Sugar Act Explained — Section 32

April 5, 1764

Section 32 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains the heavy fine for falsifying documentation.

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 32 — Penalties for Tampering with Official Documents

XXXII. And it is hereby further enacted, That if any person or persons shall counterfeit, raise, alter, or falsify, any affidavit, certificate, sufferance, cocket, or clearance, required or directed by this act, or shall knowingly or willingly make use of any affidavit, certificate, sufferance, cocket, or clearance, so counterfeited, raised, altered, or falsified, such person or persons shall knowingly or willingly , or every such offence, forfeit the sum of five hundred pounds; and such affidavit, certificate, sufferance, cocket, or clearance, shall be invalid and of no effect.


Section 32 of the Sugar Act of 1764 outlines the consequences of tampering with official documents. The rules ensure the integrity of documentation and impose strict penalties for fraud. The key points are:

  • Counterfeiting and Falsification — If anyone counterfeits (forges), raises (increases the amount), alters, or falsifies any of the following documents required by this act:
    • Affidavit
    • Certificate
    • Sufferance
    • Cocket
    • Clearance
  • Use of False Documents — If anyone knowingly or willingly uses such counterfeit, altered, or falsified documents.
  • Penalties
    •  Each offense will result in a forfeiture (fine) of five hundred pounds.
    •  The falsified documents will be invalid and have no legal effect.


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.

  • Affidavit — A written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, used as evidence.
  • Alter — To change or modify.
  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • Certificate — An official document attesting a fact, in this case, confirming compliance with customs regulations.
  • Clearance — Official permission for a ship to leave port.
  • Cocket — An official document issued by customs certifying that duties have been paid and listing details about the shipped goods.
  • Counterfeit — To make an exact imitation of something valuable or important with the intention to deceive or defraud.
  • Falsify — To alter information or documents to mislead or deceive.
  • Forfeit — To lose or be deprived of something as a penalty for wrongdoing.
  • Invalid — Not legally recognized; void.
  • Knowingly — With knowledge, awareness, or understanding of the facts or situation.
  • Raise — To increase the amount or value of something.
  • Sufferance — Official permission to load goods onto a ship.
  • Willingly — Voluntarily or intentionally.

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 32
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 32 of the Sugar Act do
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 22, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update June 14, 2024