Sugar Act Explained — Sections 14 and 15

April 5, 1764

Section 14 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains the requirements for merchants to qualify for refunds on shipments of textiles from Great Britain to the American Colonies. These shipments were also required to go to Britain first to be checked and verified. Section 15 gives an exception for specific textiles.

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 14 — Requirements for Refunds on Textiles

XIV. And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the tenth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, upon the exportation of any sort of white callicoes or muslins, except as herein after is mentioned, from this kingdom to any British colony or plantation in America, besides the one half of the rate or duty commonly called The old subsidy, which now remains, and is not drawn back for the same, there also shall not be repaid or drawn back the further sum of four pounds fifteen shillings for every hundred pounds of the true and real value of such goods, according to the gross price at which they were sold at the sale of the united company of merchants trading to the East Indies, being the third part of the net duties granted thereon respectively by two several acts of parliament, the one made in the eleventh and twelfth year of the reign of King William the Third, intituled, An act for the laying further duties upon wrought silks, muslins, and some other commodities of the East Indies, and for enlarging the time for purchasing certain reversionary annuities therein mentioned; and the other made in the third and fourth year of the reign of Queen Anne, intituled, An act for continuing duties upon low wines, and upon coffee, tea, chocolate, spice, and pictures, and upon hawkers, pedlars, and petty chapmen, and upon muslins; and for granting new duties upon several of the said commodities, and also upon callicoes, China-ware, and drugs; any law, custom, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding.

Explanation

Section 14 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains the specific rules and conditions regarding the repayment or drawback of duties on white calicoes and muslins exported to the American Colonies. The key points are:

  1. Effective Date — Starting on September 10, 1764.
  2. Exportation of White Calicoes and Muslins — When white calicoes or muslins are exported from Britain to any British colony in America.
  3. Old Subsidy Duty — Half of the old subsidy duty (an earlier tax) that currently remains unpaid will not be refunded.
  4. Additional Duty Restriction — An additional sum of four pounds fifteen shillings for every hundred pounds of the true value of the goods will also not be refunded. This value is based on the gross price at which the goods were sold by the East India Company.
  5. Referenced Acts — The additional duties come from two specific acts of Parliament:
    1. An act from the reign of King William III, which imposed duties on wrought silks, muslins, and other East Indian commodities.
    2. An act from the reign of Queen Anne, which continued and imposed new duties on various goods, including muslins and calicoes.
  6. Exceptions — This rule applies regardless of any other laws, customs, or practices that might suggest otherwise.

Section 15 — Exceptions to Refunds on Textiles

XV. Provided always, and be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That until the first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and sixty five, upon the exportation from this kingdom, to any British colony or plantation in America of white callicoes or muslins only as were sold on or before the twenty fifth day of March, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, at the sale of the united company of merchants trading to the East Indies, such and the same drawbacks shall be allowed as are now payable upon the exportation of the said goods.

Explanation

Section 15 of the Sugar Act of 1764 explains a temporary exception to the rules on refunds for white calicoes and muslins exported to the American Colonies. The key points are:

  1. Temporary Exception — This rule applies until March 1, 1765.
  2. Conditions for Exception — It applies to white calicoes and muslins that were sold on or before March 25, 1764, at the East India Company sale.
  3. Drawbacks Allowed — For these specific goods, the same drawbacks (refunds of duties) that were previously allowed will still be granted.

Context

Drawbacks (or refunds) were an important part of the Sugar Act as they influenced the economic strategy of the British government in regulating colonial trade and generating revenue. Section 14 laid out additional requirements for merchants to be eligible for refunds under the new rules and regulations.

Before the Sugar Act, merchants could reclaim taxes paid on goods exported from Great Britain to the American Colonies. This refund system helped make foreign goods more affordable and competitive in the colonial markets. 

While refunds were still available under the revised Sugar Act, a more complex, time-consuming process for merchants to be eligible for refunds was put in place. The most significant measure was that all shipments going to the American Colonies had to go to Great Britain first, to have shipments checked and verified. This 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.

Section 14

  • Act — A written law passed by a legislative body.
  • Calicoes — A type of cotton fabric printed with a pattern.
  • Custom — Established practice or official way of doing something.
  • Drawback — A refund of duties paid on imported goods when they are subsequently exported.
  • Duties — Taxes imposed on imports and exports.
  • East Indies — A historical term referring to South and Southeast Asia.
  • Exportation — The act of sending goods to another country for sale.
  • Gross Price — The total price of goods before any deductions or discounts.
  • Hawkers — People who sell goods informally in public places.
  • Muslins — Lightweight cotton cloth in a plain weave.
  • Net Duties — The actual duties imposed after considering any deductions.
  • Pedlars — Travelling vendors who sell small goods.
  • Petty Chapmen — Small-scale traders or merchants.
  • Refunded — Paid back money previously paid.
  • Remains — Continues to exist.
  • Subsidy — A grant or contribution of money.
  • Usage — The way in which something is used or understood.
  • Value — The monetary worth of something.

Section 15

  • Allowed — Permitted or granted.
  • Authority — The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
  • British Colony — Territories under British control.
  • Calicoes — A type of cotton fabric printed with a pattern.
  • East India Company — A historic British company involved in trade with the East Indies.
  • Enacted — Made into law.
  • Exportation — The act of sending goods to another country for sale.
  • Kingdom — Refers to Great Britain in this context.
  • Merchants — People or companies involved in wholesale trade.
  • Payable — Required to be paid.
  • Plantation — A large farm or estate, particularly in the American Colonies, where crops are grown.
  • Temporary Exception — A rule or condition that is only applicable for a limited time.
  • Until — Up to the point in time mentioned (March 1, 1765).

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 — Sections 14 and 15
  • Date April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, What did Sections 14 and 15 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 7, 2024

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