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. He was known for his courage, and met President-elect Abraham Lincoln upon his arrival in Washington, D.C. on February 23 1861. An assassination attempt was feared, and other Republican Party leaders were afraid to take on this duty. Washburne had hidden the whereabouts of President-elect Lincoln by personally cutting telegraph wires in key locations.
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 peace treaty 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.
Washburne Street at 1230 south in Chicago is named in honor of Elihu Washburne.