George Grenville, Portrait, by William Hoare

George Grenville, Prime Minister of Great Britain [Wikimedia]. Grenville proposed the Sugar Act.

Sugar Act (1764) External Links

April 5, 1764 — Definition, Analysis, Impact

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The Sugar Act : Titled The American Revenue Act of 1764

On April 5, 1764, Parliament passed a modified version of the Sugar and Molasses Act (1733), which was about to expire. Under the Molasses Act colonial merchants had been required to pay a tax of six pence per gallon on the importation of foreign molasses. But because of corruption, they mostly evaded the taxes and undercut the intention of the tax — that the English product would be cheaper than that from the French West Indies. This hurt the British West Indies market in molasses and sugar and the market for rum, which the colonies had been producing in quantity with the cheaper French molasses.

The Sugar Act : 1764

Transcript of the The Sugar Act : 1764

Sugar Acts

Two acts passed by the British Parliament to impose a tax on the American colonists. The Molasses Act of 1733 placed a duty on foreign molasses imported into any British colony and was an attempt to secure a British monopoly on the American molasses market. To end the foreign molasses smuggling trade which began after the first act, the Sugar Act of 1764 lowered the duties on foreign molasses, raised the duties on foreign refined sugar, and increased the export bounty on British refined sugar imported into the American colonies. They were protested by American colonists.

1764, April 5 — Sugar Act

This British law was an attempt to curb the smuggling that flourished in the colonies by reducing the previous tax rate and enforcing the collection of duties. It was introduced by the new British prime minister, George Grenville. The new law reduced the previous tax on sugar and molasses in half and allowed the customer to try violators in admiralty courts rather than local colonial courts. Because of the strict enforcement the act did accomplish it’s goal of reducing smuggling which affected colonial economy, especially in Massachusetts. The protests against the act were moderate, but it nevertheless promoted boycott of British luxury goods in some colonies and gave some boost to local manufacturing.

Sugar Act of 1764

The Molasses Act of 1733 had called for a tax of sixpence per gallon on non-British sugar and molasses imported into the North American colonies. This measure had been proposed by sugar growers in the British West Indies who wanted Parliament’s assistance to force the colonies to buy their produce, not the less expensive sugar of the competing Spanish and French islands. The sixpence tax was high and, if strictly enforced, would have caused severe hardship for the New England distilleries. Rum was the great social lubricant on the day and was much in demand throughout the colonies, but heavy taxation could put the drink out of the reach of many in the lower reaches of society.

SUGAR ACT (1764)

The Sugar Act of 1764 was passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, in part, to cut down on smuggling between the West Indies and the American colonies and also to tighten England's grip on its empire. But mostly the Act was approved to raise money to pay England's national debt caused by the French and Indian War (1754–1763). It was for that reason that the law was also known as the Revenue Act. The Act had three major parts. First, the measure created a complicated system of loading and unloading cargo for merchant ships in order to make smuggling more difficult. Second, the Act made certain foreign goods (including sugar, coffee, indigo dye, and wines) more expensive in the colonies because the tax would boost the retail price. Third, it cut the importation duties on molasses in half, in an attempt to make the tax easier to collect.

To Tax Or Not To Tax: The Rights and Justification of Parliament in Question

The Revenue Act, which came to be called the Sugar Act, was actually an extension of an act from 1733 called the Molasses Act. The Molasses Act required a tariff on all sugar products that were imported into America from the West Indies. The American colonists, however, had found that it was not difficult to smuggle their sugar items into the colonies and avoid the tariff that was due to the British government. This sort of activity was not allowed to go on in any other part of the British Empire, and Lord Grenville saw no reason why it should be permitted in the colonies and be winked at by England.

The Sugar Act

In 1764, George Grenville, First Lord of the Treasury, proposes to strengthen the mother country's hold on its American investment. Addressing the King in his declaration of intent, Grenville argues that "it is just and necessary, that a revenue be raised, in your Majesty's said dominions in America, for defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing the same." Working within the framework of earlier legislation regulating trade but for the first time directly imposing a tax on the colonists, Grenville devises an act with teeth.

Sugar and Molasses Acts

legislation passed in the 18th century by the British Parliament for the purpose of taxing and imposing shipment restrictions on sugar and molasses imported into the North American colonies from the West Indies. The acts are considered part of the Acts of Trade and Navigation, which are a series of laws passed by Great Britain through the 17th and 18th centuries to ensure profitable control of the industry and commerce of British colonies in Asia, Africa, and America. The taxation imposed by these acts is considered one of the indirect economic causes of the American Revolution. The regulation and enforcement of the acts was part of the mercantile system, the economic policy prevalent at that time in Europe.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Sugar Act External Links
  • Coverage April 5, 1764
  • Author
  • Keywords Sugar Act, American Revenue Act, American Revolution
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date January 18, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 12, 2022
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