Sugar Act Explained — Section 35

April 5, 1764

Section 35 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains the restrictions on trade with Saint Pierre and Miquelon, two French islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland.

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 35 — Prevention of Illegal Trade with French Islands in Newfoundland

XXXV. And, in order to prevent an illicit trade or commerce between his Majesty’s subjects in America, and the subjects of the crown of France in the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, if any British ship or vessel shall be found standing into, or coming out from, either of those islands, or hovering or at anchor within two leagues of the coasts thereof, or shall be discovered to have taken any goods or merchandizes on board at either of them, or to have been there for the purpose; such ship or vessel, and all the goods so taken on board there, shall be forfeited and lost, and shall and may be seized and prosecuted by any officer of his Majesty’s customs; and the master or other person having the charge of such ship or vessel, and every person concerned in taking any such goods on board, shall forfeit treble the value thereof.

Explanation

Section 35 of the Sugar Act of 1764 sets regulations to prevent illegal trade between British subjects in America and the French in the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. It also reinforces the enforcement of legal trade routes and the prevention of smuggling, per the Navigation Acts. The key points are:

  1. Effective Date — Starting on September 29, 1764.
  2. Prohibited Activities
    1. Any British ship found entering or leaving the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
    2. Any British ship hovering (staying) or anchored within two leagues (approximately six nautical miles) of the coasts of these islands.
    3. Any British ship discovered to have taken goods or merchandise on board at these islands or to have been there for that purpose.
  3. Penalties for Non-Compliance
    1. The ship and all the goods taken on board from these islands will be forfeited (confiscated) and lost.
    2. The ship and goods can be seized and prosecuted by any customs officer.
    3. The master (captain) or person in charge of the ship, along with anyone involved in taking the goods on board, will forfeit (lose) three times the value of the goods.

Context

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.

Vocabulary

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.

  • Anchor — To moor a ship to the sea bottom with an anchor.
  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • Customs — The government agency responsible for regulating the import and export of goods and collecting duties.
  • Discovered — Found or detected.
  • Effective Date — The date when a law or regulation begins to apply.
  • Forfeit — To lose or be deprived of something as a penalty for wrongdoing.
  • Goods — Items or products for sale or trade.
  • Hovering — Remaining in one place in the air or on the water, often suspiciously.
  • Illicit Trade — Illegal trade, especially smuggling.
  • Islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon — A small group of French islands off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
  • Leagues — A unit of distance, approximately three nautical miles per league.
  • Master — The captain or person in charge of a ship.
  • Merchandise — Goods or products that are bought and sold.
  • Penalties — Punishments or sanctions for breaking a law or rule.
  • Prohibited — Forbidden by law.
  • Prosecuted — Conducted legal proceedings against someone.
  • Seized — Taken possession of by force or legal authority.
  • Standing Into — Sailing towards a specific place.
  • Treble — Triple or three times the amount.
  • 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 35
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 35 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

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