The Sugar Act of 1764

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The Sugar Act of 1764

Legislation

By :George Grenville

Date: 1764

Source: Founder's Library. #x0022;The Sugar Act, 1764." <http://www.founding.com/library/> (accessed May 31, 2006).

About the Author: George Grenville (1712–1770) served as the prime minister of Great Britain and first lord of the Treasury from 1763 to 1765. An industrious and hardheaded man, he spent most of his time in office wrestling with the problem of financing the British Empire.

INTRODUCTION

After the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years' War, ended in 1763, the British government faced a war debt of more than £140 million. Accordingly, Prime Minister George Grenville devised new forms of revenue to pay off this debt. One of his ideas, the Sugar Act of 1764, angered the American colonists and led to a tax rebellion that ultimately became the American Revolution.

Grenville faced a considerable dilemma in 1764. He took for granted the need for British soldiers to defend the American frontier, but he faced sharply rising costs for American defense on top of an already staggering war debt. He had already tried to find new revenues at home, one result being a cider tax so unpopular that it helped to drive him briefly out of office. The American colonists did not bear the heavy tax burden of their British cousins and Grenville reasoned that the Americans were obligated to share the cost of their own defense. Accordingly, he tightened customs procedures to raise revenue from customs duties. He also revised the old Molasses Act of 1733 into the Sugar Act of 1764. (Molasses, created from the boiled juice of sugar cane, is thirty percent sugar. If molasses is boiled down to a solid, sugar results, hence the Sugar Act. Molasses is also a key ingredient in the production of rum).

The Molasses Act charged a duty on molasses of sixpence per gallon. Grenville changed the duty to threepence in an attempt to curb smuggling of French molasses from the Caribbean and the bribery of British customs officials. The British expected that customs revenue on British molasses would increase since molasses was crucial to the thriving rum distilleries of New England. In addition, the Sugar Act placed new taxes on imports of foreign textiles, wines, coffee, and indigo. Grenville estimated that the Sugar Act would bring in about £45,000 annually that could go towards defraying the expenses of colonial defense.

PRIMARY SOURCE

An act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America, for continuing, amending, and making perpetual, an act passed in the sixth year of the reign of his late majesty King George the Second, (initituled, An act for the better securing and encouraging the trade of his Majesty's sugar colonies in America;) for applying the produce of such duties, and of the duties to arise by virtue of the said act, towards defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing the said colonies and plantations; for explaining an act made in the twenty fifth year of the reign of King Charles the Second, (intituled, An act for the encouragement of the Greenland and Eastland trades, and for the better securing the plantation trade;) and for altering and disallowing several drawbacks on exports from this kingdom, and more effectually preventing the clandestine conveyance of goods to and from the said colonies and plantation, and improving and securing the trade between the same and Great Britain.

Whereas it is expedient that new provisions and regulations should be established for improving the revenue of this kingdom, and for extending and securing the navigation and commerce between Great Britain and your Majesty's dominions in America, which, by the peace, have been so happily enlarged: and whereas 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; we, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the commons of Great Britain, in parliament assembled, being desirous to make some provision, in this present session of parliament, towards raising the said revenue in America, have resolved to give and grant unto your Majesty the several rates and duties herein after-mentioned; and do most humbly beseech your Majesty that it may be enacted; and be it enacted by the King's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, there shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid, unto his Majesty, his heirs and successors, for and upon all white or clayed sugars of the produce or manufacture of any colony or plantation in America, not under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs and successors; for and upon indigo, and coffee of foreign produce or manufacture; for and upon wines (except French wine;) for and upon all wrought silks, bengals, and stuffs, mixed with silk or herbs of the manufacture of Persia, China, or East India, and all callico painted, dyed, printed, or stained there; and for and upon all foreign linen cloth called Cambrick and French Lawns, which shall be imported or brought into any colony or plantation in America, which now is, or hereafter may be, under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, the several rates and duties following; that is to say,

For every hundred weight avoirdupois of such foreign white or clayed sugars, one pound two shillings, over and above all other duties imposed by any former act of parliament.

For every pound weight avoirdupois of such foreign indigo, six pence.

For every hundred weight avoirdupois of such foreign coffee, which shall be imported from any place, except Great Britain, two pounds, nineteen shillings, and nine pence.

For every ton of wine of the growth of the Madeiras, or of any other island or place from whence such wine may be lawfully imported, and which shall be so imported from such islands or place, the sum of seven pounds.

