Lane (The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction) provides the definitive look at the federal government’s efforts to counter the threat posed by the KKK during Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency in this well-written and carefully researched account. When Grant entered the White House in 1869, hopes were raised that the Republican party platform of “equal rights, regardless of race or caste, for every man in every state” would extend to the South. But that agenda was violently opposed by the Klan, leading to the assassination of George Ashburn, a member of Georgia’s convention responsible for drafting a new constitution. Federal authorities dispatched Hiram Whitley, a veteran investigator, to Columbus, Ga., to crack the case, and he obtained evidence against 12 men, including a member of the U.S. Army. That achievement led to Whitley’s continuing to campaign against the Klan as the head of the Secret Service. Parallels between what Lane calls the first war on terror and the current one—both featured “military commissions, selective suspensions of habeas corpus, isolated interrogation centers, and torture against terrorists”—make clear why this lesser-known chapter in American law enforcement merits attention. American history buffs won’t want to miss this one. Agent: Scott Waxman, Waxman Literary. (Apr.)
Bolstered by deep research into government documents and press accounts, Freedom’s Detective paints an illuminating portrait of Whitley, an intriguing representative of Reconstruction’s feats and fiascos.” —The Washington Post
“Lane's account of Whitley's infiltration of the Klan is endlessly gripping, and he recounts it with an impressive narrative tension. He also does an excellent job placing the operation in historical context, chronicling the racism and resentment that built up in the South following the end of the Civil War. … Lane proves himself to be an excellent researcher and writer, and Freedom's Detective is a captivating account of a flawed but remarkable man.” —NPR
“The definitive look at the federal government’s efforts to counter the threat posed by the KKK during Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency in this well-written and carefully researched account. … Parallels between what Lane calls the first war on terror and the current one—both featured “military commissions, selective suspensions of habeas corpus, isolated interrogation centers, and torture against terrorists”—make clear why this lesser-known chapter in American law enforcement merits attention. American history buffs won’t want to miss this one.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Charles Lane provides a lively and well-researched account of Whitley’s checkered career and the surprising early years of the Secret Service. … Mr. Lane, a Washington Post opinion columnist, has a gift for storytelling.” —Wall Street Journal
“Lane tells a compelling story of a man who, with all his faults, still fought to make a difference and, for the most part, succeeded. Whitley was indeed no saint, but changes made in law enforcement under his direction made vast improvements in the way justice is handled today.” —The Oklahoman
“Lane’s well-researched book portrays a complex lawman with questionable ethics, who long pursued shady businesses yet made his mark fighting the Klan as it gathered strength in many Southern states and threatened to grow ever larger. This is an important, highly readable, and timely study of a key historical period, the origins of the KKK, and one man's battle against its campaign of hatred and bloodshed.” —Booklist
“This is a powerful, vitally important story, and Lane brings it to life with not only vast amounts of research but with a remarkable gift for storytelling that makes the pages fly by.” —Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Hero of the Empire
"A detail-laden, arduously researched chronicle that delineates an important early era of the Secret Service." —Kirkus Reviews
"Charles Lane's Freedom's Detective is a riveting narrative history about early attempts to crackdown and even stamp out the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of domestic terrorism. The amount of original research Lane conducted is prodigious. His prose style is irresistible. An overall magnificent read!" —Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities, Professor of History at Rice University, and author of Rosa Parks
"Freedom's Detective reads like a movie, and I'd love to see it. As the KKK rose from the ashes of the Confederacy, the American government rose to the occasion in the form of the much-opposed Secret Service. Charles Lane's biography of former-slave-hunter-turned-undercover-agent Hiram Whitley is a much-needed cautionary tale in an age of rising tyranny - that we must hold our criminals and our cops accountable for their actions." —Jared A. Brock, author of The Road to Dawn: Josiah Henson and the Story That Sparked the Civil War
“With a reporter's eye for telling detail, Lane has unearthed a hidden gem of a story. Gripping and insightful, Freedom's Detective reads like a first-rate historical novel. Hiram Whitley, the colorful protagonist, made his mark in the late 1800s, but his story has stunning relevance in 21st Century America.” —Julie Cohen, producer of RBG
“Charles Lane has brilliantly reconstructed the hidden history of America’s first Secret Service and its ingenious war on the Klan. At its heart is America’s very own 007: the charming, roguish, and ultimately heroic figure of Hiram C. Whitley. Settle in with this page-turner, and let the story sweep you away.” —Gary Gerstle, author of Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present
“I thought I knew how the Klan was destroyed after the Civil War, but after reading Charles Lane’s wonderful book, I realized I knew almost nothing." —Laurence Leamer, author of The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan
“One of the biggest and most hurtful myths of our political discourse is that white supremacy is a thing of the past and not part of who we are. Charles Lane’s gripping and insightful narrative of the early battles against the Ku Klux Klan reminds us of how deeply embedded the battle for racial justice was with our national project, but how some of the tactics remain the same. The echoes between the cries of fake news and racial disaffection today and those of 150 years ago are tragic and chilling. It is essential reading for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of our current troubles.” —James E. Johnson, United States Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, 1998-2000
Emerging after the Civil War, as white supremacists resisted the ascendance of newly free African Americans, the Ku Klux Klan stirred concern in Washington, DC, with its first political assassination. That meant involvement by the Secret Service, which had heretofore focused on counterfeiting. Led by new head Hiram C. Whitley, the service used the novel technique of undercover work to battle the KKK, whose crimes amounted to what we now call terrorism. With a 50,000-copy first printing; from a Washington Post editorial board member who was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing.
The story of the second head of the Secret Service, whose relentless efforts at criminal apprehension paved the way for today's controversial domestic terrorism operations.
Lane (Stay of Execution: Saving the Death Penalty from Itself, 2010, etc.)—a Washington Post board member and op-ed columnist and a former foreign correspondent and editor of the New Republic (1997-1999)—follows the intensive, though short-lived career of Hiram C. Whitley, a daring impresario with steady nerves who, during the Ulysses S. Grant administrations, served as the newly minted chief of the Treasury Department's Secret Service Division. Tracking down counterfeiters was Whitley's main focus, but he also served as a key detective in domestic surveillance during this time of Reconstruction, when the defeated Southern states were determined not to accept the various Reconstruction Acts passed by Congress in 1867 as well as the 14th Amendment. These events contributed to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. A spy, saboteur, and detective with little experience outside of living by his own wits, Whitley managed to build a small but capable "semiclandestine national police bureaucracy" that was unprecedented at the time, featuring "its own system of ranks and promotions, and full autonomy to recruit, pay, and supervise informants within the civilian population." In short order, Whitley began to use questionable methods of stealth and entrapment to achieve his aims. Moreover, a botched entrapment operation that the press called "The Washington Safe Burglary Case," along with a switch in political winds, ensured the end of Whitley's government career in the mid-1870s. Though the narrative is occasionally convoluted, Lane, in addition to providing a welcome biography of a somewhat forgotten figure, methodically pursues how "the dilemmas of a permanent federal covert apparatus are with us still" in the form of CIA and FBI "excesses in the ‘war on terror.' "
A detail-laden, arduously researched chronicle that delineates an important early era of the Secret Service.