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Thread: Letters of marque and reprisal

  1. #1

    Default Letters of marque and reprisal

    I've been trying to get the straight dope on Letters of Marque and Reprisal. What I've determined is:

    1) official warrant or commission from a national government authorizing the designated agent to search, seize, or destroy specified assets or personnel belonging to a party which has committed some offense under the laws of nations against the assets or citizens of the issuing nation.

    2) It is considered a retaliatory measure short of a full declaration of war, and by maintaining a rough proportionality, has been intended to justify the action to other nations, who might otherwise consider it an act of war or piracy. As with a domestic search, arrest, seizure, or death warrant, to be considered lawful it needs to have a certain degree of specificity, to ensure that the agent does not exceed his authority and the intent of the issuing authority.
    So it is not, as some have said, a general bounty like a wanted poster nailed to a saloon door paid to whoever gets the bad guy first. It is, for all intents and purposes, a government contract.

    Let's say President Ron Paul or congress issues these letters to a private contractor like Blackwater. They are now agents of the US government. So what is stopping any actions by Blackwater against a nation's sovereignty or its citizens from being considered an act of war.

    I haven't found anything in International Law or the UN Charter recognizing Letters of Marque and Reprisal. In fact, the Declaration of Paris in 1856 signed by Numerous states, including the United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, France, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire, essentially banned the use of LoMR. The USA did not sign it.

    If someone has any more detailed info, I would appreciate it.
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  3. #2

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    First- technically, a general bounty offered by the US government would also be a government contract... just offered to all people.
    Second- the only time we've used marque and reprisal was against pirate vessels... which actions occurred in international waters. But the letters of marque and reprisal could be given to other nations... like, we could issue a letter to Pakistan, and Pakistan could collect funds for retrieval of said fugitives... or face possible escalation of the letters to a declaration of war.
    It's a nice way of saying, hand over the fugitive or we will take him by force. The letter issued to another government is a watered down declaration of war.

  4. #3

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    So Obama wasn't exactly wrong. He just left out the part about issuing the Letters. If he even knows about the option.
    All your voter base are belong to us!

  5. #4

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    Obama?

    Is there some story I'm missing? Did he criticize Ron Paul on this issue or something?
    "Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it." - Henry David Thoreau

  6. #5

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    Obama has thoughts on Marque and Reprisal?

  7. #6

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    No I was just kidding. But he did say he would go into Pakistan to get bin Laden if the Pakistani government refused to do it themselves.

    He would, of course, use the military instead of privateers. So he's not quite there yet.
    All your voter base are belong to us!

  8. #7

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    I had someone criticize Ron Paul for this saying that it is not constitutional for the Congress to give the president the power to write these letters. Is this true?
    "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. -
    Thomas Paine

    "Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world. - Daniel Webster

    http://www.christiansforronpaul.com/

  9. #8

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    i for one would much prefer American agents to kill Bin Laden and his pals. I don't trust the middle eastern governments. But Ron Paul has yet to specify who would receive the contract. Probably cuz no one has asked, but i doubt he would entrust it to foreigners

  10. #9

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    So what is stopping any actions by Blackwater against a nation's sovereignty or its citizens from being considered an act of war.
    The contract itself. Blackwater would not receive protection for attacking anything except the targeted people and their property.

    If they kill a civilian, there will be trouble for them.

  11. #10

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    Historically, the bearers of letters of marque were required to post a financial bond as assurance of their lawful activities. When they captured an enemy vessel, that vessel was brought to a friendly port, and then the capture was evaluated by a prize court. If the capture was deemed lawful, then the captured vessel was condemed and auctioned off along with its cargo. If the capture was unlawful, then the bond posted by the marque holder could be paid to the owner of the captured vessel as compensation.

    Bearers of the letters of marque were required by law and custom to obey all the recognized rules of warfare. Failure to do so could result in the loss of the marque, and their bond.

    Historically, the Congress would grant the President authority to choose the specific individuals who would receive the marques, but the targets of the letter would be spelled out by the Congress.

    The U.S. did not sign the treaty of Paris that banned the use of privateer ships, but later the U.S. and Mexico joined the major European powers in banning the practice. However, as far as I know this was just a ban on the use of civilian run warships, and wasn't neccesarily a ban of all paramilitary forces. However, the Geneva conventions does ban the use of mercenaries, so this is a bit of a grey area.

  12. #11

  13. #12

    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by 1000-points-of-fright View Post
    I've been trying to get the straight dope on Letters of Marque and Reprisal. What I've determined is:



    So it is not, as some have said, a general bounty like a wanted poster nailed to a saloon door paid to whoever gets the bad guy first. It is, for all intents and purposes, a government contract.

    Let's say President Ron Paul or congress issues these letters to a private contractor like Blackwater. They are now agents of the US government. So what is stopping any actions by Blackwater against a nation's sovereignty or its citizens from being considered an act of war.

    I haven't found anything in International Law or the UN Charter recognizing Letters of Marque and Reprisal. In fact, the Declaration of Paris in 1856 signed by Numerous states, including the United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, France, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire, essentially banned the use of LoMR. The USA did not sign it.

