Sugar Act Explained — Section 18

April 5, 1764

Section 18 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains it is illegal to import foreign rum into the American Colonies. This protected the Rum Industry in the American Colonies and other British territories, however, the cost of producing rum increased due to the provisions in the Sugar Act.

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 18 — Restrictions and Penalties on Rum and Spirits

XVIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, on thousand seven hundred and sixty four, no rum or spirits of the produce or manufacture of any of the colonies or plantations in America, not in the possession or under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, shall be imported or brought into any of the colonies or plantations in America which now are, or hereafter may be, in the possession or under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, upon forfeiture of all such rum or spirits, together with the ship or vessel in which the same shall be imported, with the tackle, apparel, and furniture thereof; to be seized by any officer or officers of his Majesty’s customs, and prosecuted in such manner and form as herein after is expressed; any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary notwithstanding.


Section 18 of the Sugar Act of 1764 sets restrictions and restrictions on importing rum and spirits into the American Colonies. The key points are:

  1. Effective Date — Starting on September 29, 1764.
  2. Restricted Imports — No rum or spirits produced or manufactured in any American colony not under British control can be imported into any British colony in America.
  3. Penalties for Violation — If such rum or spirits are imported:
    1. The rum or spirits will be forfeited (confiscated).
    2. The ship or vessel that carried them, along with its tackle, apparel, and furniture, will also be forfeited.
  4. Enforcement — Any officer of His Majesty’s customs can seize the rum or spirits and the ship, and legal action will be taken as specified later in the act.
  5. Override Existing Laws — This rule applies regardless of any other laws, customs, or practices.


The Sugar Act impacted the Rum Industry in Colonial America by imposing a tax on foreign molasses and adding stringent shipping restrictions. These increase the cost of a critical raw material and the process of transporting it. The economic burden threatened the profitability of many distilleries, disrupted supply chains, and affected secondary industries.

The Rum Industry was concentrated in the New England Colonies, especially Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Both colonies issued written protests over the provisions of the Sugar Act to protect this important industry. To keep the costs of production reasonable, many merchants continued to smuggle foreign molasses into 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.

  • Apparel — The clothing or coverings, particularly for a ship.
  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • Colonies — Territories under the control of a distant country; in this context, the American Colonies under British rule.
  • Custom — Established practice or official way of doing something.
  • Dominion — Control or sovereignty over a territory.
  • Effective Date — The date when a law or regulation begins to apply.
  • Enforcement — The act of ensuring compliance with laws, rules, or regulations.
  • Forfeiture — The loss or giving up of something as a penalty for wrongdoing.
  • Furniture — The movable equipment and fittings of a ship.
  • Heirs — People legally entitled to the property or rank of another upon that person’s death.
  • Import — To bring goods into a country for sale.
  • Manufacture — The process of making products, especially with industrial machines.
  • Notwithstanding — In spite of; regardless of.
  • Officer — A person holding a position of authority, especially in law enforcement or customs.
  • Possession — Ownership or control over something.
  • Prosecuted — Conducted legal proceedings against someone.
  • Rum — A distilled alcoholic drink made from sugarcane byproducts.
  • Seized — Taken possession of by force or legal authority.
  • Spirits — Strong distilled alcoholic drinks.
  • Tackle — The equipment used on a ship.

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 18
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 18 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 8, 2024