The Grievances of the Colonists

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What was the Sugar Act?

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The British wanted to make money on the American colonies—and they did—but as time went on, the colonies became increasingly costly to maintain. The British tried to offset their costs by taxing the colonies. In 1633, England passed the Sugar and Molasses Tax. This set a tax of six pence per gallon on imports of foreign molasses but not on English molasses. This tax was meant to keep prices lower on goods, such as rum, made with English molasses. However, the colonists managed to largely evade paying the tax and used much foreign molasses.

To try to address the situation and increase revenues, the British passed a new Sugar Act in 1764 that cut in half the tax on imported molasses but required strict enforcement of the tax. The new Sugar Act also added taxes on other goods imported from foreign countries (i.e., countries that were not Great Britain) such as taxes on cambric, coffee, and printed calico. This tax backfired because it made it difficult for the colonists to trade profitably with once-thriving markets, such as Madeira and the Canary Islands. Also, because the amount of foreign currency they received dropped due to reduced trade with overseas markets, the colonists had less money with which to buy British goods. This raised the colonists's discontent with the British.

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The Sugar Act was passed in 1764. It was a law that lowered taxes on molasses. The British were concerned that the colonists were smuggling molasses. To discourage this from continuing, this law lowered taxes on molasses. The British hoped that with lower taxes, the colonists would get the molasses from British sources. Even though the tax rate would be lower, it would allow Britain to get more tax revenue since more molasses would be bought from the British. The law also allowed for the British to conduct searches to see if any items were being illegally imported. The burden of proof of innocence was on the colonists, not on the British. This did not go over well with the colonists. The British wanted to increase revenue because the cost of running the colonies was rising. They believed the colonists should share in some of this cost. This was another law that the colonists disliked that eventually led to the Revolutionary War.

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