The Hungerfords, mine and foundry tycoons in the Peckskill area, find that their power is not quite strong enough to prevent the subversive influence of the new schoolteacher, John Balfe, from rousing their workers and affecting their family. George counters Balfe's attempts at insurrection with adamant orders: Burt tries to ignore them: Juliet, their sister, scarred with the stigma of scandal, succumbs to the man's Irish romancing: Max, their unstable younger brother, walks out on him but later slaves for his praise. And the ""peasants"", doomed to the Clove, which in its turn is doomed if the rotting dam is not repaired, work under Balfe's hatred, strike and are routed by the militia and ostracize their would he leader. And Max' death marks an end, which is also a beginning when Juliet plans a future companionship with Burt in his scientific experiments. The slave state of the 1850's in embryonic revolt typifies the honest demands of the underprivileged worker and the conflict as to the means of achieving its aims -- by violence or by rational adjustment -- and offers a black and white statement of the issues on the labor front while the social unbalance of capital is presented in less obvious psychological terms. Melodrama and mores in sober style.