Sugar Act Explained — Section 1

April 5, 1764

Section 1 of the Sugar Act of 1764 defines the purpose of the act and explicitly states it is to raise revenue from the American Colonies. It also defines the taxes on imports, including sugar, indigo, Madeira Wine, and other goods and products.

Sugar Act, 1764, Date, Taxes, Reaction, Grenville Acts, AHC

George Grenville, Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, was responsible for the Sugar Act of 1764, starting the movement in the 13 Colonies against Taxation Without Representation.

Understanding the Sugar Act of 1764

This entry is part of a series that explains the Sugar Act of 1764, including, rules, regulations, and penalties. To learn more, see History of the Sugar Act and Facts About the Sugar Act. Vocabulary, key people, and primary documents related to the Sugar Act are listed at the bottom of this article.

Section 1, Part 1 — Long Title

An act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America, for continuing, amending, and making perpetual, an act passed in the sixth year of the reign of his late majesty King George the Second, (initituled, An act for the better securing and encouraging the trade of his Majesty’s sugar colonies in America;) for applying the produce of such duties, and of the duties to arise by virtue of the said act, towards defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing the said colonies and plantations; for explaining an act made in the twenty fifth year of the reign of King Charles the Second, (intituled, An act for the encouragement of the Greenland and Eastland trades, and for the better securing the plantation trade;) and for altering and disallowing several drawbacks on exports from this kingdom, and more effectually preventing the clandestine conveyance of goods to and from the said colonies and plantation, and improving and securing the trade between the same and Great Britain.

Explanation

The Sugar Act of 1764 was a law passed by the British Parliament aimed at raising revenue from the American colonies. Here are the key points for this section, which is generally referred to as the “Long Title:”

  1. Duties in the Colonies — The Sugar Act imposed taxes (duties) on goods imported into the British colonies in America. This included items such as sugar and molasses. Collectively, these items are known as “Enumerated Items.”
  2. Continuation of a Previous Act — The Sugar Act extended and made permanent a previous law from the reign of King George II (the Molasses Act of 1733). The Molasses Act was designed to protect and encourage trade within the sugar-producing colonies in the Americas (the British West Indies).
  3. Use of Revenue — The money collected from these taxes was to be used to pay for the defense and protection of the American Colonies.
  4. Clarification and Amendment — The act also clarified and amended the Molasses Act of 1733.
  5. Drawbacks on Exports — The Sugar Act changed certain tax refunds (drawbacks) on exports from Britain, aiming to prevent illegal trade and smuggling of goods.
  6. Securing Trade — Overall, the Sugar Act was intended to improve and secure trade between the American Colonies and Great Britain, making it more difficult to smuggle goods and ensuring that taxes were collected.

Section 1, Part 2 — Purpose of the Sugar Act and New Taxes on Imports

Whereas it is expedient that new provisions and regulations should be established for improving the revenue of this kingdom, and for extending and securing the navigation and commerce between Great Britain and your Majesty’s dominions in America, which, by the peace, have been so happily enlarged: and whereas it is just and necessary, that a revenue be raised, in your Majesty’s said dominions in America, for defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing the same; we, your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the commons of Great Britain, in parliament assembled, being desirous to make some provision, in this present session of parliament, towards raising the said revenue in America, have resolved to give and grant unto your Majesty the several rates and duties herein after-mentioned; and do most humbly beseech your Majesty that it may be enacted; and be it enacted by the King’s most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, there shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid, unto his Majesty, his heirs and successors, for and upon all white or clayed sugars of the produce or manufacture of any colony or plantation in America, not under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs and successors; for and upon indigo, and coffee of foreign produce or manufacture; for and upon wines (except French wine;) for and upon all wrought silks, bengals, and stuffs, mixed with silk or herbs of the manufacture of Persia, China, or East India, and all callico painted, dyed, printed, or stained there; and for and upon all foreign linen cloth called Cambrick and French Lawns, which shall be imported or brought into any colony or plantation in America, which now is, or hereafter may be, under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, the several rates and duties following; that is to say,

For every hundred weight avoirdupois of such foreign white or clayed sugars, one pound two shillings, over and above all other duties imposed by any former act of parliament.

For every pound weight avoirdupois of such foreign indigo, six pence.

For every hundred weight avoirdupois of such foreign coffee, which shall be imported from any place, except Great Britain, two pounds, nineteen shillings, and nine pence.

For every ton of wine of the growth of the Madeiras, or of any other island or place from whence such wine may be lawfully imported, and which shall be so imported from such islands or place, the sum of seven pounds,

For every ton of Portugal, Spanish, or any other wine (except French wine) imported from Great Britain, the sum of ten shillings.

For every pound weight avoirdupois of wrought silks, bengals, and stuffs, mixed silk or herbs, of the manufacture of Persia, China, or East India, imported from Great Britain, two shillings.

For every piece of callico painted, dyed, printed, or stained, in Persia, China, or East India, imported from Great Britain, two shillings and six pence.

For every piece of foreign linen cloth, called Cambrick, imported from Great Britain, three shillings.

For every piece of French lawn imported from Great Britain, three shillings.

And after those rates for any greater or lesser quantity of such goods respectively.

Explanation

This section of the Sugar Act of 1764 outlines the reasons for implementing new taxes and regulations on goods imported into the American colonies. Here are the key points:

  1. Need for New Regulations — The British Parliament believes it is necessary to establish new rules to improve the revenue (income) of Great Britain and to enhance and secure trade and navigation between Great Britain and the American Colonies. This need has become more important since the British territories in America have expanded significantly due to the 1763 Treaty of Paris, which ended the French and Indian War.
  2. Raising Revenue — It is considered fair and necessary to raise money from the American Colonies to cover the costs of defending, protecting, and securing the territories.
  3. Parliament’s Decision — The British Parliament has decided to impose new taxes on various goods imported into the American Colonies, and respectfully ask King George III to approve the taxes.
  4. Effective Date — The new taxes will take effect on September 29, 1764.
  5. Taxable Items — The goods and products subject to new rates and duties are included.
  6. Applicability — These rates and duties will be applied to products imported or carried into any colony or plantation in America currently under the dominion of the King or might come under his dominion in the future.

