Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
WASHBURNE, Elihu Benjamin (1816-1887)

WASHBURNE, ELIHU BENJAMIN, (brother of Israel Washburn, Jr., Cadwallader Colden Washburn, and William Drew Washburn), a Representative from Illinois; born in Livermore, Androscoggin County, Maine, September 23, 1816; attended the common schools; printer's apprentice; assistant editor of the Kennebec Journal, Augusta; studied law at Kents' Hill Seminary in 1836 and at Harvard Law School in 1839; was admitted to the bar in 1840; moved to Galena, Jo Daviess County, Ill., in 1840 and commenced the practice of law; delegate to the Whig National Conventions in 1844 and 1852; unsuccessful candidate for election in 1848 to the Thirty-first Congress; elected as a Whig to the Thirty-third Congress and reelected as a Republican to the eight succeeding Congresses and served from March 4, 1853, to March 6, 1869, when he resigned; chairman, Committee on Commerce (Thirty-fourth and Thirty-sixth through Fortieth Congresses), Committee on Appropriations (Fortieth Congress); appointed as Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President Grant, but resigned a few days afterward to accept a diplomatic mission to France; upon the declaration of the Franco-Prussian War he protected with the American flag the Paris legations of the various German states; remained in Paris during the siege and was the only foreign minister who continued at his post during the days of the Commune; protected not only Germans but all the foreigners left by their ministers; served as Minister until 1877, when he returned and settled in Chicago, Ill.; engaged in literary pursuits; died in Chicago, Ill., October 23, 1887; interment in Greenwood Cemetery, Galena, Ill.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division
Washington, DC
Papers: 1829-1915. 31.4 linear feet (144 containers).
The E. B. Washburne Papers include bound volumes of letters received by Washburne relating to his time as a member of Congress and as U.S. minister to France (1869-1877). Letterbooks with letterpress copies of outgoing correspondence and Washburne's notes during the Franco-Prussian War record his official responsibilities in the Paris legation and personal matters. Washburne's role as minister to France is documented by official letters and communications to secretaries of state Hamilton Fish and William M. Evarts, as well as by correspondence with European statesmen and diplomats. A finding aid is available online.

Papers: In the James Gillespie Blaine Family Papers, ca. 1777-1945, 20 linear feet.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the John A. J. Creswell Papers, ca. 1819-1885, 8 linear feet.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Henry L. Dawes Papers, ca. 1833-1933, approximately 22,000 items.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Hamilton Fish Papers, ca. 1732-1914, 85 linear feet.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Ulysses S. Grant Papers, ca. 1819-1969, 100 linear feet.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Abraham Lincoln Papers, ca. 1774-1948, 48 linear feet.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Edward McPherson, 1738-1936, approximately 18,000 items.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Charles H. Rogers Family Papers, ca. 1858-1930, 0.2 linear foot.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Caleb B. Smith Papers, ca. 1841-1862, approximately 1200 items.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the John C. Underwood Papers, ca. 1856-1898, 165 items.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Israel Washburn Papers, 1838-1908, 3 containers.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Henry Wilson Papers, 1851-1875, 200 items.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
Springfield, IL
Papers: 1849-1872, 10 items.
Correspondence with Elihu Washburne focusing on elections of 1868 and 1872.

Papers: 1856-1877, 21 items.
The Elihu Washburne Papers contain five letters written while Elihu Washburne was serving as a U.S. Representative, discussing politics, legislation, and the proposed Illinois Constitution of 1862. Twelve letters were written by Elihu Washburne to Ninian Wirt Edwards after he retired from diplomatic service and had begun his pursuits in history. Also included are requests information about Edward Coles, Ninian Edwards and other early Illinois political figures.

Papers: 1861, 1 item.
A letter from J.F. Farnsworth with Elihu Washburne and Owen Lovejoy writen on March 1, 1861. Topics discussed in the letter include Simeon Whiteley.

Papers: 1861-1880, 70 items.
The papers include correspondence between Elihu Washburne and Ulysses S. Grant.

Papers: 1862-1887, 9 items.
The papers include three letters from Elihu Washburne from 1862; 1. June 6, to Governor Yates re: effort should be made to defeat the new constitution; 2. Aug. 8 letter to W.W. Curtis, re: not a candidate for Congress and volunteer companies being raised in JoDaviess County; 3. Dec. 13, letter telling recipient to go to Governor Yates to find a good position. Two letters to the Globe Office ordering subscription for General Grant. One letter, July 15, 1887 to Gov. John Smith re: his continued bereavement over the loss of his son. There also are three letters from Elihu Washburne in France: 1. Feb. 18, 1871 to Rear Admiral Charles S. Boggs re: preparations for moving American legation to Bordeaux during Franco-Prussian War; 2. Invitation, Dec. 26, 1871 to General Bates and his daughter for an evening with the Washburnes; 3. April 12, 1872 to Ulysses S. Grant re: resignation of Andrew Gregg Curtin as minister to Russia and his value to the 1872 presidential campaign.

