5th April 1764. The Real Cost of Sugar.

‘Blood-sweetened beverage’, the slave-trade abolitionist Southey, said of tea, which from the middle of the 19th century caused the consumption of sugar to rise from 24 lbs a year to 80 lbs.

By the century’s end Britain became one of the world’s biggest consumers.(1)

The Sugar Act passed Parliament Today in 1764, giving British possessions in the West Indies a monopoly of sugar trade within the Empire, with preferential Duties.

The Act was a modified version of The 1733 Molasses Act, which was about to expire, which had imposed a tax of 6d per gallon on molasses on imports from non-British Colonies.

It resulted from pressure from the powerful West Indies plantation owners, and whilst sugar was grown in the American Colonies, most came from the West Indies. The tax could have closed the rum imports into New England.

However the Act was never effective owing to ‘Salutatory Neglect’, as it was termed, and collection was difficult due to smuggling, bribery of custom officials and evasion. It also undermined the intention to undercut the French, West Indies trade.

After the end of the 7 Years’ War and the acquisition of Canada, the British Government thought demand would increase, helped by a reduced tax, which would be more collectable.

Thus the 1764 Sugar Act or American Revenue Act, which focussing on rum, halved the Duties when Lord Grenville, beefed up the Navy for customs enforcement, and reduced the tax from 6d to 3d per gallon of molasses.



Cutting the sugar cane in Antigua 1833. 10 Views of Antigua by William  Clark.

Sugar had come from the new Spanish and Portuguese slave plantations of Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica, in the West Indies, via the notorious Trade Triangle, and as early as the 1540s London had its own refinery.

The Dutch, the first settlers grew sugar with imported slaves and so developed the Slave-Triangle: Britain to Africa and slaves to the West Indies, returning with sugar, resulting in sugar-based industries of sweets and chocolate, around western ports of England, such as Bristol.

Later however Peel’s re-introduction of Income-Tax meant some duties could be relaxed and the Sugar Act of 1846 equalised Sugar Duties within the Empire hitting West Indies production, in competition with Brazil and Cuba.

Many a fortune was made by British families from sugar via the Slave Trade, including the Hogg Family, later the Lords Hailsham.(2)

(1) The ‘Banquet’ was originally the sweet course.

(2) The eccentric the sugar millionaire the reclusive William Beckford built his Gothic, monumental fantasy, Fonthill Abbey (1796-1800) on sugar.

Ref: ushistory.org/sugar-act.

Ref :wikipedia.org/sugar_act.

Ref: b-womeninamericanhistory18/blogspot.com. 1764-revenue-rising-sugar-act.


Sugar is a carbohydrate an organic compound with a formula of Cn H2n On.

Hydrates H2O of carbon are the saccharide (sugar): saccharide can be ‘mono’ as in blood sugar (glucose); ‘di’ as in table sugar (sucrose) and milk (lactose).

Carbohydrates are found in starch, cereals, bread and pasta and also in the simple carbohydrate sugar found in jams and desserts.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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