Allan Pinkerton , born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1819, emigrated to Chicago. He was
America’s first “private eye.” A man of many contradictions, he was a conservative
who strongly opposed slavery, a very cautious man who risked his life capturing criminals,
a militant labor organizer who suppressed the labor movement, and fought for women’s
rights to be detectives.
During his twenty-eight year career as a private detective, Allan Pinkerton and his
agency investigated over a thousand crimes. Pinkerton was involved in many dramas
of the nineteenth century. Work and the Underground Railroad became his life. The
Pinkerton’s fed and sheltered fugitives in their own home. Pinkerton was a very moral
man and despised slavery. The crisis over slavery brought the nation to the brink of the
Civil War. The South demanded a guarantee that slavery would continue in the states
where it was already established and permitted to spread to the Midwest and West. The
South also wanted the North to return any slaves who fled there via the Underground
Railroad. The North wanted to stop the spread of slavery. In 1850 the Fugitive Slave Act
was passed, which made it a federal crime for slaves to run away and a crime for anyone
to assist them. Allan Pinkerton could be arrested and imprisoned for his involvement
in assisting the slaves.
When the war began, Allan Pinkerton would finally combine his detective skills with
his abolitionist beliefs. Allan Pinkerton protected Abraham Lincoln against southern
radicals, who demanded the Union be dissolved and the Southern states form an independent
government. They hated Lincoln because they feared he would abolish slavery. In 1861,
Pinkerton uncovered a plot to assassinate President Lincoln. Pinkerton , with his top agents,
posed as Southern sympathizers and found themselves within the conspirators. As a spy
in the their midst, the plot was uncovered. As President Lincoln changed trains in
Maryland on February 22, he would be shot. Some of the guards protecting the President
were also Southern radicals. At the same time there was another plot to blow up the train
carrying Lincoln. Once the train was destroyed, they would cut the telegraph wires and
blow up bridges and train tracks to prevent Northern troops entry into Baltimore.
If President Lincoln was killed, there would definitely be a civil war. Pinkerton acted
quickly and changed the original trip plans. They would leave immediately, two days
early. Although the President made it to Washington safely, Southern rebels in Baltimore
attacked the railroad. War was inevitalble. Washington was filled with spies and Pinkerton
approached the President, offering to create a secret service to uncover and arrest the
spies. Lincoln would not agree.
George McClellan, an old friend of Pinkerton’s, wanted him to set up a military
intelligence operation and send agents into the South. Pinkerton assigned himself
and traveled as E.J.Allen, a Southern rebel....