The Sugar Act was passed by Parliament on April 5, 1764. It went into effect on September 29, 1764, and lasted until 1766 when it was repealed and replaced by the Revenue Act.
The Sugar Act of 1764 was the first of the British Acts that were passed to raise revenue from the colonies. Collectively, the acts are referred to as the Revenue Acts.
The other Revenue Acts were:
Offset the Cost of the French and Indian War
The Sugar Act was passed to help offset the deficit incurred by the French and Indian War and to raise revenue for the crown, which nearly doubled the national debt of Britain. It also expanded British territory in North America because France ceded nearly all of its territory, including the Ohio Country, to Britain.
Protect the New Frontier
After the French and Indian War was over, skirmishes continued between the Native Tribes that lives west of the Appalachian Mountains and American colonists on the frontier. Many of the Tribes had fought with the French during the war and did not trust the British.
Some of the Native Tribes formed an alliance and launched a series of attacks on British forts and colonial settlements in an uprising known as Pontiac’s Rebellion. In order to appease the tribes, the Proclamation of 1763 was issued on October 7, 1763 by King George III. The Proclamation set the western boundary of the colonies at the Appalachian Mountains and reserved the new territory west of the mountains as “hunting grounds” for the tribes.
In order to protect the colonies and the new frontier, Prime Minister John Stuart, Earl of Bute, decided to install a standing army of 10,000 British regulars in the colonies. Because the Ohio Country was unsettled, and not officially part of any colony, protecting it was considered part of national defense.
The First Revenue Act
In April 1763, George Grenville succeeded Bute as Prime Minister of Britain. Grenville decided the best way to reduce the debt would be to levy taxes on the American colonies. After all, the deficit had been created because Great Britain had to defend the colonies from the French and it was only going to get worse now that there was new territory that needed to be defended and protected.
Although Grenville was the architect of the Sugar Act, he only expected the colonies to pay a portion of the expenses needed for their own defense. It was never his intent the colonies should cover all of the expenses. Britain was going to cover the cost of troops that were stationed at wilderness forts to protect the Ohio Country, and that was actually going to cost more than what the colonies were going to pay for their defense.
Revenue from the Sugar Act
The Sugar Act extended the Molasses Act of 1733, which was set to expire in 1763, by continuing the tax on imported molasses. However, it actually lowered the tax on molasses from six pence per gallon to three pence per gallon.
The Sugar Act expanded taxes to new products, including:
Change in British Policy Toward Colonial America
The Sugar Act marked a turning point in British policy because it was the first time a tax was levied simply to raise money for the treasury. It was also a step towards British imperialism because Great Britain started to treat colonial America as a competing nation.
Up to the point the Sugar Act was passed, acts passed by Parliament that dealt with the colonies were primarily intended to regulate trade. However, the language in the Sugar Act made it clear the purpose of the act was to both regulate trade and increase revenue.
Sugar Act Replaced
In 1766 Sugar Act was replaced by the Revenue Act, which was one of the Townshend Acts.