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A Biography of Elihu Benjamin Washburne

Volume Five: American Minister to France During Paris Commune of 1871
  • Also available as: Dust Jacket Hardcover
  • Published: November 2013
  • Format: Perfect Bound Softcover(B/W)
  • Pages: 321
  • Size: 6x9
  • ISBN: 9781483699875

“About all I know of Grant I have got from you,” wrote Abraham Lincoln to Congressman Elihu Washburne in 1864. “I have never seen him. Who else besides you knows anything about Grant?” Elihu Benjamin Washburne was not only the link between President Abraham Lincoln and Union General Ulysses S. Grant, but Washburne himself played a major role in both their lives as they rose to power and throughout their presidencies. An Illinois Whig from Galena, Washburne was active in the anti-slavery movement and became a Republican as soon as that party was organized. In fact, some sources even credit his brother, then Congressman Israel Washburn, with coining the name Republican for the new Northern anti-slavery party. Washburne was an early supporter of Lincoln who advised the future President during the Lincoln-Douglas Senatorial Debates in 1858 and was given the honor of writing Lincoln’s campaign biography for the 1860 Presidential race. Elihu Washburne served eight successive terms (1853 to 1869) and was elected to a ninth in the House of Representatives, where he earned the titles “Father of the House” and “Watchdog of the Treasury.” During the Civil War, Washburne was an eyewitness to several battles including the First Battle of Bull Run, Vicksburg, the Wilderness Campaign, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. During the Second Battle of Bull Run, Congressman Washburne was with President Lincoln on the roof of the White House, where they could hear the action. Washburne was the only northern civilian to witness Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865. Shortly thereafter he served as a pallbearer at Lincoln’s funeral. After the Civil War, Washburne was a member of the joint Committee on Reconstruction and chairman of the Committee of the Whole in the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868. In 1869, President Grant honored his old friend by nominating him Secretary of State and then Minister to France. Washburne presented his letters of credence to Napoleon III in May 1869, and was present the next year for the Franco-German War. During that war, Minister Washburne was the only foreign diplomat to remain in Paris during the German siege of that city and later the Paris Commune. At the start of that war, Washburne took under his protection some 30,000 German residents in Paris who were citizens from the North German Confederation, Saxony, Darmstadt, and Hesse Grand Duchy after the German Ambassadors were expelled from France. “He was practically the German Minister in France for eleven months, and was in constant official correspondence with the Prince de Bismarck.” Following the war with the Germans, the people of Paris rose up in revolt and proclaimed a leftist Commune in 1871. The poor response of the French government to feed the people of Paris after the peace treaty contributed to the political turmoil. Despite having just gone through a harrowing experience of war and siege with the Germans, Minister Washburne was faced with a new war, a civil war, and a new siege, this time imposed from within. In 1880, Washburne was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President receiving over forty delegate votes in a losing cause to General James Garfield who later became President. At that same Republican convention, Washburne came in second place in the balloting for Vice President. In the contest for the number two spot, Elihu Washburne lost to Chester Arthur, who replaced Garfield as President after that Chief Executive was assassinated in 1881. In his Civil War generation, Elihu Benjamin Washburne was the Kilroy in Kilroy Was Here. It would be hard to find another person who lived in the middle of the nineteenth century who was at more important events or knew more important people than the Illinois Congressman, Secretary of State, and Envoy Extraordinary. This work explores the life and times of Elihu B. Washburne with special focus on

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