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Elihu Benjamin Washburne

In office
March 5, 1869 – March 16, 1869
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by William H. Seward
Succeeded by Hamilton Fish

Born September 23, 1816(1816-09-23)
Livermore, Maine, U.S.
Died October 23, 1887 (aged 71)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Resting place Greenwood Cemetery (Galena, Illinois)
Political party Whig, Republican
Spouse(s) Adele Gratiot
Alma mater Harvard Law School
Profession Politician
Religion Presbyterian

Elihu Benjamin Washburne (September 23, 1816, Livermore, Maine – October 23, 1887, Chicago, Illinois) was one of seven brothers that played a prominent role in the early formation of the United States Republican Party. He later served as United States Secretary of State in 1869.

Washburne, a resident of Galena, Illinois, represented northwestern Illinois in the United States House of Representatives from 1853 to 1869. While in Congress, he was also a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee [1].

He was known for his courage, and met President-elect Abraham Lincoln upon his arrival in Washington, D.C. on February 23, 1861[2]. An assassination attempt was feared, and other Republican Party leaders were afraid to take on this duty. Washburne and his brothers had hidden the whereabouts of President-elect Lincoln by personally cutting telegraph wires in key locations.

Elihu B. Washburne

Originally a Whig, Washburne was an early member of the Republicans and a leader of the Radical Republicans. He was among the original proponents of legal racial equality. After the Civil War, Washburne advocated that large plantations be divided up to provide compensatory property for freed slaves.

Washburne served as President Ulysses S. Grant's Secretary of State, replacing William H. Seward, for twelve days in March 1869; it remains the shortest term of any Secretary of State. He then became ambassador to France, where he was influential in negotiating the armistice for the Franco-Prussian War.

Washburne retired from government in 1876, although he was mentioned as a presidential candidate at the Republican conventions in 1880 and 1884. He moved to Chicago, Illinois, and served as president of the Chicago Historical Society from 1884 to 1887.

Three of Washburne's brothers (Cadwallader C. Washburn, William D. Washburn, and Israel Washburn, Jr.) also became politicians. His son, Hempstead Washburne, was mayor of Chicago from 1891 to 1893.

Washburne Street at 1230 south in Chicago is named in honor of Elihu Washburne.

See also


  1. ^ An American in Paris, American Heritage
  2. ^ Vidal, Gore. Lincoln, Vintage Press, 2000

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William H. Bissell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 1st congressional district

1853 - 1863
Succeeded by
Isaac N. Arnold
Preceded by
Owen Lovejoy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 3rd congressional district

1863 - 1869
Succeeded by
Horatio C. Burchard
Political offices
Preceded by
William H. Seward
United States Secretary of State
Served under: Ulysses S. Grant

Succeeded by
Hamilton Fish
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John A. Dix
U.S. Minister to France
1869 – 1877
Succeeded by
Edward F. Noyes


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