Conspiracy theories have always swirled around Brown Brothers Harriman, and not without reason. Throughout the nineteenth century, when America was convulsed by a financial panic essentially every twenty years, Brown Brothers quietly went from strength to strength. By the turn of the twentieth century, Brown Brothers was unquestionably at the heart of the American Establishment. As America's reach extended, Brown Brothers worked hand in glove with the State Department, notably in Nicaragua in the early twentieth century, where the firm essentially took over the country's economy. To the Brown family, the virtue of their dealings was a given; their form of muscular Protestantism, forged on the playing fields of Groton and Yale, was the acme of civilization, and it was their duty to import that civilization to the world. When, during the Great Depression, Brown Brothers ensured their strength by merging with Averell Harriman's investment bank to form Brown Brothers Harriman, the die was cast for the role the firm would play on the global stage during World War II and thereafter, as its partners served at the highest levels of government to shape the international system that defines the world to this day.