Sugar Act (1764)

The Sugar Act, properly known as the American Revenue Act, was enacted by Parliament on April 5, 1764. The goal of the act was to raise revenue to help defray the military costs of protecting the American colonies at a time Great Britain's economy was saddled with the huge national debt accumulated during the French and Indian War (aka Seven Years War). The focus of the Sugar Act was to discourage colonial merchants and manufacturers from smuggling non-British goods to avoid taxes imposed by Parliament. The Sugar Act successfully reduced smuggling, but it greatly disrupted the economy of the American colonies by increasing the cost of many imported items, and reducing exports to non-British markets. As a result, Americans protested the Sugar Act primarily because of its economic impact, but for some "no taxation without representation" became a rallying cry against Parliament's right to tax the colonies.

Quick Facts About Sugar Act

Parliament passed the Sugar Act on April 5, 1764.

The proper name of the Sugar Act is The American Revenue Act of 1764.

The Sugar Act was an extension of the Molasses Act (1733), which was set to expire in 1763.

The Sugar Act was proposed by Prime Minister George Grenville.

The goal of the act was to raise revenue to help defray the military costs of protecting the American colonies at a time when Great Britain's economy was saddled with the huge national debt accumulated during the French and Indian War (aka Seven Years War).

The focus of the Sugar Act was to discourage colonial merchants and manufacturers from smuggling non-British goods to avoid taxes imposed by Parliament.

The Sugar Act increased the number of items that would be taxed when they were imported to the colonies, but it actually reduced the tax on molasses and sugar from 6 pence per gallon to 3 pence per gallon.

The purpose of lowering the tax on molasses was to induce importers to buy molasses from British colonies instead of smuggling it from competing French and Spanish colonies.

The Sugar Act also increased enforcement of smuggling laws.

Strict enforcement of the Sugar Act successfully reduced smuggling, but it greatly disrupted the economy of the American colonies by increasing the cost of many imported items, and reducing exports to non-British markets.

The Sugar Act empowered customs officials to have all violations tried in vice admiralty courts rather than local colonial courts where the juries often looked favorably on smugglers.

Protests against the Sugar Act led to boycotts of some British luxury goods, which did boost local manufacturing in some instances.

The language and official name of the bill made it clear that the purpose of the Sugar Act was not to simply regulate the trade (as the case with the Molasses Act), but to raise revenue.

Americans protested the Sugar Act primarily because of its economic impact, but for some "no taxation without representation" became a rallying cry against Parliament's right to tax the colonies.