On April 5, 1764, Parliament passed something called “The Sugar Act”, which, interestingly, had another name: “The American Revenue Act”. It was a modification of the 1733 Molasses Act, and it also affected other goods, such as wine and coffee.
The Preamble to this Act states: “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.”
The Sugar Act/American Revenue Act, therefore, was a revenue raising measure (and not just a regulation measure), whose revenue was intended to help defray the costs of defending the colonies during the 7 Years War which ended in 1763. Instead, it wreaked havoc in the colonies:
“The situation disrupted the colonial economy by reducing the markets to which the colonies could sell, and the amount of currency available to them for the purchase of British manufactured goods. This act, and the Currency Act, set the stage for the revolt at the imposition of the Stamp Act.”
Fast forward to 2014. A new measure was introduced by Rep. Rosa deLauro called the SWEET Act, also known as the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax” — a proposed tax of “one cent per teaspoon – 4.2 grams – of sugar, high fructose corn syrup or caloric sweetener”.
The Act sounds eerily like its ancestor, the Sugar Act. From the text of the SWEET Act:
“This Act is intended to discourage excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by increasing the price of these products and by creating a dedicated revenue source for programs and research designed to reduce the human and economic costs of diabetes, obesity, dental caries, and other diet-related health conditions in priority populations”
Sugar Act: “improving the revenue of this Kingdom”… “just and necessary that a revenue should be raised”… “for defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same.”
SWEET Act: “dedicated revenue source for programs and research”… “to reduce the human and economic costs of diabetes, obesity, dental caries, and other diet-related health conditions”.
Same over-reaching thinking, different government.
As a response to the Sugar Act in May 1764, Samuel Adams drafted a report on the Sugar Act for the Massachusetts assembly, in which he denounced the act as an infringement of the rights of the colonists as British subjects:
For if our Trade may be taxed why not our Lands? Why not the Produce of our Lands & every thing we possess or make use of? This we apprehend annihilates our Charter Right to govern & tax ourselves – It strikes our British Privileges, which as we have never forfeited them, we hold in common with our Fellow Subjects who are Natives of Britain: If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal Representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves.
Will there also be a similar rebuke over the Sweet Act of 2014? The Sugar Act was subsequently repealed in 1766 because it was such a disastrous piece of legislation. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself and the SWEET Act never comes to fruition.