Printable Version

Sugar Act
Digital History ID 3960


Date:1764

Annotation: To maintain the army and repay war debts, Parliament decided to impose charges on colonial trade. It passed the Sugar Act, imposed duties on foreign wines, coffee, textiles, and indigo imported into the colonies, and expanded the customs service.

Britain required colonial vessels to fill out papers detailing their cargo and destination. The royal navy patrolled the coast to search for smugglers, who were tried in special courts without a jury.


Document: 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.

VII. And it be hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the said rates and duties hereby charged upon such foreign white or clayed sugars, foreign indigo, foreign coffee, wines, wrought silks, bengals, and stuffs, mixed with silk or herbs, callico, cambricks, French lawns, and foreign molasses or syrups, imported into any British American colony or plantation shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid, in the same manner and form, and by such rules, ways and means, and under such penalties and forfeitures (not otherwise altered by this act) as are mentioned and expressed in the said act of parliament, made in the sixth year of the reign of his late majesty King George the Second, with respect to the raising, levying, collecting, and payment, of the rates and duties thereby granted; and that the aforesaid duties hereby charged upon British coffee and pimento, exported from any British colony or plantation, shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid, in the same manner and form, and forfeitures, as are mentioned and referred unto in an act of parliament, 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, with respect to the raising, levying, collecting, and payment of the rates and duties thereby granted upon the several goods therein particularly enumerated: and that all powers, penalties, provisions, articles, and clauses, in those acts respectively contained and referred unto (except in such cases where any alteration is made by this act) shall be observed, applied, practised, and put in execution, for the raising, levying, collecting, and answering, the respective rates and duties granted by this act, as fully and effectually, as if the same were particularly and at large re-enacted in the body of this present act, and applied to the rates and duties hereby imposed; and as fully and effectually, to all intents and purposes, as the same could have been at any time put in execution, for the like purposes, with respect to the rates and duties granted by the said former acts.

VIII. Provided always, and it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if the importer of any wines shall refuse to pay the duties hereby imposed thereon, it shall and may be lawful for the collector, or other proper officer of the customs where such wines shall be imported, and he is hereby respectively required to take and secure the same, with the casks or other package thereof, and to cause the same to be publickly sold, within the space of twenty days at the most after such refusal made, and at such time and place as such officer, shall, by four or more days publick notice, appoint for that purpose; which wine shall be sold to the best bidder, and the money arising by the said duties, together with the charges that shall have been occasioned by the said sale; and the overplus, if any, shall be paid to such importer, or any other person authorized to receive the same.

IX. Provided also, That if the money offered for the purchase of such wine shall not be sufficient to discharge the duty and charges aforesaid, then, and in every such case, the collector, or other proper officer, shall cause the wine to be staved, split, or otherwise destroyed, and shall return the casks or other package wherein the same was contained to such importer.

X. And it is hereby declared and enacted, That every piece of callico intended to be charged with the duty herein beforementioned, if of the breadth of one yard and a quarter or under, shall not exceed in length ten yards; and if above that breadth, shall not exceed six yards in length, and that every piece of cambrick and French lawn shall contain thirteen ells each, and shall pay duty for the same in those proportions for any greater or lesser quantity, according to the sum herein before charged upon each piece of such goods respectively.

XI. And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all the monies which, from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four shall arise by the several rates and duties herein before granted; and also by the duties which, from and after the said twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, shall be raised upon sugars and paneles, by virtue of the said act made in the sixth year of the reign of his said late majesty King George the Second (except the necessary charges of raising, collecting, levying, recovering, answering, paying, and accounting for the same) shall be paid into the receipt of his Majesty’s Exchequer, and shall be entered separate and apart from all other monies paid or payable to his Majesty, his heirs or successors: and shall be there reserved, to be, from time to time, disposed of by parliament, towards defraying the necessary expences of defending, protecting, and securing, the British colonies and plantations in America,

