Friday, 28 August 2015

Forgotten Republican Heroes: Washburne and Winant

Elihu B. Washburne (1816-1877) was the American Minister (Ambassador) to France at the time of the Franco-Prussian War: i.e.  during the horrendous siege of Paris and the equally awful, but short-lived Paris Commune.

He was the only foreign Ambassador to stay in France "for the duration", and in the face of great privation he served with enormous strength, dignity and courage.  All but forgotten, he rests in my mind as a true American hero.

You can read a bit about him here:

and for a telling account of Washburne's time in Paris see David McCullough's "The Greater Journey".


John Gilbert Winant 1889-1947 was the U.S. Ambassador to London, 1941-1946.

He followed the anti-British and defeatist Joe Kennedy "Britain is finished". Kennedy's appointment to London was surely an example of  F.D.R at his cynical and Machiavellian worst. 

Whereas Kennedy was universally despised  (and even hated) by the British public, his successor, Winant became a deserved popular figure in war time Britain, immediately recognizable on the streets of London and other cities.

He remained at his post through the Blitz,  and during  the devastating late war VI and VII  rocket attacks,

The Harvard Magazine has a nice article about Winant here:

For a rich and full account of Winant's time in London  (as well as the London work of the famous broadcaster (and propagandist) Edward R. Morrow, and the rascally Averill Harriman please read this:

or better still read the book "Citizens of London"  by Lynne Olson (Random House 2010).

(I'll write more about this book in a later blog entry).


Washburn and Winant are high  in my pantheon of American heroes.


When my ship comes in (!), I will endow a Museum of Civilian Heroes. 


 There ought to be one.

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