Sugar Act Explained — Section 46

April 5, 1764

Section 46 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains how British officials are protected from excessive fines and counter-suits if they seize ships and property while enforcing the Navigation Acts.

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 46 — Protections for British Officials (Seizure of Property)

XLVI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, in case any information shall be commenced and brought to trial in America, on account of any seizure of any ship or goods as forfeited by this or any other act of parliament relating to his Majesty’s customs, wherein a verdict or sentence shall be given for the claimer thereof; and it shall appear to the judge or court before whom the same shall be tried, that there was a probable cause of seizure, the judge or court before whom the same shall be tried shall certify on the record or other proceedings, that there was a probable cause for the prosecutors seizing the said ship or goods; and, in such case, the defendant shall not be intitled to any costs of suit whatsoever; nor shall the person who seized the said ship or goods, be liable to any action, or other suit or prosecution, on account of such seizure: and in any case any action, or other suit or prosecution, shall be commenced and brought to trial against any person or persons whatsoever, on account of the seizing any such ship or goods, where no information shall be commenced or brought to trial to condemn the same, and a verdict or sentence shall be given upon such action or prosecution against the defendant or defendants, if the court or judge before whom such action or prosecution, shall certify in like manner as aforesaid that there was a probable cause for such seizure, then the plaintiff besides his ship or goods so seized, or the value thereof, shall not be intitled to above two pence damages, nor to any costs of suit; nor shall the defendant in such prosecution be fined above one shilling.

Explanation

Section 46 of the Sugar Act of 1764 provides protection for British Customs Officers who seize property. Essentially, if the court finds a Customs Officer had a good reason to seize property, then the Officer is protected against a counter-suit and does not have to pay any court costs. The key points are:

  1. Effective Date — Starting on September 29, 1764.
  2. Information and Trial — If a seizure of a ship or goods is brought to trial in America under customs laws.
  3. Verdict for the Claimer — If the court rules in favor of the owner (claimer) of the seized ship or goods.
  4. Probable Cause Certification — If the judge or court finds that there was a probable cause for the seizure, they must certify this on the record.
  5. No Costs for Defendant — If the seizure is certified as having probable cause, the owner cannot claim any costs of the lawsuit.
  6. Protections for the Seizer — The person who seized the ship or goods cannot be sued or prosecuted for the seizure if probable cause is certified.
  7. Action Against the Seizer Without Information — If a lawsuit is brought against a person for seizing a ship or goods without the seizure being brought to trial, and the court rules against the seizer:
    1. If the judge certifies there was probable cause for the seizure, the plaintiff (owner) is only entitled to a minimal amount of damages (two pence) and no costs of the lawsuit.
    2. The defendant (seizer) cannot be fined more than one shilling.

Context

The Sugar Act provided incentives and protections for British Customs Officers and officers in the British Royal Navy, who seized ships and property in the course of enforcing the Navigation Acts.

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.

  • Action — A legal proceeding or lawsuit.
  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • Certification — Official approval or recognition.
  • Claimer — The person claiming ownership of the seized ship or goods.
  • Commenced — Started or begun.
  • Costs of Suit — The expenses associated with a legal action.
  • Defendant — The person, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law.
  • Entitled — Given the right to have or do something.
  • Fined — Ordered to pay a penalty.
  • Forfeited — Lost or given up as a penalty for wrongdoing.
  • Information — A formal accusation or charge in a legal proceeding.
  • Plaintiff — The person who brings a case against another in a court of law.
  • Probable Cause — Reasonable grounds for making a search, pressing a charge, etc.
  • Prosecution — The institution and conducting of legal proceedings against someone.
  • Seizure — The action of capturing or taking something by force or legal authority.
  • Sentence — The judgment given by a court of law.
  • Suit — A lawsuit.
  • Trial — The examination of evidence and legal arguments in a court to determine the outcome of a case.
  • Verdict — The decision of a jury or judge.

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 46
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 46 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 14, 2024

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