XII. 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 wine (except French wines) from this kingdom to any British colony or plantation in America, as merchandize, the exporter shall be paid, in lieu of all former drawbacks, a drawback or allowance of all the duties paid upon the importation of such wine, except the sum of three pounds ten shillings per ton, part of the additional duty of four pounds per ton, granted by an act made in the last session of parliament (intituled, An act for granting to his Majesty several additional duties upon wines imported into this kingdom, and certain duties upon all cyder and perry, and for raising the sum of three millions five hundred thousand pounds, by way of annuities and lotteries, to be charged on the said duties) and also except such part of the duties paid upon wines imported by strangers or aliens, or in foreign ships, as exceeds what would have been payable upon such wines, if the same had been imported by British subjects and in British ships; any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary notwithstanding; which drawback or allowance shall be made in such manner, and under such rules, regulations, penalties, and forfeitures, in all respects, as any former drawback or allowance, payable out of the duties of customs upon the exportation of such wine, was, could, or might be made, before the passing of this act.

XIII. Provided always, and it is hereby further enacted, That upon the entry of any such wine for exportation to any British colony or plantation in America, and before any debenture shall be made out for allowing the drawback thereon, the exporter shall give bond, with sufficient security, to his Majesty, his heirs and successors, to be approved of by the collector, or other principal officer of the customs at the port of exportation, in treble the amount of the drawback payable for the goods, that the same, and every part thereof, shall (the danger of the seas and enemies excepted) be really and truly exported to, and landed in, some British colony or plantation in America, and that the same shall not be exported, or carried to any other place or country whatsoever, nor relanded in any part of Great Britain, Ireland, or the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark, or Man or either of them: and such bonds shall not be delivered up nor discharged, until a certificate shall be produced, under the hands and seals of the collector or other principal officer of the customs at the port or place where such goods shall be landed, testifying the landing thereof: and the condition of such bond shall be, to produce such certificate in eighteen months from the date of the bonds (the dangers of the seas and enemies excepted.) And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the first day of May, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, no part of the rate or duty, commonly called The old subsidy, shall be repaid or drawn back for any foreign goods of the growth, production, or manufacture, of Europe, or the East Indies, which shall be exported from this kingdom to any British colony or plantation in America (wines, white callicoes, and muslins, only excepted;) any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary notwithstanding.

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.

XV. Provided always, and be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That until the first day of March, one thousand seven hundred and sixty five, upon the exportation from this kingdom, to any British colony or plantation in America of white callicoes or muslins only as were sold on or before the twenty fifth day of March, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, at the sale of the united company of merchants trading to the East Indies, such and the same drawbacks shall be allowed as are now payable upon the exportation of the said goods.

XVI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any merchant or other person, shall from and after the said fifth day of May, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, enter any goods for exportation to parts beyond the seas, in order to obtain any drawback not allowed by this act upon the exportation of such goods to the said British colonies or plantations in America, and the said goods shall nevertheless be carried to any British colony or plantation in America, and landed there contrary to the true intent and meaning hereof, that then, and in such case, the drawback shall be forfeited, and the exporter of such goods, and the master of the ship or vessel on board which the same were loaden and exported, shall forfeit double the amount of the drawback paid or to be paid for the same, and also treble the value of the said goods.

XVII. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, if any goods, not allowed to draw back any part of the old subsidy, or any other duty by this act, shall be entered for exportation from this kingdom to any other place beyond the seas, except to some British colony or plantation in America, in every case where the exporter is required, by any law now in force, to swear that such goods are not landed or intended to be landed in Great Britain, Ireland, or the isle of Man, there shall also be added to and included in, the oath upon the debenture, for such goods, "any British colonies or plantations in America."

XVIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, on thousand seven hundred and sixty four, no rum or spirits of the produce or manufacture of any of the colonies or plantations in America, not in the possession or under the dominion off his Majesty, his heirs or successors, shall be imported or brought into any of the colonies or plantations in America which now are, or hereafter may be, in the possession or under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, upon forfeiture of all such rum or spirits, together with the ship or vessel in which the same shall be imported, with the tackle, apparel, and furniture thereof; to be seized by any officer or officers of his Majesty’s customs, and prosecuted in such manner and form as herein after is expressed; any law, custom, or usage, to the contrary notwithstanding.

