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By 1747, the Scottish Highland clans have twice rebelled against English rule. Both times they were bloodily crushed. Rebel leader Alan Breck leads his men to Edinburgh, where the Duke of Argyle orders Breck's arrest. At Dominie Campbell's School for Boys in the countryside, young David Balfour, who is convinced that Breck is a traitor, learns that his father has died in Newfoundland and that he is to go to live with his wealthy uncle Ebenezer in Edinburgh. On the way, David passes through a village where the king's tax collector, whom the people call Red Fox, ruthlessly demands more payment than they have ever paid before. As David objects to the rough handling of a minister, one of Breck's men, against orders, shoots and kills Red Fox. The soldiers, thinking that David deliberately caused a diversion, chase him, and he is apprehended by Breck, who fears that he could identify James, the man who fired. Breck reprimands James and says he will have to sail to America because of the shooting. When James objects, saying that he was about to marry, Breck decides to bring his fiancée, Jean MacDonald, to Glasgow so that they can sail together to America. After David tries to escape, Breck takes him along to find Jean. On the way, David and Breck argue but become friends. With Jean, they pose as a family to get by the Redcoats. After Breck and Jean part from David, who continues on to meet his uncle, they further outwit the Redcoats. Breck is appreciative of Jean's bravery and quick thinking, while Jean begins to fall in love with him. After he finds out that his uncle is hated among the peasants, David goes to his uncle's large, spooky castle. Ebenezer tries to kill David by sending him without a candle up a steep staircase that ends abruptly in a steep drop, but after the top step collapses, David rushes down and confronts his uncle. After reading a letter from his father which states that David will be the lord of the estate upon his father's death, David goes to see attorney Angus Rankeiller, but Ebenezer pays Captain Hoseason to kidnap David and take him to the Carolinas. Following imprisonment in the hole of Hoseason's ship, David agrees to be a cabin boy. When the boat docks in Invercraig, on the way to Glasgow, Breck and Jean come aboard, still disguised as a married couple. Now upset that Breck will leave her with James, Jean tells him that she overheard the men on board plan to get a reward for him in Glasgow. Breck thinks that David has revealed his identity, and as he berates him, a seaman hears him identify himself as Alan Breck. Breck fights off the men with his sword and escapes to shore with Jean and David. Breck then apologizes to David, and the three return to Edinburgh, where they trick Ebenezer into confessing in front of Rankeiller that he sold David to Hoseason. Breck is captured, however, and convicted of the murder of Red Fox and treason and is sentenced to hang. David sneaks into the Duke of Argyle's castle and convinces him that Breck and he are alike in their love for Scotland. The duke then visits Breck, and although he will not alter the sentence, he agrees to bring reforms to the people or resign his position of Lord Justice-General of Scotland, if Breck will tell his people not to riot. On the day his is to be hung, Breck complies, and the duke, moved by Breck's service to his country, commutes the sentence to exile. As Breck and Jean board a ship, they ask David to join them, but he says he must remain to grow up to be a good Scotsman.