Elihu Benjamin Washburn (brother of Israel Washburn, Jr., Cadwallader Colden Washburn, and William Drew Washburn) was a U.S. Representative from Illinois. (See more on the Washburn family at Norlands.)
He was born in Livermore, September 23, 1816, attended the common schools, became a printer’s apprentice and later assistant editor of the Kennebec Journal in Augusta. Elihu Washburn studied law at Kents Hill Seminary in 1836 and at Harvard Law School in 1839 and was admitted to the bar in 1840.
Washburn moved to Galena, Jo Daviess County, Illinois in 1840 and began his practice of law. A delegate to the Whig National Conventions in 1844 and 1852, he was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1848 to the Thirty-first Congress. He was 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.
While in Congress he was chairman of the Committee on Commerce (Thirty-fourth and Thirty-sixth through Fortieth Congresses), and the Committee on Appropriations (Fortieth Congress).
Washburn was 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. He remained in Paris during the siege and was the only foreign minister who continued at his post during the days of the Paris Commune. Washburn protected not only Germans but all the foreigners left by their ministers.
He served as Minister in Paris until 1877 when he returned and settled in Chicago, Illinois, engaging in literary pursuits
Elihu Washburn died in Chicago on October 23, 1887, with interment in Greenwood Cemetery, Galena, Illinois.