XIX. And it is hereby further enacted and declare by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, nothing in the before-recited act made in the fifth year of the reign of his late majesty King George the Second, or any other act of parliament, shall extend, or be construed to extend, to give liberty to any person or persons whatsoever to import into the kingdom of Ireland any sort of sugars, but such only as shall be fairly and bona fide loaden and shipped in Great Britain, and carried directly from thence in ships navigated according to law.

XX. And, for the better preventing frauds in the importation of foreign sugars and paneles, rum and spirits, molasses and syrups, into any of his Majesty’s dominions, under pretence that the same are the growth, produce, or manufacture, of the British colonies or plantations, it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, every person or persons loading on board any ship or vessel, in any of the British colonies or plantations in America, any rum or spirits, sugars or paneles, molasses or syrups, as of the growth, product, or manufacture, of any British colony or plantation, shall, before the clearing out of the said ship or vessel, produce and deliver to the collector or other principal officer of the customs at the loading port, an affidavit signed and sword to before some justice of the peace in the said British colonies or plantation, either by the grower, maker, or shipper, of such goods, or his or their known agent or factor, expressing, in words at length and not in figure, the quality of the goods so shipped, with the number and denomination of the packages, and describing the name or names of the plantation or plantations, and the name of the colony where the same grew or were produced and manufactured; which affidavit shall be attested, under the hand of the said justice of the peace, to have been sworn to in his presence; who is hereby required to do the same without fee or reward: and the collector or other principal officer of the customs to whom such affidavit shall be delivered, shall thereupon grant to the master, or other person having the charge of the ship or vessel, a certificate under his hand and seal of office (without fee or reward) of his having received such affidavit pursuant to the directions of this act; which certificate shall express the quality of the goods shipped on board such ship or vessel, with the number and denomination of the packages: and such collector or other principal officer of the customs shall also (without fee or reward) within thirty days after the sailing of the ship or vessel, transmit an exact copy of the said affidavit to the secretary’s office for the respective colony or plantation where the goods were shipped, on forfeiture of five pounds.

XXI. And it is further enacted, That upon the arrival of such ship or vessel into the port of her discharge, either in Great Britain or any other port of his Majesty’s dominions, where such goods may be lawfully imported, the master or other person taking the charge of the ship or vessel shall, at the time he makes his report of his cargo, deliver the said certificate to the collector or other principal officer of the customs, and make oath before him, that the goods so reported are the same that are mentioned in the said certificate, on forfeiture of one hundred pounds; and if any rum or spirits, sugars or paneles, molasses or syrups, shall be imported or found on board any such ship or vessel, for which no such certificate shall be produced, or which shall not agree therewith, the same shall be deemed and taken to be foreign rum and spirits, sugar and paneles, molasses and syrups, and shall be liable to the same duties, restrictions, regulations, penalties, and forfeitures, in all respects, as rum, spirits, sugar, paneles, molasses, and syrups, of the growth, produce, or manufacture, of any foreign colony or plantation, would respectively be liable to by law.

XXII. Provided always, That if any rum of spirits, sugar or paneles, molasses or syrups, shall be imported into Great Britain from any British colony or plantation in America, without being included in such certificate as is herein before directed, and it shall be made to appear, to the satisfaction of the commissioners of his Majesty’s customs at London or Edinburgh respectively, that the goods are really and truly the produce of such British plantation or colony, and that no fraud was intended, it shall and may in such case be lawful for the said respective commissioners to permit the said goods to be entered, upon the payment of the like duties as such goods would be liable to if this law had not been made.