    If someone has any more detailed info, I would appreciate it.

    I have read that they were commonly used by the french and british navies in dealing with pirates on the high seas..

  14. #13

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    The problem is that letters of marque and reprisal only work if all parties agree to them. The reason that American privateers with Letters of Marque preyed on British shipping during the War of 1812 was because British privateers with Letters of Marque also preyed on American ships. Americans recognized British Letters of Marque and the British recognized the American letters. Any ship captured without a Letter of Marque was considered to be a pirate.

    The reason that Letters of Marque don't work today is that as an instrument of international law they were abolished in the 1850s by the Treaty of Paris which also ended the Crimean War. The US was not signatory to the treaty but used it during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War to act against privateers sailing for the Confederacy and for Spain.

    Bottom line, since about 1856 Letters of Marque and Reprisal are worthless pieces of paper. They have zero standing in the international community. In this case Dr. Paul is about 150 years behind the times.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickSp View Post
    The problem is that letters of marque and reprisal only work if all parties agree to them. The reason that American privateers with Letters of Marque preyed on British shipping during the War of 1812 was because British privateers with Letters of Marque also preyed on American ships. Americans recognized British Letters of Marque and the British recognized the American letters. Any ship captured without a Letter of Marque was considered to be a pirate.

    The reason that Letters of Marque don't work today is that as an instrument of international law they were abolished in the 1850s by the Treaty of Paris which also ended the Crimean War. The US was not signatory to the treaty but used it during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War to act against privateers sailing for the Confederacy and for Spain.

    Bottom line, since about 1856 Letters of Marque and Reprisal are worthless pieces of paper. They have zero standing in the international community. In this case Dr. Paul is about 150 years behind the times.
    The 1856 Declaration of Paris did not abolish all letters. Even the signatories still could issue letters against non-signatory states.

    The US did sign and ratify the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war, so arguably letters of marque are more legal than war.

    http://hawks4ronpaul.blogspot.com/20...-fighting.html
    Last edited by hawks4ronpaul; 01-02-2008 at 09:25 PM.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanEdwards View Post
    Historically, the bearers of letters of marque were required to post a financial bond as assurance of their lawful activities. When they captured an enemy vessel, that vessel was brought to a friendly port, and then the capture was evaluated by a prize court. If the capture was deemed lawful, then the captured vessel was condemed and auctioned off along with its cargo. If the capture was unlawful, then the bond posted by the marque holder could be paid to the owner of the captured vessel as compensation.

    Bearers of the letters of marque were required by law and custom to obey all the recognized rules of warfare. Failure to do so could result in the loss of the marque, and their bond.

    Historically, the Congress would grant the President authority to choose the specific individuals who would receive the marques, but the targets of the letter would be spelled out by the Congress.

    The U.S. did not sign the treaty of Paris that banned the use of privateer ships, but later the U.S. and Mexico joined the major European powers in banning the practice. However, as far as I know this was just a ban on the use of civilian run warships, and wasn't neccesarily a ban of all paramilitary forces. However, the Geneva conventions does ban the use of mercenaries, so this is a bit of a grey area.
    sources?
    "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. -
    Thomas Paine

    "Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world. - Daniel Webster

    http://www.christiansforronpaul.com/

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanEdwards View Post
    However, the Geneva conventions does ban the use of mercenaries, so this is a bit of a grey area.
    Someone needs to bring the Vatican up on charges then for continuing to employ the Swiss Guard.

  18. #17

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by fireinme View Post
    sources?
    "6/2005: Challenges in modern warfare” (2005) Strategic Review for Southern Africa 27.2, S1(18). Retrieved 3 Dec. 2007, from General OneFile. Gale.
    <http://find.galegroup.com/ips/start.do?prodId=IPS>.

    Kwok, J. (Spring 2006)."Armed entrepreneurs: private military companies in Iraq." Harvard International Review, 28.1, 34-38. Retrieved 3 Dec. 2007, from General OneFile. Gale. <http://find.galegroup.com/ips/start.do?prodId=IPS>.

    Machiavelli, N. (1515). The Prince. Retrieved 3 Dec. 2007 from <http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince12.htm>.

    Paul, R. (2001). Foreign Interventionism. Retrieved 3 Dec. 2007, from <http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2001/cr092501.htm>.

    Pelton, R. (2006). Licensed to kill: hired guns in the war on terror. New York, NY: Crown Publishers.

    Privateer. (2002). In Encyclopędia Brittanica 15th Edition (Vol. 9 p. 712). Chicago.

    Tabarrok, A. (2007). The rise fall and rise again of privateers. Independent Review, 11.4, 565-578.

    UPI NewsTrack. (2007). FBI: Blackwater shootings 'unwarranted'. Retrieved 3 Dec. 2007, from General OneFile. Gale. <http://find.galegroup.com/ips/start.do?prodId=IPS>.

  19. #18

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    Good points, and it would help for the concept of letters of marque to be better explained for the average American. Likewise what would be wrong with a congressional declaration of war against Al Qaeda? The whole Global War on Terror is nonsense.

