkable influence is exerted to delay the impost [tariff on imports] until they get in all their summer goods. This is detestable; this is-- But I have not a name for it. I wish we were out of this base, bad place.
...An act passed hastily just at the close of the last session directed the borrowing two millions of dollars with design of buying in the public debt and lessening it. The real object was the increasing it by raising the value...This whole matter of purchasing in stock to sink the debt, ostensibly, has really no other object but to raise the value of it, and so to make immense fortunes to the speculators who have amassed vast quantities of certificates for little or nothing. I did not think it possible that mankind could be so easily duped, and yet there never was a vainer task than to attempt to undeceive them.
...John Adams has served to illustrate two points at least with me, viz., that a fool is the most unmanageable of all brutes, and that flattery is the most irksome of all service.
... I can, through this channel, communicate what I please to Madison; and I think I know him. But if he is led, it must be without letting him know that he is so; in other words, he must not see the string.
...Republicans are borne down by fashion and a fear of being charged with a want of respect to General Washington. If there is treason in the wish I retract it, but would to God this same General Washington were in heaven! We would not then have him brought forward as the constant cover to every unconstitutional and irrepublican act.
... Never will I consent to straining the Constitution, nor never will I consent to the exercise of a doubtful power. We come here the servants, not the lords, of our constituents."

Dec. 31st 1790:
"Having some leisure on hand, I have looked over my minutes for the last month. It is with shame and contrition that I find the subject of my re-election has engaged so much or any of my thoughts. Blessed with affluence, domestic in my habits and manners, rather rigid and uncomplying in my temper, generally opposed in sentiments to the prevailing politics of the times; no placeman, speculator, pensioner, or courtier--it is equally absurd for me to wish a continuance in Congress as to desire to walk among briers and thorns rather than on the beaten road. It may be said a love for the good of my country should influence my wishes. Let those care to whom the trust is committed; but never beg for that trust when, in my own opinion, I have been of so little service, and have sacrificed both health and domestic happiness at the shrine of my country. Nothing that I could do, either by conversation or writing, has been wanting to let men see the danger which is before them. But seeing is not the sense that will give them the alarm; feeling only will have this effect, and it is hard to say how callous even this may be.
Yet when the seeds of the funding system ripen into taxation of every kind and upon every article; when the general judiciary, like an enforcing machine, follows them up, seizing and carrying men from one corner of a State to another, and perhaps, in time, through different States, I should not be at all disappointed if a commotion, like a popular fever, should be excited, and, at least, attempt to throw off these political disorders...

Lastly, have my mare in readiness, and let the first day of my liberty be employed in my journey homeward. A determination of this kind is certainly right, for I have tried and feel my own insignificance and total inability to give the smallest check to the torrent which is pouring down on us. A system is daily developing itself which must gradually undermine and finally destroy our so much boasted equality, liberty, and republicanism--high wages, ample compensations, great salaries to every person connected with the Government of the United States. The desired effect is already produced; the frugal and parsimonious appointments of the individual States are held in contempt. Men of pride, ambition, talents, all press forward to exhibit their abilities on the theatre of the General Government. This, I think, may be termed grade first; and to a miracle it has succeeded.

The second grade or stage is to create and multiply officers and appointments under the General Government by every possible means in the diplomacy, judiciary, and military. This is called giving the President a respectable patronage--a term, I confess, new to me in the present sense of it, which I take to mean neither more nor less than that the President should always have a number of lucrative places in his gift to reward those members of Congress who may promote his views or support his measures; more especially if by such conduct they should forfeit the esteem of their constituents. We talk of corruption in Great Britain. I pray we may not have occasion for complaints of a similar nature here."

