American Revenue Act

Written By North Carolina History Project

After the French and Indian War (also known as The Seven Years War) ended in 1763, Great Britain essentially stopped the period of salutary neglect by increasing regulation over the American colonies. The passage of the American Revenue Act demonstrates how the empire tightened its regulatory grip on the American economic activities.

The American Revenue Act updated the Molasses Act of 1733 and added new provisions.  The revisions, writes Murray Rothbard, gave the admiralty courts “jurisdiction in all trade and revenue laws” and “authorized the creation of a new admiralty court specifically covering all colonial trade violations.”   The law also placed the burden of proof on the accused instead of the prosecution and the officer who confiscated private property.

The North Carolina legislature protested the implementation of the American Revenue Act and claimed sovereignty over enacting tax legislation.  In October 1764, the House declared that the Crown would not pass taxes without the colony’s consent, and the American Revenue Act violated the colony’s “exclusive privilege” in making and enforcing tax laws.  The protestation, however, was not that bold.  The North Carolina House’s letter was mailed not to the Crown or to any of his agents.  It was sent only to Arthur Dobbs, the royal governor.