  20. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by fireinme View Post
    I had someone criticize Ron Paul for this saying that it is not constitutional for the Congress to give the president the power to write these letters. Is this true?
    Article I, Section 8, paragraph 11 of the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal

    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
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  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawks4ronpaul View Post
    The 1856 Declaration of Paris did not abolish all letters. Even the signatories still could issue letters against non-signatory states.
    The fact doesn't change that Letters of Marque are useless scraps of paper unless the warring parties recognize them. No one has for over 150 years.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickSp View Post
    The fact doesn't change that Letters of Marque are useless scraps of paper unless the warring parties recognize them. No one has for over 150 years.
    Any nation that disregarded a letter of marque issued by the U.S. government, and treated such people as common criminals would be very bold indeed.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickSp View Post
    The problem is that letters of marque and reprisal only work if all parties agree to them. The reason that American privateers with Letters of Marque preyed on British shipping during the War of 1812 was because British privateers with Letters of Marque also preyed on American ships. Americans recognized British Letters of Marque and the British recognized the American letters. Any ship captured without a Letter of Marque was considered to be a pirate.

    The reason that Letters of Marque don't work today is that as an instrument of international law they were abolished in the 1850s by the Treaty of Paris which also ended the Crimean War. The US was not signatory to the treaty but used it during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War to act against privateers sailing for the Confederacy and for Spain.

    Bottom line, since about 1856 Letters of Marque and Reprisal are worthless pieces of paper. They have zero standing in the international community. In this case Dr. Paul is about 150 years behind the times.
    All true. There's also the bit that the letter of marque has, historically, IIRC mainly applied to private warships. Lastly there are the Geneva conventions, which frown on mercenaries. Privateers with US letters of marque (they don't actually have to be american) would be considered mercs by most or all other countries and dealt with as such. The term 'Unlawful Combatant' comes to mind. Wikipedia pages on Mercenary, Laws of War and the like make fascinating reading.

    Working around the international aspects may be possible but would probably require the private contractor company to raise and second complete units to the military as independent attachments. While on deployment the troops would, on paper, be considered part of the military. Bonding and troop nationality would be serious issues. A unit, in this example, could vary from a short (counter-)sniper squad to a platoon (or company) providing truck convoy escort to a convoy escort corvette.

    Some sort of 'Special Service Warrant Branch' as part of the DOD to handle all 'shooter' (as opposed to mundane) contracts seems to be in order.

    Cheers,
    ErikM

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanEdwards View Post
    Any nation that disregarded a letter of marque issued by the U.S. government, and treated such people as common criminals would be very bold indeed.
    Not at all. Mexico does not have a reciprocal bounty hunter law so US bountry hunters who try to arrest US bail jumpers in Mexico have been arrested.

    Letters of Marque didn't work particularly well when they were part of international law. Pirates often mascaraded as privateers. Now that Letters of Marque and Reprisal are part of the distant past, they are not likely to work at all.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickSp View Post
    Not at all. Mexico does not have a reciprocal bounty hunter law so US bountry hunters who try to arrest US bail jumpers in Mexico have been arrested.

    Letters of Marque didn't work particularly well when they were part of international law. Pirates often mascaraded as privateers. Now that Letters of Marque and Reprisal are part of the distant past, they are not likely to work at all.
    Unlike the Iraq War, which went over so well with the rest of the world?

    Foreign countries also arrest US soldiers.

    It is not that letters are without problems, it is that everything else (war, bounties) has similar problems.

    http://hawks4ronpaul.blogspot.com/
    Last edited by hawks4ronpaul; 01-04-2008 at 02:00 AM.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickSp View Post
    Not at all. Mexico does not have a reciprocal bounty hunter law so US bountry hunters who try to arrest US bail jumpers in Mexico have been arrested.
    This also happened to a couple of chumps who tried to haul someone back from Canada to the US. The RCMP weren't amused.

    Since bounty hunters tend not to be accredited law enforcers, they're considered civilians outside the US. Tracking someone down won't be frowned upon, but them forceing their way inside somewhere, capturing someone or trying to take them back to the US without their consent will be considered home invasion, false imprisonment (probably) and kidnapping respectively. If BHs really want someone to haul someone back, they'll have to contact the local police. The problem for the BHs in that case is that they probably won't collect the bounty.

    Cheers,
    ErikM

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickSp View Post
    Not at all. Mexico does not have a reciprocal bounty hunter law so US bountry hunters who try to arrest US bail jumpers in Mexico have been arrested.

    Letters of Marque didn't work particularly well when they were part of international law. Pirates often mascaraded as privateers. Now that Letters of Marque and Reprisal are part of the distant past, they are not likely to work at all.
    Yeah, apparently our government agrees with you. That must be why instead of following the process laid out in the Constitution, they choose instead to secretly hand money and weapons to various and sundry militant groups around the world.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericaFyeah92 View Post
    i for one would much prefer American agents to kill Bin Laden and his pals. I don't trust the middle eastern governments. But Ron Paul has yet to specify who would receive the contract. Probably cuz no one has asked, but i doubt he would entrust it to foreigners
    With due process of-course.
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