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Sugar Act facts and numbers

  • It was known as the Sugar Act in America and titled American Revenue Act by Britih Parliament.
  • The Sugar Act was passed by Parliament on April 5, 1764.
  • It was introduced by Prime Minister George Grenville as a permanent act.
  • The Act consists of 47 clauses that stipulate rates and duties, restrictions on trade, requirements for shippers, penalties and provisions for prosecution. See original text.
  • Its purpose was to undermine illegal trade and raise revenue to pay for debt incurred during the French Indian War and to pay for additional troops to defend the border.
  • The 1764 Act lowered the duty of sugar and molasses from 6 to 3p per gallon. In 1766 the duty was lowered to 1p per gallon which virtually eliminated smuggling.
  • Direct export of colonial lumber and iron to continental Europe or Ireland was prohibited.
  • Taxes on wine imported directly from Madeira, the Azores and the Canary Islands increased to £7 per ton instead of 10s or 1/14 the rate if shipped from Britain. Local wine traders lost all their business to British merchants.
  • Exports of wine from New York shrank from over 250 pipes in 1763 to 7 in 1769.[1]
  • Total wine imports from New York in 1769 were half of those in 1763.[2]
  • Revenue collected amounted to an average of £30,000 a year from 1765 to 1774.
  • Half the revenue came from the duty on molasses, followed by sugar and Madeira wine.
  • Duties on pimiento, coffee and indigo generated little revenue.
  • Vessels were prohibited to transport cargo to the colonies unless they had been loaded in Britain.
  • Vessels containing cargo from other places had to unload in Britain, pay duties, reload its cargo and then proceed to the colonies.
  • The Act required shipmasters to take out a cocket or sealed certificates itemizing the goods on board.
  • Every vessel carrying colonial products had to give bond to pay duty on any foreign molasses taken aboard during the course of its journey. The bond was £1,000 sterling for vessels under 100 tons and £2,000 if over 100 tons.
  • Failure to follow the law would result in the seizure of vessel and cargo.
  • The 1764 Sugar Act strengthened the jurisdiction and power of vice-admiralty courts in the colonies.
  • The Act limited damages on customs officials and awarded half the goods seized if a violation of customs law was proved. Vice admiralty courts did not required trial by jury.


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[1] Rabushka, Taxation in Colonial America, 737.

[2] Dickerson, Navigation Acts and the American Revolution, 176-177



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