Washburn, Charles Ames (1822–1889)

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Washburn, Charles Ames (1822–1889)

Charles Ames Washburn (b. 1822; d. 1889), U.S. diplomat and minister to Paraguay during the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870). A political appointee of Abraham Lincoln (and brother of Elihu Washburne, an important Republican politician), Washburn arrived in Asunción in November 1861. At first he was on good terms with Paraguay's president, Francisco Solano López, but their relationship deteriorated after the war began. In 1867, Washburn offered his services as mediator between Paraguay and the Allies, but his pompous, uncompromising personal style hardly made him the best diplomat for the task.

Rebuffed on all sides, Washburn then publicly took up the role of protector of all foreign residents in Asunción, despite the fact that López had branded many of them as probable spies. These suspicions soon focused on Washburn himself, who was accused of being the ringleader of a massive conspiracy against the government. Although nothing was ever proved, López had scores of people tortured and quite a few executed in an effort to demonstrate the U.S. minister's guilt. Instead of labeling the charge a monstrous fabrication, however, Washburn fed the suspicion by replying in detail to the accusations. He only barely escaped from Paraguay thanks to the timely arrival, in 1868, of a U.S. warship sent to remove him from the country. He later defended his actions at a Senate investigation into Paraguayan affairs and in a vituperative two-volume memoir, The History of Paraguay (1871).

See alsoLópez, Francisco Solano; War of the Triple Alliance.


Harris Gaylord Warren, Paraguay: An Informal History (1949).

Additional Bibliography

Webb, Theodore A. Impassioned Brothers: Ministers Resident to France and Paraguay. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002.

                              Thomas L. Whigham