Papers: In the Henry Enoch Dunner Papers, 1831-1891, 16 items.
Persons represented include Elihu Washburne.


Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn, NY
Papers: December 17, 1879; February 14, 1880. 2 letters.
Finding aid in repository.


Chicago History Museum
Research Collection
Chicago, IL
Papers: 1871-1890, approximately 15 items.
Letters, speeches, and notes discuss Elihu Washburne's interests as a U.S. Congressman (Republican, Illinois) and U.S. Minister to France. There also are a few images of Elihu Washburne at the Chicago Historical Society.

Papers: In the Isaac N. Arnold Papers, 1860-1885, 0.5 linear foot
Persons represented include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the David Davis Papers, ca. 1815-1964, 9 linear feet.
Persons represented include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Zebina Eastman Papers, 1840-1885, 3 linear feet.
Persons represented include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Flower Family Collection, ca. 1812-1974, amount unknown.
Persons represented include Elihu Washburne.

Papers: In the Joseph Russell Jones Papers, ca. 1758-1909, approximately 100 items and 1 volume.
Correspondents include Elihu Washburne.


Columbia University
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
New York, NY
Papers: 1 letter (February 11, 1883) in the Allan Nevins collection.
Finding aid in repository.


Duke University Library
Durham, NC
Papers: ca. 1863-1867, 2 items.
A letter of Elihu Washburne describing an expedition to Port Gibson, Miss., with General Ulysses S. Grant, the battle there, and the attitude of the soldiers toward Grant; and a letter concerning the re-instatement to a position for the addressee.

Papers: In the Algernon S. Washburn Papers, 1832-1884, 214 items.
Personse represented include Elihu Washburne.


Huntington Library
San Marino, CA
Papers: In the Charles Henry Ray Papers, ca. 1826-1904, 437 items.
Corrspondents include Elihu Washburne.


Minnesota Historical Society
St. Paul, MN
Papers: In the Algernon S. Washburn Correspondence, 1833-1882, 1 box.
The collection contains family letters about Israel Washburn's law practice, real estate, and diplomatic service.


New-York Historical Society
New York, NY
Papers: February-March 1871; May 15, 1848; June 23, 1864. 6 letters.
Personal and official correspondence. Finding aid in repository.


University of Maine at Orono
Orono, ME
Papers: 1857-1869, 1 folder.
The papers include six letters from Elihu Washburne to the Daily Globe (Washington, D.C.) office. In the letters, Washburne requests that copies of the Globe be sent to his constituents and charged to his Daily Globe allotment. One of the letters is to the Commissioner of Pensions.


Washburn Norlands Library
Livermore Falls, ME
Papers: In the Israel Washburn Papers, 1841-1883, 1.5 feet.
The papers include correspondence with Israel Washburn, discussing family matters and political issues.


Wisconsin Historical Society
Madison, WI
Papers: In the Cadwallader Colden Washburn Papers, 1844-1877, 3 boxes.
Correspondence of Israel Washburn while serving as Ambassador to France.

  • Clifford, Dale. "Elihu Benjamin Washburne: An American Diplomat in Paris, 1870-71." Prologue 2 (Winter 1970): 161-74.
  • Gannon, Francis Xavier. A Study of Elihu Benjamin Washburne: American Minister to France During the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune. Washington: N.p., 1950.
  • Hunt, Gaillard. Israel, Elihu, and Cadwallader Washburn: A Chapter in American Biography. New York: Macmillan, 1925.
  • Nelson, Russell K. "The Early Life and Congressional Career of Elihu B. Washburne." Ph.D. diss., University of North Dakota, 1954.
  • Washburne, Elihu Benjamin. Abraham Lincoln. Tarrytown, N.Y.: Reprinted, W. Abbatt, 1915.
  • ------. Account of the sufferings and death of the Most Rev. George Darboy. [New York]: The Catholic Union of New York, 1873.
  • ------. Address of Hon. Elihu B. Washburne. Jefferson City: Tribune Printing Company, 1881.
  • ------. America's aid to Germany in 1870-71. St. Louis, Mo.: N.p., 1905.
  • ------. Col. Henry Gratiot--a pioneer of Wisconsin. Madison: N.p., 1888.
  • ------. Thomas Paine and the French Revolution. [New York: N.p., 1880].
  • Washburne, Mark. A Biography of Elihu Benjamin Washburne: Congressman, Secretary of State, Envoy Extraordinary. Three Volumes. Philadelphia: Xlibris Corporation, 2002.