Taxes on Imports

Good or ProductTaxes
Foreign White or Clayed SugarsFor every hundred weight avoirdupois, one pound two shillings, over and above all other duties imposed existing acts of Parliament.
Foreign IndigoFor every pound weight avoirdupois, six pence.
Foreign CoffeeFor every hundred weight avoirdupois, imported from any place, except Great Britain, two pounds, nineteen shillings, and nine pence.
Wine from Madeira, or of any other island or place from whence such wine may be lawfully importedFor every ton, seven pounds.
Portugal, Spanish, or any other wine (except French wine)For every ton imported from Great Britain, ten shillings.
Wrought silks, bengals, and stuffs, mixed silk or herbs, of the manufacture of Persia, China, or East IndiaFor every pound weight avoirdupois imported from Great Britain, two shillings.
Every piece of callico painted, dyed, printed, or stained, in Persia, China, or East IndiaImported from Great Britain, two shillings and six pence.
Every piece of foreign linen cloth, called CambrickImported from Great Britain, three shillings.
Every piece of French LawnImported from Great Britain, three shillings.

Context

Great Britain considered the Sugar Act necessary for several reasons, which were primarily due to economic and administrative needs that arose in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, the Seven Years’ War, and the 1763 Treaty of Paris, including:

  1. Revenue Generation — The British government needed to raise money to cover the debt that accumulated during the wars. The Sugar Act intended to increase revenue from the American Colonies by applying taxes to shipments of sugar and other imported goods.
  2. Regulation of Trade — The Act was also designed to regulate colonial trade in a way that favored British economic interests that supported the Mercantile System in America. By placing heavy text on foreign goods such as Madeira Wine and molasses, the Act sought to reduce American dependence on non-British imports and encourage the purchase of British products.
  3. Control of Smuggling — Before the Sugar Act, widespread smuggling and Salutary Neglect undermined the collection of taxes. The Sugar Act included stringent measures to prevent fraud, such as bonds and cockets to track cargo, enforcement by the British Royal Navy, and prosecution in Vice Admiralty Courts, to ensure better compliance with trade regulations.
  4. Support for a Standing Army — The Act was part of a larger strategy to support a new Standing Army in America. Following the war, Britain decided it was necessary to have an army (10,000 troops) to protect the American Colonies from foreign threats (French and Spanish) and Native American Indians, such as Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763). The army was also needed to help enforce the Proclamation of 1763, which restricted colonial expansion into the Ohio Country. The revenue from the Sugar Act was intended to help cover the costs associated with the new army.

By addressing these needs, Britain believed the Sugar Act would help stabilize the Treasury, increase the collection of taxes as required by the Navigation Acts, and maintain control over the American Colonies. Further, the elimination of Salutary Neglect ensured the continuation of Mercantilism in Colonial America.

Vocabulary

These terms and definitions provide more context for students studying the Sugar Act. For more on the Sugar Act as it relates to the AP US History curriculum, see Sugar ACT APUSH Review.

Section 1, Part 1

  • Clandestine Conveyance — Secret or illegal transportation of goods.
  • Colonies — Territories under the control of a distant country. In this context, the American colonies under British rule.
  • Drawbacks — Refunds on taxes paid on goods that are exported.
  • Duties — Taxes imposed on imports and exports.
  • King George II — British monarch from 1727 to 1760.
  • King Charles II — British monarch from 1660 to 1685.
  • Molasses — A thick, dark syrup produced during the refining of sugar, often used in the colonies for making rum.
  • Plantation — A large estate or farm where crops such as sugar, tobacco, and cotton are cultivated, often using slave labor.
  • Revenue — Income that the government collects, primarily through taxes.
  • Smuggling — The illegal movement of goods into or out of a country.

Section 1, Part 2

  • Avoirdupois — A system of weights used in the British Imperial System.
  • Calico — A type of cotton fabric printed with a pattern.
  • Commerce — The activity of buying and selling, especially on a large scale.
  • Defraying — Providing money to cover expenses.
  • Expedient — Convenient and practical, although possibly improper or immoral.
  • Levy — To impose or collect (a tax).
  • Madeira — An island group in the Atlantic Ocean known for its wine.
  • Majesty’s Dominions — Territories under the rule of the British monarch.
  • Navigation — The act of directing and managing the course of ships or other modes of transport.
  • Provisions — Specific clauses in a legal document or law.
  • Revenue — Income generated, especially by a government through taxation.
  • Shilling — A former British coin and monetary unit equal to one twentieth of a pound or twelve pence.

Key People

  • Samuel Adams — Adams helped lead opposition to the Sugar Act in Massachusetts. Went on to become a leader of the Boston Sons of Liberty and one of the most influential men behind the movement for independence.
  • George Grenville — Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Responsible for the design of the Sugar Act and introducing it to Parliament.
  • Stephen Hopkins — Governor of Rhode Island. Critic of the Sugar Act and its impact on the Rhode Island economy and colonial rights.
  • James Otis — Early advocate of the rights of Americans as British subjects. Argued against Writs of Assistance (1761) in the Paxton Case.

Primary Documents

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Sugar Act Explained — Section 1
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 1 of the Sugar Act do
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 21, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update June 4, 2024

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