Usher F. Linder

Usher Ferguson Linder (March 20, 1809 June 5, 1876) served as Illinois Attorney General from 1837 until 1839. He was also a private-sector attorney in practice during the early statehood years of Illinois. In several of his cases, he practiced in affiliation with the Springfield, Illinois firm of Lincoln and Herndon and with its circuit partner, Abraham Lincoln.[1]


Usher F. Linder was a member of the generation of pioneer Kentuckians who saw the frontier state of Illinois (which was settled after Kentucky) as an opportunity to make a career. Moving to the new Prairie State in 1835, Linder settled in Coles County and was admitted to the bar. He was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1836, 1846, and 1850, and was the appointed state Attorney General in 1837-1839. He also practiced law in Illinois from 1835 until 1860.[1][2]

Political career

As a State representative from southeastern Illinois elected in 1836, Linder met a young lawmaker from Sangamon County in central Illinois, Abraham Lincoln. In defense of his constituents, Linder attempted to oppose Lincoln's successful efforts to move the young state's capital from Vandalia, Illinois to Springfield, Illinois. Linder also opposed many of Lincoln's political views, being a member of the Illinois Democratic Party prior to 1839 and again after 1854. However, Lincoln and Linder also practiced law in affiliation with each other. Lincoln was the circuit partner of a Springfield-based practice that handled a wide variety of cases in the Eighth Circuit, a collection of counties in central and southeastern Illinois that included both Sangamon County and Coles County. As Linder had by this time become a leading lawyer in Coles County, this meant that both lawyers needed to affiliate with a fellow professional in each other's home county.[1][2]

Relationship with Lincoln

Although Lincoln and Linder were never legal partners, their practices were affiliated between each other and they handed off cases to each other, especially as Lincoln wound down his active casework and became a U.S. Presidential candidate in 1860. As an active Democrat after 1854, Linder was an ally of Lincoln's chief Illinois political rival, U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Linder helped to organize Coles County for Douglas, which took on significance when the county seat, Charleston, Illinois, became the site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates in the senatorial campaign of 1858. Douglas grew to rely upon lawyer Linder as a key political troubleshooter. In one episode, the sore-beset senator sent a frantic telegram to Linder, "FOR GODS SAKE LINDER COME AND HELP ME FIGHT THEM." For the rest of his life, the attorney bore the nickname of "For God's Sake" Linder.[1]

After Lincoln's election and the outbreak of the Civil War, Linder's son, Daniel Linder, became a soldier for the Confederate States of America and was captured. After his father pleaded with Lincoln, the commander-in-chief asked that the prisoner of war be sent to see him at the White House. Young Daniel appeared under guard and was granted a note that instructed him to take an oath of allegiance to the United States and released him to the custody of his father. Daniel Linder was freed on December 26, 1863.[3]

According to the "Terre Haute Journal", Linder's teenage son, shot a schoolmate, the son of Dr. Ball, on the evening of May 13, 1856, over some difficulties at school.[4] When Lincoln heard of this, he offered to represent him gratis, "an offer that brought tears to the eyes of the distraught father.[5]"

Known for his violence, In 1859, while in open court, Linder beat up a fellow attorney.[5] Linder retired from the practice of law in the 1860s. In his later years he wrote a slim volume of memoirs, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois.[6] He died in Chicago in 1876.[2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 "The Lawyers: Usher F. Linder (1809-1876)". Lehrman Institute. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 "Usher F. Linder". Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  3. "Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865): Order for Daniel Lindner". Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  4. "The Ottawa Free Trader.(Ottawa,Ill.) page.1, May 24, 1856".
  5. 1 2 Abraham Lincoln: A Life, By Michael Burlingame, JHU Press, Nov 6, 2012
  6. Linder, Usher F. (1879). Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois. Chicago: Chicago Legal News Company. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Walter B. Scates
Attorney General of Illinois
1837 1838
Succeeded by
George W. Olney
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