Letters of Marque were official licences issued on behalf of the head of government in time of war to private citizens which gave them limited legal protection to act as PRIVATEERS. That is, to use their own ships, at their own expense, to make war on the merchant shipping of countries with which their own county was at war, and to profit from the sale of any ships and cargoes they could capture. Without this protection they would simply be treated as pirates if captured.

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