Sugar Act

Parliament in the 1700's

The Sugar Act was passed in Parliament

This article on the Sugar Act in Colonial America provides fast facts and information about the effects of these laws and taxes. 

  • What was the Sugar Act?
  • The Meaning and Definition of the Sugar Act
  • The purpose of the Sugar Act
  • The effect of the Sugar Act
  • The year the Sugar Act was passed was 1764

Original Text and Words of the 1764 Sugar Act

American Colonies Index
Taxation in the Colonies

History of the 13 Colonies and the laws & taxes that sparked rebellion against the British

The definition and purpose of the 1764 Sugar Act and the cry of "No taxation without representation!"

Definition of the Sugar Act
The Meaning and Definition of the Sugar Act: The Sugar Act of 1764 was a British Law, passed by the Parliament of Great Britain on April 5, 1764, that was designed to raise revenue from the American colonists in the 13 Colonies.

The Act set a tax on sugar and molasses imported into the colonies which impacted the manufacture of rum in New England.

Map of Thirteen Colonies

Map of the Thirteen Colonies


Cutting Sugar Cane

Purpose of the Sugar Act
The Purpose of the Sugar Act of 1764 was to:

  • Reduce the rate of tax on molasses from six pence to three pence per gallon - but ensured the new tax could be collected by increased British military presence and controls
  • Establish British admiralty courts for tax violators where a judge decided the outcome rather than in colonial courts
  • Regulate the trade by effectively closing the legal trade to non-British suppliers. The Act was designed to stop trade between New England and the Middle colonies with French, Dutch, and Spanish in the West Indies
  • Provide for the seizure of cargoes violating the new rules
  • Reduce the practice of smuggling bribery, intimidation and corruption in the colonies which were used to avoid paying taxes
  • The act taxed more foreign goods including wines, coffee, cambric and printed calico
  • Timber and iron were also included in the products that could be traded only with England

Sugar Act - Background Information
The Sugar Act was mainly about the manufacture of rum which was a highly lucrative product. Rum is made from molasses, a by-product of sugar production. Some sugarcane was grown on sugar plantations in the  colonies but the majority was imported from the West Indies. The background to the Sugar Act dates to one of the series of Navigation Acts. The Navigation Act of 1733, also known as the Molasses Act, levied heavy taxes on sugar from the West Indies to the American colonies in an attempt to force colonists to purchase the more costly sugar from Britain. The Molasses Act of 1733 was never fully enforced because of the British policy of Salutary Neglect, which basically allowed British officials to turn a 'blind eye' to trade violations.

Mercantilism and the Sugar Act
The Sugar Act was part of the policy of Mercantilism that favored England by controlling trade, especially in respect of the import of sugarcane from the West Indies.

Triangular Trade and the Sugar Act
The establishment of the 13 Colonies, with their surplus of raw materials, made it possible for Great Britain to engage in highly lucrative trading via the Triangular Trade routes across the Atlantic. Sugarcane plantations required cheap labor - slaves. Ships from England traded goods for slaves in Africa. The ships then took the slaves to the sugar plantations in the West Indies. The West Indies sent molasses to the colonies who used the molasses to manufacture rum.

Sugar Cane Plantation

Sugar Cane Plantation

Effect of the Sugar Act of 1764
The effect of the Sugar Act on the colonists was the economic impact as well as the constitutional issue of taxation without representation. The Sugar Act is also known as the American Revenue Act or the American Duties Act. The English policy of Salutary Neglect that was in effect from 1607-1763 encouraged the colonists to violate the law by bribing customs officials and smuggling. The colonists were undergoing a period of financial difficulties and their resentment was due to both the economic impact of the Sugar Act as well as the constitutional issue of taxation without representation. The Sugar Act of 1732 was seen as detrimental to Colonial America and was one of the laws that sewed the seeds of dissension and rebellion in the colonies when it was more rigorously enforced. The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act were some of the laws that led to anger, resentment, dissension and ultimately revolution in Colonial America - the American Revolutionary War (17751783) and the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

Sugar Act - British Laws and Taxes
Discover interesting  facts and information about the Taxes in the 13 Colonies, including the Sugar Act, which was imposed on the colonists of Colonial America by the British government via parliament. The Sugar Act was one of a series of taxes that divided Great Britain and its colonies in America. The Sugar Act was repealed in 1766 and replaced with the Revenue Act of 1766, which reduced the tax on molasses imports, British or foreign.

Declaration of Independence

British Laws and Taxes in the Colonies - The Declaration of Independence


Sugar Act

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  • History of the Act of 1764

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