Sugar Act Explained — Section 12

April 5, 1764

Section 12 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains the rules for refunds on shipments of wine to the American Colonies.

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 12 — Rules for Refunds on Wine

XII. And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the tenth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, upon the exportation of any sort of wine (except French wines) from this kingdom to any British colony or plantation in America, as merchandize, the exporter shall be paid, in lieu of all former drawbacks, a drawback or allowance of all the duties paid upon the importation of such wine, except the sum of three pounds ten shillings per ton, part of the additional duty of four pounds per ton, granted by an act made in the last session of parliament (intituled, An act for granting to his Majesty several additional duties upon wines imported into this kingdom, and certain duties upon all cyder and perry, and for raising the sum of three millions five hundred thousand pounds, by way of annuities and lotteries, to be charged on the said duties) and also except such part of the duties paid upon wines imported by strangers or aliens, or in foreign ships, as exceeds what would have been payable upon such wines, if the same had been imported by British subjects and in British ships; any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary notwithstanding; which drawback or allowance shall be made in such manner, and under such rules, regulations, penalties, and forfeitures, in all respects, as any former drawback or allowance, payable out of the duties of customs upon the exportation of such wine, was, could, or might be made, before the passing of this act.


Section 12 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains the rules for providing refunds, or drawbacks, on taxes paid for wine exported from Britain to the American Colonies. The key points are:

  1. Effective Date — Starting on September 10, 1764.
  2. Wine Exports — When any type of wine (except French wines) is exported from Britain to any British colony in America as merchandise.
  3. Drawbacks on Duties — The exporter will receive a refund (drawback) of all the duties paid on importing that wine into Britain, except for:
    1. Three pounds ten shillings per ton, which is part of an additional duty of four pounds per ton, established by a recent act of Parliament.
    2. Any additional duties paid on wine imported by non-British subjects or on foreign ships that exceed the duties that would have been paid if the wine was imported by British subjects on British ships.
  4. Rules and Regulations — This refund will be made following the same rules, regulations, penalties, and forfeitures as previous drawbacks on customs duties for wine exports, regardless of any existing laws, customs, or practices to the contrary.


The Sugar Act had a significant impact on businesses that were involved in the trade and shipping of wine. Section 1 of the Sugar Act defined the taxes on imports, including Madeira Wine. Previously, American ships could freely carry Madeira Wine from the Azores duty-free (without taxes), making it plentiful — and popular —  in the colonies. However, the Sugar Act placed a high tax on Madeira Wine and other foreign wines. It was intended to encourage Americans to buy less expensive wine from English merchants, instead of Portuguese merchants in the Azores. However, merchants could still import Madeira Wine and were eligible for refunds on legal shipments. Section 12 targeted French Wine, which was not eligible for refunds on shipments from Britain to the American Colonies.


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.

  • Act — A written law passed by a legislative body.
  • Additional Duty — An extra tax added to the standard duty.
  • Aliens — People who are not citizens of the country in question.
  • Allowance — A sum of money paid regularly to a person to meet needs or expenses.
  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • British Colony — Territories under British control.
  • Customs — The government department that administers and collects duties levied by a country on imports and exports.
  • Drawback — A refund of duties paid on imported goods when they are subsequently exported.
  • Duties — Taxes imposed on imports and exports.
  • Effective Date — The date when a law or regulation begins to apply.
  • Exportation — The act of sending goods to another country for sale.
  • Former — Previous or earlier.
  • Forfeitures — Penalties involving the loss of property or money due to a breach of law or regulations.
  • Importer — A person or company that brings goods into a country for sale.
  • Intituled — An archaic spelling of “entitled,” meaning given a title or name.
  • Merchandise — Goods to be bought and sold.
  • Notwithstanding — In spite of; regardless of.
  • Payable — Required to be paid.
  • Penalties — Punishments or sanctions for breaking a law or rule.
  • Regulations — Rules made by an authority to control or govern conduct.
  • Rules — Prescribed guidelines for conduct or action.
  • Strangers — Foreigners or non-citizens.
  • Subjects — People who are under the rule of a monarch.
  • Ton — A unit of weight equivalent to 2,240 pounds in Britain (known as a “long ton”).

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 12
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 12 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 7, 2024