XXIII. And whereas by an act of parliament made in the twelfth year of the reign of King Charles the Second, intituled, An act for encouraging and increasing of shipping and navigation, and several subsequent acts of parliament which are now in force, it is amongst other things, directed, that for every ship or vessel that shall load any commodities, in those acts particularly enumerated, at any British plantation, being the growth, product, or manufacture thereof, bonds shall be given with one surety, to the value of one thousand pounds, if the ship be of less burthen than one hundred tons, and of the sum of two thousand pounds; if the ship be of greater burthen, that the same commodities shall be brought by such ship or vessel to some other British plantation, or to some port in Great Britain; notwithstanding which, there is great reason to apprehend such goods are frequently carried to foreign parts, and landed there: and whereas great quantities of foreign molasses and syrups are clandestinely run on shore in the British colonies, to the prejudice of the revenue, and the great detriment of the trade of this kingdom, and it’s American plantations: to remedy which practices for the future, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, bond and security, in the like penalty, shall also be given to the collector or other principal officer of the customs at any port or place in any of the British American colonies or plantations, with one surety besides the master of every ship or vessel that shall lade or take on board there any goods not particularly enumerated in the said acts, being the product or manufacture of any of the said colonies or plantations, with condition, that, in case any molasses or syrups, being the produce of any of the plantations, not under the dominions of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, shall be laden on board such ship or vessel, the same shall (the danger of the seas and enemies excepted) be brought, without fraud or wilful diminution, by the said ship or vessel to some of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America, or to some port in Great Britain; and that the master or other person having the charge of such ship or vessel, shall, immediately upon his arrival at every port or place in Great Britain, or in the British American colonies and plantations, make a just and true report of all the goods laden on board such ship or vessel under their true and proper denominations; and if any such non-enumerated goods shall be laden on board any such ship or vessel before such bond shall be given, the goods so laden together with the ship or vessel and her furniture shall be forfeited, and shall and may be seized by any officer of the customs, and prosecuted in the manner herein after directed.

XXIV. And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every master or person having the charge of any ship or vessel shall, before he departs from any British colony or plantation where he receives his lading, take a certificate under the hands and seals of the collector or other principal officer of the customs there (which certificate such officers are hereby required to grant without fee or reward) that bond hath been given, pursuant to the directions of this or any other act of parliament, as the case shall require; and the master or person having the charge of such ship or vessel, shall keep such certificate in his custody till the voyage is compleated, and shall then deliver the same up to the collector or other chief officer of the customs at the port or place where he shall discharge his lading, either in Great Britain, or any British American colony or plantation, on forfeiture of one hundred pounds for each and every offence.

XXV. And it is hereby further enacted, That if any British ship or vessel laden, as aforesaid, with any goods of the produce or manufacture of any British colony or plantation in America, or having on board any molasses or syrups the produce of any foreign colony or plantation, shall be discovered by any officer of his Majesty’s customs within two leagues of the shore of any British colony or plantation in America, and the master or person taking charge of such ship or vessel shall not produce a certificate that bond has been given, pursuant to the direction of this or any other act of parliament, as the case may require; or if he shall not produce certificate to the collector or other chief officer of the customs where he shall arrive, either in Great Britain or any British American colony or plantation, such ship or vessel, with her tackle, apparel, and furniture, and all the goods therein laden, shall be forfeited, and shall and may be seized and prosecuted as herein after is directed.

XXVI. And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the said bond directed to be given by this act with respect to such non-enumerated goods, shall continue in force for one year from and after the completion of the voyage; and in case no fraud shall appear within that time, it shall be lawful for the commissioners of his Majesty’s customs, or any four or more of them, to direct the said bond to be delivered up.

XXVII. And it is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty four, all coffee, pimento, cocoa nuts, whale fins, raw silks, hides and skins, pot and pearl ashes, of the growth, production, or manufacture, of any British colony or plantation in America, shall be imported directly from thence into this kingdom, or some other British colony or plantation, under the like securities, penalties, and forfeitures, as are particularly mentioned in two acts of parliament made in the twelfth and twenty fifth years of the reign of King Charles the Second, the former intituled, An act for the encouraging and increasing of shipping and navigation, and the la

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