Washburne, Elihu Benjamin

Elihu Benjamin Washburne, detail

Elihu Washburne was one of four brothers from Maine who helped organize the Republican Party in four different states. The third son born to store owner Israel Washburn and his wife Martha in Livermore, Maine, Elihu alone among the four famous brothers used the older spelling of the family name. He worked to save money to attend Harvard Law School and passed the bar in 1839. He went west soon after and began a practice in Galena, Illinois where he entered politics as a Whig in 1844. The next year he married Adèle Gratiot, with whom he had seven children. In 1852, Washburne won a seat in Congress and served until 1869. He sat at the same time as his brother Israel Washburn, who represented a district in Maine. Strongly built, serious, and uncompromisingly honest, his strict Presbyterian morality offended some but as chair of the Appropriations Committee he earned the grudging nickname "Watchdog of the Treasury." He was a strong ally of Abraham Lincoln, both in Illinois and Washington and also the champion of his most talented Galena constituent, Ulysses Grant. His leadership of the Radical Republicans in Congress ended when Grant named him as his Secretary of State in March 1869. Washburne preferred more direct foreign service and was named Minister to France only five days later. He served with influence and distinction there for eight years. This was his last public position and he retired to Chicago where he died in October 1887. (By David Park)

Life span
09/23/1816—10/23/1887

Life Summary

Full name
  Elihu Benjamin Washburne
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
  Exact
Death Date Certainty
  Exact
Gender
  Male
Race
  White
Sectional choice
  North
Origins
  Free State
No. of Siblings
  10
No. of Spouses
  1
No. of Children
  7
Family
 
Israel Washburn (father), Martha Benjamin (mother), Adèle Gratiot (wife, 1845), Cadwallader Colden Washburn (brother), Israel Washburn, Jr. (brother), William Drew Washburn (brother)
Education
  Other
Other Education
  Maine Wesleyan Seminary; Harvard Law School
Occupation
  Politician
  Diplomat
  Journalist
Relation to Slavery
  White non-slaveholder
Political Parties
  Whig
  Republican
Government
  Grant Administration (1869-77)
  Diplomat
  US House of Representatives

Note Cards

Bibliography