Privateer


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Privateer

A privately owned vessel that is commissioned by one power to attack merchant ships from a hostile power. The term also refers to the commander or a crew member of such a vessel.

A privateer was commissioned by the issuance of a letter of Marque and Reprisal to commit hostile acts at sea, generally in accordance with the Rules of War. Letters of marque and reprisal were issued by a state to its own subjects as well as to the subjects of neutral states. The owner of a vessel who accepted letters of marque from both belligerents was, however, deemed a pirate.

Privateering was abolished on an international scale with the ratification of the Declaration of Paris in 1856, which was signed by Great Britain, France, Turkey, Sardinia, Austria, Prussia, and Russia. The United States, Spain, Mexico, and Venezuela, however, did not consent to the declaration. The United States refused to join the treaty because the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power to issue letters of marque, does not authorize it to participate in a permanent treaty abolishing privateering. Regardless, the act of privateering is considered a federal offense punishable by fine or imprisonment (18 U.S.C.A. § 1654 [2003]).

Further readings

Woodruff, James J. 2002. "Merchants, Traders, and Pirates: The Birth of the Admiralty Clause." Tulane Maritime Law Journal 563.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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There were ways round such restrictions, and again the letters frequently allude to them: goods and letters could be sent under neutral flags to Spain, or to Holland, for onward shipment, although this increased costs and uncertainties, and both British and French privateers were always on lookout for false papers and flags.
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financial incentives, one of the most important rights of a privateer
Thus many pirates became a combination of slaver, privateer and pirate, and by the 183os, the term picaroon had come to mean both pirate and slaver.
Moreover, if the privateer targets the IC's suppliers and customers, those targets are likely to vent their anger at the privateer, not the IC that sold the patents.
The smaller the friendly public navy, the less competition a privateer would face for prizes because privateers were in competition with public navies for prizes.
Hampering them, however, is the too-slick privateer Captain Cutter.
One of the harder-fought actions was in capturing the American privateer sloop Wasp near Brier Island in the Bay of Fundy in August 1813.