Young Anson Campbell returns from a theological seminary to a New England coastal village, where he is swayed by the call of the sea. When the bigoted villagers scorn Bess Morgan, a fallen woman, he champions her, espousing a broad view of Christianity, but is rejected by the puritanical inhabitants. He ships out aboard a convict ship, and discovering the rejected girl aboard, he exacts from her a promise not to revert to her old life. When she can no longer resist the advances of the ship's captain, Bess kills herself, effecting Anson's return to prayer and faith. Anson engages in a battle with the captain atop a mast; and taking over the ship, he converts the convicts and returns home to marry his sweetheart, Mary Phillips.