Barclay, Thomas

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Barclay, Thomas

BARCLAY, THOMAS. (1753–1830). Loyalist and British officer. Born in New York City on 12 October 1753, Barclay graduated from King's College in 1772 and studied law with John Jay before passing the bar in 1775. Driven from his home as a Loyalist, Barclay was commissioned a captain of the Loyal American Regiment in 1776. He was promoted to major the following year for his bravery in the capture of Forts Clinton and Montgomery. In 1779 the New York legislature found him guilty of treason and ordered the confiscation of his property. An officer in the Provincial Corps of Light Infantry, he served under General Alexander Leslie in Virginia in 1780 and under Lord Rawdon in South Carolina the following year. Volunteering to take dispatches to General Cornwallis later that year, he was captured by the French.

Paroled to New York City, Barclay joined the British evacuation in 1783, helping to resettle many Loyalists in Nova Scotia, where his regiment disbanded. Barclay was elected to the Nova Scotia assembly in 1785, serving as its speaker from 1789 to 1799. In 1793 he was made lieutenant colonel of the Royal Nova Scotia Regiment. Between 1796 and 1798 he served as the British member of the arbitration commission established by Jay's Treaty to determine the Maine-Canada border. In 1799 he received two thousand pounds for his losses during the Revolution from the Loyalist claims commission and was named British consul general in New York City. He remained in his home city the rest of his life, being occasionally threatened by angry crowds in the long period of tension that led to the War of 1812, during which conflict he worked to effect prisoner exchanges. He resigned as consul in 1815 and devoted the next seven years to trying to settle the northeastern boundary between the United States and Canada. He died in New York City on 21 April 1830.


Rives, George L., ed. Selections from the Correspondence of Thomas Barclay, Formerly British Consul-General at New York. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1894.