nounusually letters of marque
1historical A licence to fit out an armed vessel and use it in the capture of enemy merchant shipping and to commit acts which would otherwise have constituted piracy.
- ‘Semi-official entrepreneurs, carrying government-signed letters of marque and reprisal, and known as privateers, also were a significant force in commerce raiding up until the nineteenth century.’
- ‘If, for example, a French vessel seized a British ship, then a letter of marque could be granted that would allow the legal seizure of an item of like value from any French vessel on the high seas.’
- ‘Her business and diplomatic skills proved crucial after a raid on the Catholic-led colony early in 1645 by a ship captain armed with letters of marque from England's Protestant Parliament.’
- ‘It is conducted by individual ships (naval warships or privately owned ships armed with guns and authorized by government letters of marque to engage in legal privateering) or small squadrons.’
- ‘Privateering involved the issuing of letters of marque by a supposedly legitimate authority, but they were not always choosy about the grantees.’
- 1.1A ship carrying a letter of marque.
Late Middle English Law French marque, from Old French marque ‘right of reprisal’.
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