Posts Tagged privateers

History: Privateers Reenact Battle Of The War Of 1812 In Boston Harbor

Happy 4th of July and I thought this was a cool little deal to put out there. Private industry or privateers were very much a part of this country’s war for independence. It is great that we have such a strong military now, but it is equally great that private industry is able to contribute if need be…and our early days is proof of that. –Matt


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Letter Of Marque: Title 33, Chapter 7 Of The US Code–Regulations For The Suppression Of Piracy

Yep, this exists, along with Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 11 of the US Constitution. I thought this was pretty cool, because we definitely have laws on the books for getting private industry involved with the suppression of piracy.

I also liked these laws, because they defined captures. That the US can authorize private industry for capture of pirates. This is important to note, because at this time, there is only a Defense Industry in place for the suppression of piracy. Meaning, companies are only providing guards to defend vessels with the possible use of force. No one has the authority to arrest or capture pirates.  So basically we have a system in place that only allows for the ‘killing’ of pirates in the course of the defense, but god help us if private industry actually arrested folks?

By arresting pirates, we can find out information about pirate operations and we can keep these thugs out of the business of piracy by letting them rot in a prison. It would also give companies some authority for when pirates surrender. An effective Offense Industry could profit from the capture (or killing if pirates fail to surrender and become violent), and thus removing those threats from the seas. I should also note that the US congress used to pay privateers for the capture of British sailors and seamen during the War of 1812 using a bounty system. In other words, companies must be compensated if you want them to actually arrest and detain pirates. Without incentive and and well defined legal authority, ship owners and security guards on these boats will want nothing to do with capturing anyone.

Or we can continue to promote this current Defense Industry where companies either kill or wound pirates in fire fights and then allow pirates to escape–so they can go attack some other vessel. Hell, why would companies be compelled to kill pirates in the first place with such a system?  Killing pirates or arresting them, would eliminate the sweet deal ‘Defense Industry’ we have that benefits from having active pirates.  Something to think about when talking about when dealing with today’s piracy issues. –Matt


Title 33, Chapter 7 Of The US Code– Regulations For The Suppression Of Piracy

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Letter Of Marque: US Congressional Instructions For Privateers, 1780

I wanted to make sure that folks could really get into the document here. If you cannot read it, then go to this link and you might be able to see it better. Very cool and enjoy. –Matt

Edit: 03/10/2012 -Also, check out all the documents that the Library of Congress has scanned or linked to in relation to ‘privateering’ and the ‘letter of marque’. Excellent resource if you are studying the historical use of privateers in war.


US Congressional Instructions For Privateers, 1780

US Congressional Instructions For Privateers, 1780, Page 2

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Letter Of Marque: World Food Programme Privateers?

Yep, in this conference, the idea of using privateers and the Letter of Marque was brought up as a means of protecting World Food Programme vessels. How cool is that? Not only that, but the idea was brought up in a conference filled with Ambassadors, academics, UN folks, PMSC folks, NGO’s etc. Here is a quote and page number if you would like to check it out.

Potential problems with the use of PMSCs in counter-piracy efforts, according to Mr Stupart, include firstly the issue of legality, where the use of PMSCs under current international maritime law is not very clear. In order to overcome this issue, calls for the reintroduction of the Letters of Marque have been suggested. The letters of Marque refers to the definition of piracy, the jurisdiction being decided upon, and the rules of engagement being determined by the flag state under which the vessel operates. Another issue raised by Mr Stupart relates to the possible escalation of violence. If pirates feel a risk due to the arming of vessels with PMSCs, they may adopt more aggressive tactics. This will be a major problem, especially for all merchant vessels that are not escorted or guarded by PMSCs. -From the section WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME PRIVATEERS – OUTSOURCING HUMANITARIAN AID IN THE GULF OF ADEN MR JOHN STUPART, Page 18

The other interesting thing about this conference is that it goes into some of the details of PMSC involvement in Africa. Places like the Sudan or Somalia, and that is great to hear. Most of all, the support for this industry was favorable as well. We are the go to forces for protecting these humanitarian operations and it was clear to me that the conference did recognize our value.

On the other hand, the recurring theme throughout the conference was the lack of legal authority or accountability with the various PMSC’s in Africa. So yes, the humanitarian assistance industry wants to use our industry, but they also do not want to get in trouble legally because of the actions of their security forces.

