from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n.pl. A document issued by a nation allowing a private citizen to seize citizens or goods of another nation.
- n.pl. A document issued by a nation allowing a private citizen to equip a ship with arms in order to attack enemy ships.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. a license or extraordinary commission granted by a government to a private person to fit out a privateer or armed ship to cruise at sea and make prize of the enemy's ships and merchandise. The ship so commissioned is sometimes called a letter of marque.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. a license to a private citizen to seize property of another nation
To decclare war, grant letters of marque and reprisals, and make rules concerning captures on land and water:
Not till we have issued letters of marque -- to make reprisals on them for their holstility to us -- will your plantation be in danger!
No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; make any but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainuder, or ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility.
As the data show piracy was increasing in several sectors prior to the attack on Vatta interests; concern had been expressed, and the previous administration had even authorized an increase in the number of letters of marque some months before the attack.