Washburne, Elihu Benjamin, 1816–87, American politician and diplomat, b. Livermore, Maine. Admitted to the bar in Massachusetts, he opened (1840) his law practice in Galena, Ill. As a U.S. Representative from Illinois (1853–69) he became a radical Republican noted for his efforts to limit expenses. Washburne helped to promote the fortunes of Ulysses S. Grant early in the Civil War, and when Grant became President he made (1869) his benefactor Secretary of State, although Washburne was completely unqualified for that post. However, he resigned within two weeks to become minister to France (1869–77). In the Franco-Prussian War, Washburne was the only foreign diplomat to remain in Paris throughout the siege of the city and the period of the Commune.
See his Recollections of a Minister to France, 1869–1877 (1877); G. Hunt, Israel, Elihu, and Cadwallader Washburn (1925, repr. 1971).
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