Elihu Benjamin Washburne (September 23, 1816-October 23, 1887) was one of seven brothers that played a prominent role in the early formation of the United States Republican Party. He later served as a member of the Lincoln and Grant administrations.
A member of United States House of Representatives, Washburne was known for his courage, and met President-elect Lincoln upon his arrival to Washington, DC 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 for twelve days in March, 1869; the shortest term of any U.S. Secretary of State. He then became ambassador to France, where he was influential in negotiating the peace treaty for the Franco-Prussian War.
Three of Washburne's brothers (Cadwallader C. Washburn, William D. Washburn, and Israel Washburn, Jr.) also became politicians.