On the face of it, the Sugar Act of 1764 is kind of hilarious. This was technically a new tax, but the really important part, the part the colonists really objected to, was that there was an attempt to enforce it.
That's right. Until this point, the taxes in the colony existed…but they were just kind of ignored.
The Sugar Act was the unpopular sequel to the Molasses Act of 1733. That one expired (and was effectively ignored), and the Sugar Act was the replacement. Ironically enough, the Sugar Act halved the existing tax on molasses. But, you know, the colonists weren't actually paying that other tax, so it was, in effect, a huge increase.
Maybe more importantly, the Sugar Act made sure that certain colonial goods, like lumber, could only be sold to the British. Even with the shakiest understanding of economics, you'll know this is a bad thing to do for prices. Only one potential outlet? Then they're dictating the price.
To make matters worse, the Sugar Act (like the Stamp Act a year later) came in a time of economic depression. The Seven Years War pretty much messed up the economy for everyone— wars tend to do that—and while the crown needed a new tax the colonists definitely did not.
After the colonists successfully resisted the Stamp Act enough to get it repealed, Parliament thought it needed to save a little face. Their solution? The Declaratory Act.
Basically, the Declaratory Act said Parliament had the right to make laws like the Stamp Act. They didn't make any at the time, and had just repealed the Stamp Act because of colonial pressure, but sure, they had the right to.
This is about as convincing as it sounds—like a dog who runs away from you only to turn around and savagely bark when there's a door between you. Passing the Declaratory Act was an admission that Parliament was toothless, and the colonists knew it.
If there's one thing Patrick Henry is remembered for, it's his so-called "Give Me Liberty" speech, when he says that, given the choice, he'd take either liberty or death. (You'd hope there might be a third option there—a golden retriever puppy?—but apparently not.)
Henry gave this speech March 23, 1775 (almost ten years to the day after the Stamp Act was signed into law), and he was arguing that Virginia should raise a militia.
This was before independence would be declared, but patriots like Henry knew which way the wind was blowing. He not only wanted to be ready when the shooting started, but also wanted shooting to hurry up and start. The Revolution waits for no man.
Henry's career as an agitator kicked into high gear with the Stamp Act, and its culmination was in this quote, still remembered even when his name isn't necessarily. In many ways, this is the defiant motto of the country: death is preferable to tyranny.