Sugar Act Explained — Section 29

April 5, 1764

Section 29 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains how shipments are to be documented, checked, and verified by customs officials. It also allows ships to be seized if proper documentation cannot be provided. These measures were intended to reduce smuggling.

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 29 — Procedures to Prevent Fraud and Smuggling

XXIX. And, for the better preventing frauds in the importation or exportation of goods that are liable to the payment of duties, or are prohibited, in the British colonies or plantations in America, it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, no goods, wares, or merchandizes, of any kind whatsoever, shall be shipped or laden on board any ship or vessel in any of the British colonies or plantations in America, to be carried from thence to any other British colony or plantation, without a sufferance or warrant first had and obtained from the collector or other proper officer of the customs at the port or place where such goods shall be intended to be put on board; and the master of every such ship or vessel shall, before the same be removed or carried out from the port or place where he takes in his lading, take out a cocket or cockets expressing the quantity and quality of the goods, and marks of the package, so laden, with the merchants names by whom shipped and to whom consigned; and if they are goods that liable to the payment of any duty, either upon the importation into, or upon the exportation from, the said colonies or plantation, the said cocket or cockets shall likewise distinctly specify that the duties have been paid for the same, referring to the times or dates of entry and payment of such duties, and by whom they were paid; which cocket or cockets shall be produced by the master of such ship or vessel, to the collector or other principal officer of the customs at the port of place where such ship or vessel shall arrive in any of the British colonies or plantations in America, before any part of the goods are unladen or put on shore: and if any goods or merchandizes shall be shipped as aforesaid without such sufferance, or the vessel shall depart and proceed on her voyage without such cocket or cockets are produced at the port of place of discharge, or if the goods do not agree in all respects therewith, the goods, in any of either of those cases, shall be forfeited and lost; and any office of his Majesty’s customs is hereby empowered to stop any such ship or vessel, bound aforesaid, which shall be discovered within two leagues of the shore of any of the said British colonies of plantations in America, and to seize and take from thence all the goods which shall be found on board such ship or vessel for which no such cocket or cockets shall be produced to him.


Section 29 of the Sugar Act of 1764 establishes the requirements and penalties related to shipping goods between any British Colonies, including the American Colonies. These rules are intended to prevent smuggling and ensure proper documentation and payment of taxes. The key points are:

  1. Effective Date — Starting on September 29, 1764.
  2. Prohibition Without Permit — No goods can be shipped or loaded onto a ship in any British colony in America to be transported to another British colony without first obtaining a sufferance or warrant from the customs officer at the port of loading.
  3. Cocket Requirement — The master (captain) of the ship must obtain a cocket or cockets (documents) before leaving the port. These documents must:
    1. Specify the quantity and quality of the goods.
    2. Include the package marks.
    3. List the merchants’ names who shipped the goods and the consignees.
    4. If the goods are subject to duties, the cocket must show that the duties have been paid, including the dates and who paid them.
  4. Presentation of Cocket — Upon arrival at the destination port, the master must present the cocket to the customs officer before unloading any goods.
  5. Penalties for Non-compliance
    1. Goods shipped without the required sufferance or warrant will be forfeited.
    2. If the ship departs without presenting the cocket at the destination, or if the goods do not match the details in the cocket, the goods will be forfeited.
  6. Authority to Seize — Customs officers are authorized to stop any ship within two leagues (approximately six nautical miles) of the shore of any British colony in America. They can seize and remove any goods on board for which the cocket is not produced.


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.
  • Cocket — An official document issued by customs certifying that duties have been paid and listing details about the shipped goods.
  • Collector — A customs officer responsible for collecting duties and taxes.
  • Consigned — Assigned or sent to a person or place for sale or keeping.
  • Customs — The government agency responsible for regulating the import and export of goods and collecting duties.
  • Duties — Taxes imposed on imports and exports.
  • Effective Date — The date when a law or regulation begins to apply.
  • Forfeited — Given up as a penalty for wrongdoing.
  • Fraud — Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
  • Goods — Items or products for sale or trade.
  • Importation — The action of bringing goods into a country.
  • Laden — Loaded with cargo.
  • Marks of the Package — Identifying marks or labels on packages to indicate their contents and origin.
  • Master — The captain or person in charge of a ship.
  • Merchants — People or companies involved in wholesale trade.
  • Permit — Official permission to do something.
  • Port — A harbor where ships load and unload cargo.
  • Prohibited — Forbidden by law.
  • Seized — Taken possession of by force or legal authority.
  • Ship — A vessel used for transporting goods across water.
  • Shipped — Sent by sea or other transportation.
  • Sufferance — Official permission to load goods onto a ship.
  • Unladen — Unloaded or removed from a ship.
  • Wares — Goods or merchandise.

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 29
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 29 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