Our Georgia History

Sugar Act; Stamp Act

By Randy Golden
Exclusively for Our Georgia History


When enacted in May, 1764, the Sugar Act (Revenue Act of 1764) was intended to raise revenue to repay England's national debt. Although the act is frequently compared to the unenforced Molasses Act of 1733, the Sugar Act imposed duties on a number of goods including molasses and other forms of sugar, textiles and dye, coffee, and wines. The duty on molasses, a key ingredient in rum and one of the more important products that the colonists used, was actually cut in half under the Sugar Act. The difference was that England intended to strictly enforce the new duties.

The tall coastal pines of Georgia yielded lumber, which had become a major export of the colony by 1754. One major consumer of Georgia lumber was the Caribbean Islands, whose molasses exports help pay for the lumber. When the Sugar Act was passed Georgians were concerned about the sale of lumber to customers in the Caribbean who would be using money gotten from the export of molasses to pay for the lumber. Georgia was also concerned because they might not be able to adhere to the strict shipping requirements of the act. Georgians protested the act in England on strictly economic terms, unlike the other colonies who protested the levy of a tax without approval of those being taxed.

The Stamp Act of 1765 (passed March 22, 1765) brought the first true rift between loyalist and colonist in Georgia. England sees the colonies as a part of the mother country, populated by Englishmen, and Parliament serves all Englishmen, whether they live in England or America. Colonists, especially the educated and the coastal wealthy, see a mother country out of control. Heady from the defeat of the Spanish and French, and recognized as the preeminent world power, the colonists see an England that begins to extract more from the colonies abroad and less from English at home. And the fact that the colonists, as loyal Englishmen, no longer enjoy the privilege of electing members of Parliament does not sit well with many men. Most colonists and many others around the world view King George III as incapable.

Massachusetts took the lead in organizing resistance to the act, calling for a Stamp Act Congress of the colonial governments. When word reached Georgia, Alexander Wylly called the members of the Commons House to Savannah. Governor Wright refused to call the session to order so no official action could be taken, however, with the consensus of the members an unofficial document of support including a commitment to back any action taken was forwarded to the Stamp Act Congress.

November 1, 1765 was the date set for the Stamp Act to go into effect, but with no instruction from England, Wright turned to his council for advice. They recommended holding up all land grants and warrants, but permitting ships to pass (ships would need stamped papers to enter or leave port). On November 5 the Sons of Liberty met at MacHenry's Tavern in Savannah, plotting their course of action should a stampmaster arrive.

In December the Commons House convened and issued to the king and others the documents recommended by the Stamp Act Congress, fulfilling the House's pledge to back any action taken by the congress. Then, on January 2, 1766, a most unique meeting occurred at the gates of the Governor's Mansion in Savannah. A rowdy group of men, some of whom were Sons of Liberty, marched to the gate where they were greeted by -- the royal governor himself, alone (but armed with a pistol). After discussing the Stamp Act and his actions, he told them they needed to trust his decisions.

On January 3 the royal stampmaster, Mr. George Angus, arrived below the port of Savannah and was immediately taken to Governor Wright's house. With his arrival the colony began to issue stamps as required by law. Some stamps were purchased, but in general Georgians had decided to "wait and see" if the act would be rescinded.

Wright decided the stamps, which no longer had buyers were not safe from the Liberty Boys in Savannah, so he moved them to Fort George on Cockspur Island, where they remained until the act was repealed. Parliament repealed of the act on March 18, 1766, but they included an affirmation of their sovereignty. (Georgia was official notified of the repeal on July 16, 1766). George Knox, who acted as agent for Georgia on colonial matters in England wrote an article agreeing with the right of Parliament to levy taxes on the colonies. Knox was removed by the Commons House.

More Information
Stamp Act Timeline

Townshend Acts

Acts Of War
Georgia in 1763
Sugar Act; Stamp Act
Townshend Acts
The House dissolved
Radicals Gain Power
Georgia joins the Continental Congress
A Colony at War
A State and Union Formed
The First Florida Expedition
A Leader Dies
The Second Florida Expedition
The Third Florida Expedition
Britain Attacks Georgia
Georgia Fight Backs
The Siege and Battle of Savannah
There Comes a Reaper
The Liberation of Georgia

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