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The Sugar Act 1764
Long title An act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America, for continuing, amending, and making perpetual, an act 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 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.
Statute book chapter 4 Geo 3 c.15
Introduced by The Rt. Hon. George Grenville, MP
Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer & Leader of the House of Commons
Territorial extent British America and the British West Indies
Royal Assent 5 April 1764
Commencement 29 September 1764
Repeal date 1766
Other legislation
Amendments None
Related legislation Molasses Act
Repealing legislation Revenue Act 1766
Status: Repealed

The Sugar Act, passed on April 5, 1764, was a revenue-raising Act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain. It revised the earlier Sugar and Molasses Act, which had imposed a tax of sixpence per gallon on molasses in order to make English products cheaper than those from the French West Indies.

During the Seven Years War, known in America as the French and Indian War, the British government had substantially increased the National Debt to pay for the war, and considered that the colonists (who had been defended) should contribute to that. Colonists had largely evaded the earlier tax by bribing local officials.

The Sugar Act, passed under the leadership of British Prime Minister George Grenville, reduced the tax from sixpence to threepence, but provided for the tax to be strictly enforced and expanded its scope to include wine, and other goods. The act also placed a 3-cent tax on sugar goods (such as cloth, wine, beer, tobacco, coffee and indigo) to the colonists. It also allowed officers to seize goods from smugglers without going to court. The Sugar Act and the new laws to control smuggling angered the colonists.

The preamble to the act stated: "it is expedient that new provisions and regulations should be established for improving the revenue of this Kingdom ... and ... it is just and necessary that a revenue should be raised ... for defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same."

Effect on the colonies

The Act caused local production to increase in the colonies, but colonists viewed it as unfair, and it was one of the causes leading to the American Revolution. Although the colonists said to the British that this was unfair, they knew that if they were represented in Parliament, they would be widely outvoted. Protests against this Act led to the end of the act.

The prime mover behind the protests to the act was Samuel Adams. Claiming the Act to be against the British constitution, natural law and the Massachusetts charter (and therefore void) failed to get other colonies or the bulk of Massachusetts citizens to protest. Switching tactics to emotional appeals and arguments that future, equally unrepresented, acts would affect more people (especially land owners), Adams and his supporters were able to get some moderate groundswell of protest. This level of dissent engineered by Adams helped encourage the more widespread resistance to the Stamp Act 1765.

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