Sugar Act Explained — Section 5

April 5, 1764

Section 5 of the Sugar Act of 1764 said the new version was permanent and did not need to be renewed by Parliament as the Molasses Act did. The new regulations were to be enforced forever.

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 5 — Perpetual Enforcement of the Molasses Act

And it be further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, the said act, subject to such alterations and amendments as are herein after contained, shall be, and the same is hereby made perpetual.


Section 5 of the Sugar Act of 1764 declares that the new version of the Molasses Act, with certain changes and improvements, will be made permanent starting from September 29, 1764. The key points are:

  1. Effective Date — Starting on September 29, 1764.
  2. Continuation with Changes — The previous law, with the changes and improvements mentioned in the Sugar Act of 1764, will continue to be in effect.
  3. Permanent Status — This amended act is now made perpetual, meaning it will remain in force indefinitely.


Over time, the Molasses Act was extended or continued several times during the reign of King George II. These extensions occurred in the eleventh (1738), nineteenth (1746), twenty-sixth (1753), twenty-ninth (1756), and thirty-first (1758) years of his reign. The Molasses Act was also extended in 1760, the first year of the reign of King George III, until the end of the present session of Parliament. The new version of the Sugar Act did not need to be renewed and set up an elaborate system of enforcement that was intended to last indefinitely. It included the following:

  • 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.

  • Act — A written law passed by a legislative body.
  • Alterations — Changes or modifications.
  • Amendments — Official changes or additions to a law or document.
  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • Contained — Included within something.
  • Effective Date — The date when a law or regulation begins to apply.
  • Enacted — Made into law.
  • Perpetual — Continuing forever or for an indefinite period.
  • Subject to — Conditional upon; depending on.

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