This book examines the demise of one Massachusetts intellectual elite, the Congregational Standing Order, and the rise of another, the Boston Brahmins, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Peter S. Field traces the division within the culturally dominant class to the emergence of a new group of wealthy urban merchatns, who funded Brahmin efforts to create America's first secular high culture. With the founding of the Monthly Anthology, the establishment of the exclusive Boston Athenaeum, and the takeoer of Harvard College, the merchant-backed Brahmins constructed a competing locus of cultural authority against the claims of the orthodox ministry. A social history of intellectuals, Field's study focuses on the issues of power, prestige, and self-interest that fueled the struggle between the Brahmins and their orthodox rivals. It shows how this internal strife not only led to the dismantling of the last established church in the United States, but also laid the groundwork for the American Renaissance of the 1830s and 1840s. According to Field, the generation responsible for that remarkable flowering of new England literary culture-the generation of Emerson and Thoreau, Hawthorne and Melville-can only be understood in relation to its Brahmin parents and ministers.