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Struggle for hegemony: The Stamp Act Crisis

When we consider the effects of cultural domination, the facts are that the more dominant of any culture will tend to cast itself on the weaker ones. In effect, what we are saying is in the struggle for predomination, the stronger will always survive in the test of time. Such was the case of the Colonists in the imposition of the British parliament of the Stamp Act of 1765, the first direct tax on the Colonies. The new tax was imposed on all pieces of printed material that were in the Colonies.

Almanacs, ship’s papers, legal documents, newspapers, licenses, broadsides, dice, pamphlets, notes, leases, insurance policies, and all paper that were to be used for legal purposes, even playing cards, for them to be legal, in order to be valid were to be drawn on stamped paper, to be purchased from the King’s officers who were appointed for that purpose. The issue here was not that the Stamp Act cost the colonists much, but that the imposition of such taxes constituted that the British were exercising the belief that it was their right to be in control of the lives of the Colonies and had the power to levy taxes on them.

But what was the basis of the British for levying the tax? Or was the Stamp Act and the Colonists’ adverse reception of it was just the anticipated effect of several other actions in the Colonies that culminated in the indignation towards the Stamp Act? Was the case for hegemony to be made by the crisis created by the Stamp Act? But first, let us give a definition to the term “hegemony”. Hegemony refers to the leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation over others.

If we were to infer the definition and relate it to the Stamp Act, the Act would infer that the British Parliament, through the office of then Prime Minister George Grenville, were still in the belief that they, the British Government, still exercised sovereign right over the colonies and that they could exercise that belief in any way that they see fit. But to the Colonists, the exercise of that right, to their minds, constituted affixing a very expensive tax on the colonies without their consent and without the benefit of representation in Parliament.

That, in their minds, amounted to interference in their colonial life, an unnecessary and oppressive one. They wanted to contest the imposition of the Act by appealing to the King, but in typical autocratic fashion, the appeal fell on deaf ears, and the Parliament just conducted a sham of a proceeding and then enacted the Act. True to their fierce belief in freedom, the reaction to the enactment was met by bitter and broad based opposition.

The American colonists at the time were struggling against the economic and political exploitation of Parliament. But, let’s put some context to the struggle for hegemony in the context of the enactment of the Stamp Act. “Context of the American’s reaction to the Stamp Act. ” The British had incurred an enormous debt in the French and Indian Wars, and they felt that the colonists should repay them for their defense in that conflict. But the British had other reasons in the imposition of the tax.

The British wanted to levy a tax that the colonies were not represented in the British legislature, so that they would rub it in the minds of the colonies that they were still in control. But the British had forgotten that in the long period that the colonies were under the British regime, the colonists’ mind, thoughts and way of life had differed greatly from that of their mother state. The British “parent” had overlooked the fact that the colony child had “grown up”, that the colonies had grown, both economically and psychologically, so to speak.

How did the Americans grow up? The American merchants were experiencing a boom stage in their trade during the French and Indian War, and the British were one of the contributors to that spree in their trading, and before 1754 they were already earning enough to pay for the imports from Great Britain. Immigration of different peoples to the colonies also bought different ideas and ideologies from pother lands, thus inculcating in the colonists’ minds new and fresh ideas about freedom, liberty and equality.

But in the minds of the British, they were in the belief that the Colonists still were an integral part and parcel of the Empire, and that reasoning led them to enact a law, without the knowledge or consent of the colonies in America. So, the colonies had grown up, mainly in part to the time that the colonies were under the boot of the British, and in part to the influence of immigration had on the population of the colonies. “The Bust after the Boom”

After the boom in the economy of the Colonies, the end of the war bought about a rude stop to the profiting ways of the American merchants because of their overextension of commitments that were, in part, caused by the grant of credit of the British to them. Now that the War has ceased, the buying spree of the British had stopped also, and the ones left with an enormous pile of debt were, of course, the Americans. After experiencing the debacle from the British, they were not ready to accept that the ones who had plunged into debt were again at work to extract money from them.

This economic hardship further strengthened the opposition to the Stamp Act. This opposition aided in unifying the American colonists’ desire for greater political control. Though the British had promised that the Stamp tax was just intended to help pay for the defense of the colonies, the colonists themselves were not at all pleased with the way that the Act was enacted. The colonists believe that since they were not represented in Parliament, they should not be taxed.

Opposition from the American merchants came in the form of non-importation agreements of British goods and harassing of the agents of the British appointed by them to carry out the Act, employing such tactics such as tarring and feathering the agents, who all eventually resigned even before the actual enactment of the law in the Colonies. The British merchants joined in the petition for the recall of the Act, fearing a loss of business, since their products had a large market in the American colonies.

They also worried that the continued imposition of the Act would strengthen the resolve of the colonial merchants not to pay their obligations to them amounting to tens of millions of pounds. It can be observed from the actions of the colonists that the struggle for hegemony over the issue had seemed to swing in the favor of the colonists, as the Acts that the British had enacted seemed only to build the resolve of the Colonist to oppose the rule of their “parent” state. The struggle can also be viewed in the context of social conformity.

The colonists wanted to be more independent of their identity, that’s why their desire to be represented in Parliament, and their reaction to the enactment without the benefit of representation, seemed to indicate their desire to be identified as a separate , but integral, part of the British empire. That they took offense at the seemingly rude disposition of their British master over the Act also demonstrated their own search for their own selves within the context of the Empire. Remember, the case is stating that there was a struggle for hegemony between the American colonies and the British Empire because of the Stamp Act.

What we can establish here is the Stamp Act may not have been the trigger that caused the generation of the struggle; the seeds against the general feeling of opposition to the general posturing of the British contributed greatly to the opposition to the Act, but the law itself did not on its own, generate the struggle for hegemony. The Stamp Act did contribute to the struggle for hegemony between the two states, not in its enactment, but that it galvanized the colonist desire to be rid of any and all vestiges of the British Empire. The British, in turn, retaliated by enforcing more Acts to the great consternation of the colonists.

This, and more acts that we need not discuss here, all contributed to the struggle not only for hegemony, but the fight for liberty and freedom on one hand, and continued exploitation and abuse of the other to cater to its own needs on the other. And the outcome should tell us who won the struggle for hegemony.

Works Cited

Colonial Williamsburg. A Summary of the Stamp Act”. Colonial Williamsburg. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 24 November 2007. <http://www. history. org/History/teaching/tchrsta. cfm> Dictionary . com. ” Definition: Hegemony”. 24 November 2007. <http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/hegemony>

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