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What is a letter of Marque?
(pronounced:  mark or marquee)

Ancient authority to arm a private warship ~ a Privateer!

In olden times, Kingdoms and governments did not have navies
They would license private ships (privateers)
To capture their enemies' shipping and goods.

These Licenses were called Letters of Marque

Letters of Marque have been issued since the thirteenth century.

Sailed under the protection of Letters of Marque
They were privately owned warships Commissioned by a belligerent nation to carry-on naval warfare for profit.
The captured ships, booty and plunder would be divided between the issuing government, the vessel’s owner, and her crew.

Legal Piracy

In the 18th century
365 Letters of Marque were issued from Boston alone!

Privateering is distinguished from Piracy.
Piracy is carried on without enlistment by a government (Letters of Marque).

Because Pirates did not carry Letters of Marque—they would be hanged.
Privateers were not hanged. They were usually held for ransom or imprisoned.

The last US conviction for piracy was in 1819

 Complete List Letters of Marque


In 1856 America refused to sign the Declaration of Paris, 
which abolished Privateering once and for all.
still remains in the 
US Constitution!
(Section 8, Paragraph 11)

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