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Freedom’s Detective By Charles Lane

Freedom’s Detective follows the life of Hiram C. Whitley, who lived in the 1800’s. While he wasn’t the first leader of the American Secret Service, he was appointed its chief just four years after it was set up.

The Secret Service came into being in an era when most Americans distrusted giving power to the Federal Government. Just about everything was handled at the State level. The Federal Secret Service was established to fight counterfeiting, which was a major problem.

In his early years, Mr. Whitley was known to be less than honest in his dealings with his business partner and even helped to capture a band of escaping slaves. These and other incidents would come back to haunt him later in life.

Mr. Whitley would never back down from a fight and would not hesitate to lie and deny the truth if suited his defence. He did; however, have a particular dislike for rich men who profited from their crimes while their poor accomplices took the fall.

He developed the idea of undercover detectives in the United States. Many important people thought the idea was distasteful, but he understood that it was a vital way of obtaining information on criminal activities - although Secret Service investigations were limited to counterfeiting. Many judges of the time gave little value to the testimony of detectives and considered them to be little better than the criminals they investigated. Mr. Whitley fought to change the image. He also borrowed the European idea of paying low-level criminals to inform their bosses.

Although he and his team of detectives were successful against counterfeiters, some of their greatest achievements came when the Secret Service's responsibilities were expanded to include investigating the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK began as a club for Confederate Army veterans but soon expanded into a large organization to terrorize, torture and murder African Americans and their white supporters - [often Republicans. The KKK received widespread support in the South, including police officers and judges. Hiram C. Whitley and his team entered this battle wholeheartedly.

Charles Lane has done an excellent job in writing this book, portraying the good and bad of Hiram C. Whitley in the tumultuous times of this period of American history.

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