Gin Act 1751

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Sale of Spirits Act 1750[1]
Long titleAn Act for granting to his Majesty an additional Duty upon Spirituous Liquors, and upon Licences for retailing the same; and for repealing the Act of the twentieth year of his present Majesty's Reign, intituled, An Act for granting a Duty to his Majesty to be paid by Distillers upon Licences to be taken out by them for retailing Spirituous Liquors ; and for the more effectually restraining the Retailing of distilled Spirituous Liquors; and for allowing a Drawback upon the Exportation of British made Spirits; and that the Parish of St. Mary le Bon, in the County of Middlesex, shall be under the Inspection of the Head Office of Excise.
Citation24 Geo. II c. 40
Other legislation
Amended bySale of Spirits Act 1862
Repealed byAdministration of Justice Act 1965 (c.2), section 34 and schedule 2.
Status: Repealed

The Sale of Spirits Act 1750 (commonly known as the Gin Act 1751) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain (citation 24 Geo. II c. 40) which was enacted in order to reduce the consumption of spirits, a popular pastime[2] that was regarded as one of the primary causes of crime in London.[3] By prohibiting gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants and increasing fees charged to merchants, it eliminated small gin shops, thereby restricting the distribution of gin to larger distillers and retailers.[4]


First imported from the Netherlands in the 1690s, gin began to rival beer as the most popular drink in England. In 1689, the English government opened the distilling trade to all English people who paid certain taxes. Over the next sixty years, however, the government regulated the sale of gin with inconsistent taxation policy. The ready availability and low cost of gin led to a massive rise in consumption known as the Gin Craze; by the 1730s, consumption in London had risen to the equivalent of 2 pints per week per Londoner.

Politicians and religious leaders argued that gin drinking encouraged laziness and criminal behavior. In 1729, Parliament passed a Gin Act which increased the retail tax to 5 shillings per gallon. With the Gin Act 1736 the government imposed a high license fee for gin retailers and a 20 shillings retail tax per gallon. These actions were unpopular with the working-classes and resulted in riots in London in 1743. The license fee and tax were lowered significantly within a few years.

The Act[edit]

The Gin Act of 1751 prohibited gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants, restricted retail licenses to substantial property holders and charged high fees to those merchants eligible for retail licenses. To offer the masses another invigorating (and non-alcoholic) beverage the import of tea was also encouraged. Also, men were encouraged to drink beer.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title was authorised by the Short Titles Act 1896, section 1 and the first schedule. Due to the repeal of those provisions it is now authorised by section 19(2) of the Interpretation Act 1978.
  2. ^ History of Alcohol
  3. ^ Gin Act – Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  4. ^ BBC - h2g2 - The History of Gin (and Tonic) - A568677

Further reading[edit]

  • Clark, Peter (1988). "The "Mother Gin" controversy in the early eighteenth century". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. 5th ser. 38: 63–84. doi:10.1017/s0080440100013165.
  • Warner, Jessica; Her, Minghao; Gmel, Gerhard; Rehm, Jürgen (2001). "Can Legislation Prevent Debauchery? Mother Gin and Public Health in 18th-Century England". American Journal of Public Health. 91: 375–84. doi:10.2105/ajph.91.3.375. PMC 1446560. PMID 11236401.