Sugar Act Explained — Section 27

April 5, 1764

Section 27 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains that natural resources and goods produced in the colonies must be shipped to British ports. This was intended to reduce smuggling to foreign ports.

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 27 — Regulations for Goods Produced in the British Colonies

XXVII. And it is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, all coffee, pimento, cocoa nuts, whale fins, raw silks, hides and skins, pot and pearl ashes, of the growth, production, or manufacture, of any British colony or plantation in America, shall be imported directly from thence into this kingdom, or some other British colony or plantation, under the like securities, penalties, and forfeitures, as are particularly mentioned in two acts of parliament made in the twelfth and twenty fifth years of the reign of King Charles the Second, the former intituled, An act for the encouraging and increasing of shipping and navigation, and the latter intituled, An act for the encouragement of the Greenland and eastland trades and for the better securing the plantation trade, or either of them, with respect to the goods in those acts particularly enumerated; any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary notwithstanding.


Section 27 of the Sugar Act of 1764 specifies import regulations for certain goods produced in the American Colonies. It explains that the direct importation of these goods and products, plus following shipping laws, benefits and secures British trade interests. The key points are:

  1. Effective Date — Starting on September 29, 1764.
  2. Goods Covered — The goods mentioned are coffee, pimento, cocoa nuts, whale fins, raw silks, hides and skins, pot ashes, and pearl ashes, provided they are of the growth, production, or manufacture of any British Colony in America.
  3. Importation Requirement — These goods must be imported directly from the British colonies to either Great Britain or another British colony.
  4. Securities, Penalties, and Forfeitures — The importation of these goods is subject to the same securities, penalties, and forfeitures as outlined in two earlier acts of Parliament from the reign of King Charles II:
    1. The first act is titled “An act for the encouraging and increasing of shipping and navigation.” This is the Navigation Act of 1651.
    2. The second act is titled “An act for the encouragement of the Greenland and Eastland trades and for the better securing the plantation trade.” This act was passed in 1672.
  5. Superseding Other Laws — This requirement applies regardless of any other laws, customs, or practices to the contrary.


The Sugar Act put an elaborate system in place that was intended to verify and track each shipment of goods to the American Colonies. The system ended Salutary Neglect by enforcing the Navigation Acts and supported Mercantilism in the colonies. The system also included:  

  • Documentation — The Sugar Act introduced an elaborate system of bonds and cockets to accurately document the cargo of vessels and ports of call. This system was meant to make it more difficult for merchants to engage in smuggling by providing a detailed paper trail that customs officials could use to verify the legality of goods being traded.
  • Naval Enforcement — Naval officers were instructed to assist in collecting customs duties and patrolling American waters smugglers. This was intended to establish ongoing enforcement of the Sugar Act, however, many officers abused their authority. This contributed to the Gaspee Affair (1772).
  • Admiralty Courts — Accusations of violating the Sugar Act were to be prosecuted in the Admiralty Courts. These courts did not use juries, and the judges had full authority. Parliament considered these courts more reliable than common law courts and would ensure strict enforcement of the law. However, the financial incentives provided to judges by the Sugar Act increased the likelihood they would seize cargo regardless of the evidence.
  • Customs Officer Accountability — The Sugar Act required British Customs Officers to perform their duties in person or forfeit their jobs. Before this, Customs Officers usually lived in England and hired someone in the American Colonies to perform the duties of the position. Requiring Customs Officers to live in the Colonies was intended to reduce corruption and increase effectiveness. However, customs officers were given immunity from counter-suits by merchants, encouraging them to enforce the regulations without fear of legal repercussions.
  • Colonial Governor Reporting — Colonial Governors were required to report on smuggling. They were also required to swear an oath that they would enforce the Sugar Act.


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.

  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • Cocoa Nuts — Another term for cocoa beans, used to make chocolate.
  • Colonies — Territories under the control of a distant country; in this context, the American Colonies under British rule.
  • Encouragement — Support or promotion of a particular activity or trade.
  • Enumerated — Specifically listed or mentioned.
  • Forfeitures — Penalties involving the loss of property or money due to a breach of law or regulations.
  • Goods — Items or products for sale or trade.
  • Hides and Skins — Animal hides and skins used for leather production.
  • Importation — The action of bringing goods into a country.
  • King Charles II — British monarch from 1660 to 1685.
  • Notwithstanding — In spite of; regardless of.
  • Penalties — Punishments or sanctions for breaking a law or rule.
  • Pimento — A type of spice, also known as allspice, commonly used in cooking.
  • Pot and Pearl Ashes — Substances derived from plant ashes, used in various industrial processes.
  • Raw Silks — Unprocessed silk fibers.
  • Securities — Guarantees or assurances, often financial, provided to ensure compliance with a law or regulation.
  • Trade — The activity of buying and selling goods and services.
  • Usage — The way in which something is used or understood.
  • Whale Fins — Parts of a whale, often used historically for various products.

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 27
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 27 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 11, 2024