And of course, the classic principal agent problem comes up, and that is a constant theme everywhere in the world when it comes to contracting. A poorly written contract, a lack of oversight over the project, etc. are all issues that need to be worked out and discussed so you can responsible contract the services of a good PMSC.

Here is another quote in the conference that summed up quite nicely why there is such an interest and demand for PMSC’s in Africa.

Mr Chris Kwaja began the fourth session with an interrogation of the rationale and centrality of non-state military and security providers in the provision and delivery of humanitarian assistance operations in Darfur/Sudan. He argued that the rise of PMSC involvement in humanitarian assistance operations was due to the rising amount of armed conflicts and the inability of states to contain these conflicts, the decline of state troop contributions, the success and popularity of neo-liberalism which encouraged private sector involvement and the weakness of states to fulfill their constitutional obligations of security provision for the masses. Mr Kwaja also stated that PMSCs were arguably able to fill the capacity gap in terms of high-tech skill provision, that national militaries lack. -From the section FROM COMBAT TO NON COMBAT ACTION: PMSCS AND HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE OPERATIONS IN DARFUR/SUDAN MR CHRIS KWAJA, Page 15

This is why I perked up with what was discussed in this conference, along with the mention of the Letter of Marque. To me, these folks were not focused on trying to get rid of us, but on’ how to use us’. Check it out. –Matt


Conference report on the involvement of the private security sector in humanitarian assistance operations i…

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Books: Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer, By Jackson Kuhl

Thanks to Kyle over at the Feral Jundi Facebook Page for sending me this link. This interview brings up some very interesting aspects of privateering back then, and I was very interested in the offense industry elements.

In the interview below, the author really delves into the prize courts, the shares that crews and owners would get from prizes, and the competition between Connecticut, Continental Congress, and the other states and how that would impact privateers like Samuel Smedley.  Meaning all of these states and the Continental Congress were creating laws and regulations that would impact their specific offense industries in the war. That the group that offered the best business environment for privateers, would get the most and best privateers in the country. Pretty cool.

I have not read this book, but I did find a copy of it in Amazon and put it in the Jundi Gear store if anyone is interested. Check it out. –Matt


Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer
By Jackson Kuhl
Book Description
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
From the shores of Long Island Sound to the high seas of the West Indies, against British warships and letters of marque, Samuel Smedley left a stream of smoke and blood as he took prisoners and prizes alike. At twenty-three years old, Smedley, a Fairfield, Connecticut native, enlisted as a lieutenant of marines on the Connecticut ship Defence during the American Revolution. Less than a year later he was her captain, scouring the seas for British prey. Author Jackson Kuhl delves into the life and times of this Patriot, sea captain and privateer.


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Letter Of Marque: The Original Understanding Of The Capture Clause, By Aaron Simowitz

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water. -the enumerated powers of Congress, Art. 1, Sec. 8, Para. 11 of the US Constitution.

This is cool. When discussing the Letter of Marque and Reprisal portion of the war clause, the capture clause is always forgotten. But for privateering, the capture clause was very important. It gave congress the right to establish the rules and laws for the capture of enemy vessels or prizes, and for the capture of combatants. That last part about the capturing of combatants is what has been falsely interpreted over the years and forgotten, and Mr. Simowitz has done a great job of disputing this false interpretation.

The reason why this is important to discuss is that like in the past, prisoners are very much a part of conflicts on land or water today, and if private industry is to be involved in such ventures, there must be rules and laws in place that dictate what is to be done with prisoners. Especially on water, just because armed guards on boats are big thing right now. The big one here is the legal capture, detention and treatment of prisoners, and of course, the costs of capture, detention and transport of prisoners. Private industry must be compensated and incentivized, or else taking prisoners will not be a priority. (hence why Congress dedicated funding for captures/bounties during wars like the one in 1812)

I have talked about offense industry in prior posts, and the key to this concept is to create a mechanism in which private industry profits from the destruction of the enemy. Well profiting from the ‘capture’ of enemies is included in that mechanism because the act takes combatants off the battlefield. You can see shades of that in today’s modern bailbondsmen industry as well.