For every ton of Portugal, Spanish, or any other wine (except French wine) imported from Great Britain, the sum of ten shillings.

For every pound weight avoirdupois of wrought silks, bengals, and stuffs, mixed silk or herbs, of the manufacture of Persia, China, or East India, imported from Great Britain, two shillings.

For every piece of callico painted, dyed, printed, or stained, in Persia, China, or East India, imported from Great Britain, two shillings and six pence.

For every piece of foreign linen cloth, called Cambrick, imported from Great Britain, three shillings.

For every piece of French lawn imported from Great Britain, three shillings.

And after those rates for any greater or lesser quantity of such goods respectively.

II. And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, there shall also be raised, levied, collected, and paid, unto his Majesty, his heirs and successors, for and upon all coffee and pimento of the growth and produce of any British colony or plantation in America, which shall be there laden on board any British ship or vessel, to be carried out from thence to any other place whatsoever, except Great Britain, the several rates and duties following; that is to say,

III. For every hundred weight avoirdupois of such British coffee, seven shillings.

For every pound weight avoirdupois of such British pimento, one halfpenny.

And after those rates for any greater or lesser quantity of such goods respectively.

IV. And whereas an act was made in the sixth year of the reign of his late majesty King George the Second, intituled, An act for the better securing and encouraging the trade of his Majesty's sugar colonies in America, which was to continue in force for five years, to be computed from the twenty fourth day of June, one thousand seven hundred and thirty three, and to the end of the then next session of parliament, and which, by several subsequent acts made in the eleventh, the nineteenth, the twenty sixth, and twenty ninth, and the thirty first years of the reign of his said late Majesty, was, from time to time, continued; and, by an act made in the first year of the reign of his present Majesty, was further continued until the end of this present session of parliament; and although the said act hath been found in some degree useful, yet it is highly expedient that the same should be altered, enforced, and made more effectual; but, in consideration of the great distance of several of the said colonies and plantations from this kingdom, it will be proper further to continue the said act for a short space, before any alterations and amendments shall take effect, in order that all persons concerned may have due and proper notice thereof; be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the said act made in the sixth year of the reign of his late majesty King George the Second, intituled, An act for the better securing and encouraging the trade of his Majesty's sugar colonies in America, shall be, and the same is hereby further continued, until the thirtieth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four.

V. And it be further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, the said act, subject to such alterations and amendments as are herein after contained, shall be, and the same is hereby made perpetual.

VI. And it be further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in lieu and instead of the rate and duty imposed by the said act upon molasses and syrups, there shall, from and after the said twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, be raised, levied, collected, and paid, unto his Majesty, his heirs and successors, for and upon every gallon of molasses or syrups, being the growth, product, or manufacture, of any colony or plantation in America, not under the dominion of his Majesty, his heir or successors, which shall be imported or brought into any colony or plantation in America, which now is, or hereafter may be, under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, the sum of three pence.

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.

SIGNIFICANCE

The Sugar Act marked the first time that the British Parliament adopted duties that were frankly designed to raise revenues in the colonies and were not merely intended to regulate trade. The American colonists strongly objected to this legislation. They resented that the Sugar Act regulated the export of lumber and iron from the colonies. The law thereby restricted the ability of the colonies to produce anything but raw materials. They were angry the new duties on wines meant that wines now had to be brought to America by a roundabout and expensive route. Mostly, they objected to the new molasses duties.

In response to the Sugar Act, lawyer James Otis wrote a pamphlet in which he argued that taxation without representation made slaves of the Americans. Americans responded to the Sugar Act by evading it. By 1765, Grenville had made almost no dent in the British national debt. In response, he escalated his revenue program with the Stamp Act, a tax on all paper used for colonial documents. This act affected nearly everyone in the colonies and had nothing to do with trade. It was obviously a revenue act. The colonists reacted with riots and boycotts. Grenville ultimately received little money from the Stamp Act. In 1767, Charles Townsend, the chief British financial minister, proposed the Townshend Acts to raise money. Colonists again responded with boycotts and demonstrations. The stage had been set for the brewing revolution.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Doerflinger, Thomas. A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

Johnson, Allen S. A Prologue to Revolution: The Political Career of George Grenville. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1997.

Schlesinger, Arthur. The Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution. New York: Atheneum, 1968.

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