The History of Leith

March 25, 2011

Letter of marque

In the days of fighting sail, a Letter of Marque and Reprisal was a government licence authorizing a private vessel to attack and capture enemy vessels, and bring them before admiralty courts for condemnation and sale. Cruising for prizes with a Letter of Marque was considered an honorable calling combining patriotism and profit, in contrast to unlicensed piracy which was universally reviled.[1] The French used the term lettre de course for their letters of marque, giving rise to the term corsair. Letter of Marque can sometimes describe the vessel itself: a “Letter of Marque” generally refers to a lumbering square-rigged cargo carrier that might pick up a prize if the opportunity arose,[2] whereas a “privateer” was a fast and weatherly fore-and-aft rigged vessel heavily armed and heavily crewed, intended exclusively for fighting. for more click here

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