Sugar Act Explained — Section 8

April 5, 1764

Section 8 of the Sugar Act of 1764 defines what happens if a merchant who imports wine into the American Colonies refuses to pay the required taxes. The Sugar Act placed new taxes on wine that impacted the wine business in the American Colonies.

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. There is also a list of primary documents related to the Sugar Act listed at the bottom of this article.

Section 8 — Enforcement of the Taxes on Imported Wine

VIII. Provided always, and it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if the importer of any wines shall refuse to pay the duties hereby imposed thereon, it shall and may be lawful for the collector, or other proper officer of the customs where such wines shall be imported, and he is hereby respectively required to take and secure the same, with the casks or other package thereof, and to cause the same to be publickly sold, within the space of twenty days at the most after such refusal made, and at such time and place as such officer, shall, by four or more days publick notice, appoint for that purpose; which wine shall be sold to the best bidder, and the money arising by the said duties, together with the charges that shall have been occasioned by the said sale; and the overplus, if any, shall be paid to such importer, or any other person authorized to receive the same.


Section 8 of the Sugar Act of 1764 outlines the procedure to be followed if an importer refuses to pay the taxes on imported wines. The key points are:

  1. Importer Refusal — If an importer refuses to pay the required duties on wines.
  2. Customs Officer’s Authority — The customs collector or proper customs officer is authorized to seize the wines and their containers.
  3. Public Sale — The officer must arrange for the wines to be publicly sold within 20 days of the refusal.
  4. Notice of Sale — The officer must give at least 4 days’ public notice of the time and place of the sale.
  5. Sale to the Highest Bidder — The wine will be sold to the highest bidder.
  6. Use of Sale Proceeds
    1. The money from the sale will be used to cover the unpaid duties and any costs incurred from the sale.
    2. Any remaining money (overplus) will be returned to the importer or a person authorized to receive it.


The Sugar Act had a significant impact on businesses that were involved in the trade and shipping of wine. Section 1 of the Sugar Act defined the taxes on imports, including Madeira Wine. Previously, American ships could transport Madeira Wine from the Azores duty-free (without taxes), making it plentiful — and popular —  in the colonies. However, the Sugar Act placed a high tax on Madeira Wine and other foreign wines. It was intended to encourage Americans to buy less expensive wine from English merchants, instead of Portuguese merchants in the Azores. 

The Sugar Act did not prohibit American merchants from importing wine from the Azores, but the taxes made it unprofitable. Some American merchants turned to smuggling and continued to ship Madeira Wine from the Azores, which violated the Sugar Act and the Navigation Acts. It also threatened Britain’s Mercantile System in Colonial America. Section 8 of the Sugar Act outlines the penalties for American merchants who refuse to pay the taxes on shipments of Madeira Wine.


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.

  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • Bidder — A person who offers a price for something at an auction.
  • Charges — Costs or expenses.
  • Collector — A customs officer responsible for collecting duties and taxes.
  • Casks — Large barrels used for storing liquids, especially alcoholic drinks like wine.
  • Customs — The government department that administers and collects the duties levied by a country on imports and exports.
  • Duties — Taxes imposed on imports and exports.
  • Importer — A person or company that brings goods into a country for sale.
  • Notice — A formal announcement or warning.
  • Occasioned — Caused or brought about.
  • Overplus — The remaining amount after all expenses have been paid; surplus.
  • Publicly — Done in a way that is open to the general public.
  • Refusal — The act of declining or rejecting something.
  • Secure — To take control of and protect.
  • Seize — To take possession of something by force or legal authority.
  • Sold — Exchanged for money.
  • Wines — Alcoholic beverages made from fermented grapes or other fruits.

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 8
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Section 8 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 2, 2024