Sugar Act Explained — Section 34

April 5, 1764

Section 34 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains how French fishing vessels in Newfoundland are exempt from the rules regarding foreign vessels.

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 34 — Exceptions for French Fishing Vessels in Newfoundland

XXXIV. Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to any ship or vessel belonging to the subjects of the French king, which shall be found fishing, and not carrying on any illicit trade, on that part of the island of Newfoundland, which stretches from the place called Cape Bonavista to the northern part of the said island, and from thence running down to the western side, reaches as far as the place called Point Riche.


Section 34 of the Sugar Act of 1764 specifies an exception for French fishing vessels operating around Newfoundland. It ensures that French ships engaged in legitimate fishing activities in the specified areas are not subject to the act’s penalties and regulations (see Section 33). The key points are:

  1. Exception for French Vessels — The regulations and penalties described in the act do not apply to French ships.
  2. Fishing Activities Only — The exception is valid only if these ships are engaged in fishing and not in any illegal trade.
  3. Specific Area — The geographic area covered by this exception includes:
    1. From Cape Bonavista to the northern part of Newfoundland.
    2. Down the western side of the island as far as Point Riche.
  4. No Illicit Trade — The French vessels must be solely involved in fishing and not carrying on any illicit (illegal) trade to benefit from this exception.


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.

  • Cape Bonavista — A headland on the east coast of Newfoundland.
  • Construal — The interpretation or understanding of a word, phrase, or text.
  • Engaged — Involved in a particular activity.
  • Extend — To cover or apply to.
  • Fishing — The activity of catching fish.
  • Illicit Trade — Illegal trade, especially smuggling.
  • Island of Newfoundland — A large island off the east coast of Canada, part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Point Riche — A headland on the west coast of Newfoundland.
  • Provided Always — A legal phrase introducing an exception or condition.
  • Subjects — People under the rule of a monarch.
  • Vessel — A ship or large boat.

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 34
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 34 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