Marque and Reprisal, Letters of

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MARQUE AND REPRISAL, LETTERS OF, are papers from a belligerent government authorizing privately owned vessels, called privateers, to engage in warfare against enemy commerce. The Constitution gives Congress power to "grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water" (Article I, Section 8). Prize courts typically decided the legality of captures, and the profits went chiefly to the privateer and crew. During the Revolution, Congress and state governments issued letters to 1,150 vessels. In the War of 1812, 515 privateers captured about 1,450 prizes. European nations abolished privateering in 1856. The South briefly used this practice in the Civil War. In subsequent wars the destruction of enemy commerce was limited to government-owned vessels.


Buel, Richard. In Irons: Britain's Naval Supremacy and the American Revolutionary Economy. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998.

Butler, Lindley S. Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Swanson, Carl E. Predators and Prizes: American Privateering andImperial Warfare, 17391748. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991.

AllanWestcott/h. s.

See alsoPrivateers and Privateering ; War of 1812 .

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Marque and Reprisal, Letters of

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