When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
April 5, 1764 – SUGAR ACT
Sugar Act, also called Molasses Act, the Plantation Act or the Revenue Act, was passed by Parliament in an attempted to curb the smuggling of sugar and molasses in the colonies. While it reduced the previous tax rate, it also provides for stronger means of enforcing the collecting of duties, including Wits of Assistance and Admiralty Courts. It also added several products such as hides, skins and potash to the list of enumerated commodities that could be legally exported under the Navigation Acts.
Americans immediately began vigorous protests against the enforcement of the Molasses Act, together with a plea that the duty be set at one penny per gallon. Although warnings were issued that the traffic could bear no more than that, the government of Prime Minister George Grenville refused to listen and placed a three-penny duty upon foreign molasses in the act. The act thus granted a virtual monopoly of the American market to British West Indies sugarcane planters. Early colonial protests at these duties were ended when the tax was lowered two years later.
The protected price of British sugar actually benefited New England distillers, though they did not appreciate it. More objectionable to the colonists were the stricter bonding regulations for shipmasters, whose cargoes were subject to seizure and confiscation by British customs commissioners and who were placed under the authority of the Vice-Admiralty Court in distant Nova Scotia if they violated the trade rules or failed to pay duties. As a result of the Sugar Act, the earlier clandestine trade in foreign sugar and, thus, much colonial maritime commerce was severely hampered.
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