And if there are specific rules and laws on how captures are to be done, then those captures could be recognized by a prize court or current court of law as legal. If a bounty or fees associated with the capture/detention is to be awarded, a court of law must be satisfied that it was legally conducted. As of right now, there are no laws or rules for private industry to use for the capture/detention of pirates. Yet states could easily provide such a thing via their right to grant a license or Letter of Marque to private industry.

Now lets discuss today’s modern piracy problem. We are well on our way to creating a vibrant ‘defense industry’; one in which there is no mechanism in place to reduce the numbers of pirates other than to kill them during times of self defense. This is an odd arrangement that we have, where we allow armed guards to take the life of a pirate during combat, but we do not give them the legal authority necessary to capture that pirate? Or what about the rules for when a pirate surrenders or we have wounded that pirate or destroyed their vessel during a battle, thus leaving them stranded in the ocean?

Sure, a company could contact a naval force nearby and give them a GPS coordinate of the position of that pirate vessel, but what about those companies who could care less about such things?  Or maybe those companies are getting strict guidelines that they are not to stop or deal with any kind of pirate detention. And for those companies that do bring pirates on board that surrendered or were stranded, then who will pay those companies for the effort? That is what boggles the mind right now, and there are no laws or rules for capture or detention. Oh but we can shoot at the pirates all day long…..

So this is what I am trying to do here. We need a serious discussion about the ‘rules concerning captures on land or water’, and how that could apply to private industry and their current task out there on the high seas.  The US Constitution is a great starting point for that discussion, as well as the history of privateers and the rules for capture they followed in the past. The War of 1812 is just one historical example, and our forefathers had a greater understanding and appreciation for the issue than our modern legal councils. And if you think about, our forefathers were more humane, just because they had a legal means of private industry removing combatants off the battlefield, other than just killing them.

Either way, check it out, pass it around, chew on it for a bit, and understand that we can learn a lot from the past about how to use private industry during times of war. –Matt

The Original Understandings of the Capture Clause
Aaron D. Simowitz
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
March 12, 2008
The Congress shall have power to . . . To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water. US Const Art I, § 8, cl 11.
Although the Capture Clause may seem obscure today, the power it embodies was crucially important to the early republic. General Washington declared, even during the Revolutionary War, that a centralized and standardized system for the handling of prizes was vital to the war effort. The first court established by the fledging federal government was the federal appellate court of prize. This court heard over a hundred and eighteen cases before it was dissolved by Article III of the Constitution.

The federal government, first under the Articles of Confederation and then under the Constitution, was responsible for prescribing the rules under which enemy ships and prisoners could be taken. The value of captured ships was the chief means by which the early navy and privateer system was financed. However, the early law of capture also concerned captured persons, who could sometimes be redeemed or ransomed for head money. Later scholars have correctly concluded the capture of property was more important to the Framers of the Constitution. However, they have also assumed that the Capture Clause did not cover people. This is not the case.

This paper will show that the received wisdom that the Capture Clause covers only property is based on a faulty and possibly disingenuous statement dating from 1833. This paper will also show that the received wisdom is inconsistent with the era’s admiralty law and with Congressional practice. The Framers made prescribing rules concerning captures on land and water an enumerated power of Congress. This power covered enemy persons as well as property.
Link to paper here.
Shortly before the War of 1812 broke out, Congress passed the latest version of “An Act Concerning Letters of Marque, Prizes, and Prize Goods.” Section seven of the Act, enacted pursuant to Congress quasi-war powers, provided, “[t]hat all prisoners found on board any captured vessel, or on board any recaptured vessel, shall be reported to the collector of the port in the United States in which they shall first arrive, and shall be delivered into the custody of the marshal of the district . . . who shall take charge of their safe keeping.”  Section nine of the same act provided a bounty of twenty dollars for each enemy killed in the event that the enemy vessel was destroyed. -2 Stat 759, 763 (June 26, 1812)

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby authorized to make such regulations and arrangements for the safe keeping, support and exchange of prisoners of war as he may deem expedient, until the same shall be otherwise provided for by law; and to carry this act into effect, one hundred thousand dollars be, and the same are hereby appropriated, to be paid out of any monies in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.”-An Act for the Safe Keeping and Accommodation of Prisoners of War, War of 1812

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