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Government
KEYWORDS: antifederalist; antigov; curmudgeon
Our first Senator, elected by the Pennsylvania legislature, served two years and was opposed by his own 'party' for reelection.
His Journal is a revealing, and delightfully opinionated, source on the congress which put the Constitution into practice.
1 posted on 09/08/2002 6:39:27 PM PDT by mrsmith
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: tpaine
I think you'd like this guy.
2 posted on 09/08/2002 6:43:10 PM PDT by mrsmith
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mrsmith
"I did not think it possible that mankind could be so easily duped, and yet there never was a vainer task than to attempt to undeceive them. "


3 posted on 09/08/2002 6:49:38 PM PDT by billorites
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mrsmith
McClay's Diary is one of the most enlightening windows on the first Congress and an uncommonly unflattering look at the first VP, John Adams ("Bonnie Johnie"). The Diary was published by McClay's family decades after his death and apparently several pages were ripped out and are completely gone. The Diary has come out in at least three editions (one a recent paperback), and the Library of Congress has either the original or a microfilm of the original, and those pages are really missing. The odd thing is that the missing pages occur just when it appears he is about to describe some encounter with George Washington ... whom he apparently was not impressed with.
4 posted on 09/08/2002 7:00:56 PM PDT by DonQ
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mrsmith
A genuine anti-Federalist serves in Congress, understands all too clearly what is going on, and is sent home for refusing to play the game.

We need more like him today!

5 posted on 09/08/2002 7:01:25 PM PDT by Publius
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: DonQ
Thanks, I'd never heard of him and still don't know that much about him.
I found that it often helped when researching the first congress to browse his Journal for whatever I was interested in to give me the date the matter was considered and often who spoke on it.
Eventually I was reading the Journal for it's own sake and just had to share on Free Republic some of those wonderful quotes I kept running across .

I'll look out for that paperback edition. I'd like to have his journal on hard copy.

6 posted on 09/08/2002 7:31:21 PM PDT by mrsmith
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Publius
Doh! I meant to get Anti-Federalist into the title. Well, I hope some of the Freepers who'd enjoy this stumble across it tonight anyway.

"They have created an Indian war, that an army may Spring out of it; and the trifling affair of our having eleven captives at Algiers (who ought long ago to have been ransomed) is made the pretext for going to war with them, and fitting out a fleet. With these two engines, and the collateral aid derived from a host of revenue officers, farewell freedom in America.
Gently, indeed, did I touch it in argument; but is not a motion for the destruction of rite individuality of the States, treason against the duty of a Senator, who, from the nature of his appointment, ought to be guardian of the State right?
The little I said, however, I believe raised a goblin that frightened them from the project, at least for this time."

7 posted on 09/08/2002 8:43:49 PM PDT by mrsmith
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: mrsmith
Bump for later read
8 posted on 09/08/2002 9:30:38 PM PDT by zeugma
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Journal of William Maclay, United States Senator from Pennsylvania, 1789-1791

Title Page
HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, From the Discovery of the Continent to the Establishment of the Constitution in 1789.

9 posted on 09/09/2002 2:12:38 PM PDT by mrsmith
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

A letter to the editor by William MacClay (in the "Independent Gazetteer" 1790)


I am a poor distressed woman [the United States of America], who for the thirteen or fourteen years since I kept house, have had as great a variety of fortune as ever beset any female. Glorious gleams of sunshine indeed have I had, and happiness ever seemed in my reach; yet by the mismanagement of servants, in brakeing cups and saucers, spoiling provisions, &c. I think I am likely to be ruined. A few days ago I expected to put an end to all my troubles, by sending for a worthy gentleman [George Washington], who had often taken me out of the gutter, when I considered myself as irretrievably fallen. Hearing he was at hand, I requested my neighbour (as good a man I thought as could be) to brush the furniture, and sweep the house, where I used to lodge my best friends. Now could you think it, Sir? Off he runs, and buys such an heap of pots and pans, and dishes and ladles, as run me to ten or twelve pounds of expence. Good Lord! and all this after my being so much in debt already. I determined not to pay him. But what of that? Sawny [Alexander Hamilton] the servant, who had the keeping of the trifle of cash I was possessed of, the moment my back was turned, gave him the money. Was there ever such a trick? People tell me the Grand Jury [Congress] should indict him; but la Sir, the Jury know all about it, and I am afraid will take no notice of him, but lye by, till it suits them too, to get a slap at me.

Mr. Printer, I think I am not deficient in the qualities of my head; my heart I know to be possessed of the principles of rectitude. Is it not dreadful that my concerns should be knocked about at this rate, every body doing what they please with me? After describing my situation, you cannot expect me to tell my name, but pray publish my case, which is a plain one. Perhaps some humane person may direct me how to get out of my difficulties."

10 posted on 09/21/2002 7:53:47 PM PDT by mrsmith
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson