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I don't know enough about this to edit the article... but a privateer is also the name for a vessel owned by a privateer, I think. fabiform | talk 16:19, 11 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Modern usage[edit]

While the U.S. Constitution does still authorise privateering, developments in international law have rendered this obsolete, and under international law a privateer would be a pirate now. --Daniel C. Boyer 17:18, 3 Aug 2004 (UTC)

All I needed 2 know wuz what a privateer iz, so thank u! :) (happy face)

Daniel, Since the USA does not abide by international law and is not Party to the Rome treaty makes International law development obsolete. US claims international Law against others when it suits it but has not essentially agreed to it. This should be clear whenever referring to it as a force of global governance. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:14, 15 May 2014 (UTC)

Two topics on one page[edit]

Shouldn't the use of the word "privateer" referring to motorsports be in a separate article? (e.g. "privateer (motorsports)") Rick 19:12, 13 Dec 2004 (UTC)

American history?[edit]

Why is there such a big mention of American history here? American privateers were certainly not the biggest part of privateering, if you are to have that there should also be a big chunk on 16th century privateering and other times. --Josquius 20:01, 23 Feb 2005 (UTC)

American privateers were as much as (if not more) the United States Navy a factor in our winning Independence from Great Britian and then maintaining it during the War of 1812. Confederate Privateers (southern states) during the Civil War were a significant factor in the demise of the Unisted States merchant marine. Wfoj2 (talk) 23:48, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

Privateer != pirate[edit]

A privateer operates under a letter_of_marque, a pirate does not. the distinction is fine, but it's there. Privateers are/were legitimate, pirates are just criminals. -- Bob the Cannibal 23:42, 11 Mar 2005 (UTC)

The distinction is significant. The pirate flag at top of page does NOT belong here. Wfoj2 (talk) 23:48, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

Then Drake does not belong to this list, as he was just a bloody criminal and raper, who even today will deserve execution.

Sir Francis Drake is so commonly referred to as a privateer for England, that his absence from the list is surprising, and imho worthy of mention. Specifically, did he not have the necessary authority to engage in his activities in the name of the Crown?

--Davecampbell 01:50, 9 December 2005 (UTC)

sir francis drake belongs on the list, as he had a letter of marque at times. whether or not he engaged in piracy is moot. a privateer who commits an act of piracy would still be a privateer, just as a bent policeman is still a policeman.

The bent policeman is also a man. So you can say he's a crooked man. But if he commits an act of terrorism against another country, you will probably call him a terrorist. If a plumber, a teacher or a doctor becomes a suicide bomber, should an encyclopaedia or a newspaper call him a bad professional? Privateering is nation sponsored terrorism. It's place on this wiki should be to explain the usage in it's own time, not perpetuate it on ours.

Edward Teach[edit]

I dont belive that Edward Teach has ever been proven to have been a privateer. It has only been said that he may have been one before he became a famous pirate But most of his background is unknown even his true name. Edward Teach is just one of the names he used when he was on land.

I just think it's wrong to count him as a privateer when he never had a letter of marque as far as history tells and there is no record from his belived privateering past. One should seperate history from speculations. Especially with all the proposterous stories already circulating about famous pirates and privateers.


Include "compare and contrast" to state terrorism/state sponsored terrorism.

I agree. This is the bare minimum. Current article has been so whitewashed that is of no help to a 21st century reader trying to understand what a "privateer" really is. England did not declare war with Spain during the period they were around, so they were closer to being terrorists then mercenaries. Jorge Cid 11:38, 2 December 2016 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jorgecid (talkcontribs)

International law...[edit]

Prior to the development of international law among European nations,

It is my understanding that privateering was specifically recognized as something states could do under international law. Certainly privaterring continued for a long time, and international law is generally considered to have begun to develop in the 17th century. Or are we referring to "international law" in some odd, idiosyncratic way? john k 20:25, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Past tense?[edit]

The United States Constitution authorized the U.S. Congress to grant letters of marque and reprisal, as did the Confederate Constitution. The Confederates used privateers during the American Civil War. Britain also used them against the U.S. after the American Revolutionary War.[1]

Authourized is in the psat tense. Does the constitution no longer allow congress to do so?

I'm not so on hot american governmental structure, but perhaps something like this is more accurate: "As then interpreted by Congress, the US Constitution authorized letters of marque and reprisal to be granted," (replacing 'congress' by which ever branch does the interpreting of the constitution). Or maybe: "By the prevailing interpretation of the time, the US Constitution authorized Congress to grant letters [etc etc], as did the Confederate constitution." Or some mishmash of the two. Slightly more longwinded though.
Oh, and as a side note, the current sentence reads like the Confederate constitution authorized US Congress to grant these letters (as would both my rephrasings). Again, I'm not so hot on the american civil war, but is that what's actually meant? Tez 00:41, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Please add Jean Lafitte[edit]

There is already an excellent entry about Jean Lafitte, an American hero who helped Andrew Jackson repel the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Suggest adding Lafitte to the list of notable Privateers with a link.

Also, it would be interesting to note that today the University of New Orleans uses the "Privateers" as its mascot (see it at [1]) and a costume mascot alligator dressed as a privateer is known as "Lafitte." Just looked and there's also a graphic on the wiki page for UNO.

Be bold and add the link yourself. Also, please sign and date your contributions. --Davecampbell 22:52, 31 October 2006 (UTC)

How did privateering become illegal?[edit]

This article lacks something very important which is how and when nations stopped recognising privateering as something legitimate. I believe it was probably towards the end of the 19th century. GS3 11:41, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Treaty of Paris, 1856. if no-one adds a paragraph about this, perhaps i will attempt it. it's a worthwhile detail — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:17, 2 December 2012 (UTC)


As I recollect, Britain and France agreed not to use privateers during the Crimean War, and an agreement was signed by various governments not long after which sought to end the practice. Other governments signed up with the passage of time.

Aodhdubh 22:03, 7 April 2007 (UTC)

That was the 1856 Declaration of Paris. It is, in fact, in the article! The Land (talk) 12:33, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

I looked this up in a law library. While it is true, most European nations outlawed privateering by treaty in the 19th Century-the US never did. So in theory, though very unlikely in practice, the US Congress would still "grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal" under Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution (previous to the Constitution;s adoption individual states like Virginia and Maryland had granted them during the Revolution). Whether a Wikipedia article needs to get into this kind of detail I will leave for other wiser heads. ElijahBosley (talk) 20:07, 14 June 2009 (UTC)


In this section, reference is made to Horatio Hornblower as the creation of author C.S. Forester. However, Hornblower was quite real, and his descendants still hold the title. (talk) 23:36, 18 April 2008 (UTC)

This is interesting; do you have any resources to cite regarding this? If you can point to a government website that shows scans of a relevant Births or Deaths Registry, it may provoke quite an amendment to the article! Empath (talk) 12:20, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

The 'in fiction' section is pretty scant, but I would argue that it doesn't belong in the article. There are probably thousands of references to privateers in books, film, and TV. Few are mentioned here, and the ones present seem pretty arbitrary. I was going to remove it, but I wanted to air it here first.
Also, the 'cultural influence' section needs to be expanded in order to stay. If sports team names are examples of "cultural influence," articles from "Beaver" to "Mudhen" would warrant a 'cultural influence' section. --MattMauler (talk) 12:47, 6 June 2012 (UTC)

Merge with Corsair?[edit]

From the definition, a Corsair seems to be a specific (French) sort of privateer. The "other language" links are a bit confusing a the moment. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:47, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

Incorrect designation of the Hannah[edit]

The article incorrectly mentions "HMS Hannah". This is an incorrect name as the Hannah was not a naval vessel and thus never "His Majesty's Ship". I have thus removed the HMS designation. Rif Winfield (talk) 10:07, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

Citations needed[edit]

A cite to Geoffrey Footner's book Tidewater Triumph (about the origins of the topsail schooner) should accompany the illustration of the topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore. I am considering creating a page for Revolutionary War privateer Jeremiah Yellott, mentioned in Footners book, and will link to this interesting and well written article when I can. ElijahBosley (talk) 20:09, 14 June 2009 (UTC)

Revision needed[edit]

I've been making some piecemeal adjustments but really, the subject of privateering is of considerable historical significance and requires more scope, substance and documenting citation than this. Rather than do a lot of revision and expansion to this article which would be discourteous to its well intentioned author, I will begin piecing together another more thorough page, perhaps under the heading American Privateers.FrederickFolger (talk) 13:30, 16 June 2009 (UTC)

Distinctions Amoung Privateering and Other Similar Actions[edit]

Concur with the compare and contrast to terrorism. Also recommend removing the statement "From a 21st century point of view, privateering was a form of state-sanctioned piracy, as opposed to just state-sanctioned mass murder." The distinctions amoung privateering, piracy and terrorism (at least to be consistent with the Wikipedia articles on those topics) are ones of specificity. Additionally, the timbre of this statement drips of personal opinion.

Piracy is considered to be so heinous because it is an act of "hostis humani generis", an assault on all humankind. Privateering differs from piracy and state-sponsored terrorism in that it is declared by a nation and specifically targeted against other nations within bounds. If CountryX issued letters of marque and reprisal to privateers against commercial shipping of CountryY, commercial shippers of CountryZ would not expect to be detained by those privateers. Nor would other members of CountryY not engaged in commercial shipping (providers of humanitarian aid, research vessels, etc.). Also, although many nations currently have legal statements renouncing their use of privateering, in theory, those nations could not detain a privateer comissioned by a nation who has not (at least not on the authority of they themselves having renounced the act of privateering).

What distinguishes it from regular military action by a nation or the hiring or land-based mercenaries, is that the privateers are specifically authorized for immediate economic gain. In general, members of militaries and mercenaries are contracted and appointed under terms independent of the specific missions they later undertake.

Anyone object to adding those distinctions and removing the equation of privateering to piracy? June1969 (talk) 16:58, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

 :: From Wikipedia: "Those labeled "terrorists" by their opponents rarely identify themselves as such, and typically use other terms or terms specific to their situation, such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, patriot, or any similar-meaning word in other languages and cultures. Jihadi, mujaheddin, and fedayeen are similar Arabic words which have entered the English lexicon. It is common for both parties in a conflict to describe each other as terrorists." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jorgecid (talkcontribs) 17:00, 28 July 2013 (UTC)

Edits of 22 July 2010[edit]

Today, July 22 2010, I edited the opening paragraphs, moving around phrases and sentences, deleting a handful of words, but not changing or deleting anything of significance, at least in my estimation. User:Huey45 reverted all my changes with the explanation "you removed a bit too much information there. Could just add your ideas to the rest?" I don't understand this. What did I remove that was "too much"? I didn't cut a single full sentence, though I moved sentences around and combined them. I cannot spot a single idea that I removed. Since I added no new information except an internal link to the piracy article (which I moved to a more prominent place since I suspect that many use the two terms pirate and privateer interchangeably), I can't add my "ideas to the rest". Huey45, can you explain what you mean by your comment? I stand by what I said when I made the edits: "Reorganized opening paragraphs hopefully to read better and add a link to the pirates entry. Hopefully no meaning was changed." And so I am utterly confused by the reversion. --Bruce Hall (talk) 12:22, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

P.S. I re-wrote the opening paragraphs because to me the current phrasing doesn't really flow. It seems to be more a collection of disjointed points with some repetition and unnecessary words. --Bruce Hall (talk) 15:18, 22 July 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, you replaced a lot of the paragraphs with dumbed-down, less detailed explanations of the same thing, such as the letters of marque and the prisoners of war. That's what I thought was too much. (Huey45 (talk) 00:16, 23 July 2010 (UTC))
I'm sorry. I'm still confused. I don't think that I replaced "a lot of the paragraphs" since I changed very few words but instead re-arranged existing sentences. I may have removed an adjective or two but 95+% of the words are still there. I left the reference to the letters of marque untouched. It is still there in the first sentence. The reference to the prisoners of war is also still there untouched except for a one-word addition to the beginning: I added a "therefore". I also broke the first paragraph into two, creating a new second paragraph which included the prisoners of war sentence. I did so to highlight the fact that privateers were not considered pirates but rather tools of the state, a point that is important enough to get its own paragraph, I think, and at the very top of the article.
I think the problem here is that when one uses the history tab to compare the two revisions, there is a lot of red and it looks like I changed a lot. However reading through the changes, it's clear, at least to my mind, that I changed very little of the meaning and removed very, very few words, as the examples of the sentences on the letters of marque and prisoners of war show. Bruce Hall (talk) 08:16, 23 July 2010 (UTC)
Huey45, perhaps it would help if you quoted the exact words, phrases or sentences that I removed or moved which you think I shouldn't have. That way we can discuss the specifics and get away from generalities (which are so often are open to mis-understanding). --Bruce Hall (talk) 08:31, 23 July 2010 (UTC)
Don't worry, it seems that what you said about the red text was completely true; it gave the impression that you changed a lot more than you really did. (Huey45 (talk) 13:53, 23 July 2010 (UTC))

Anti-Anglo bias[edit]

Why are only the UK & US talked off here? Don't the actions of the Barbary pirates count as privateering when they fought the US twice in Barbary wars, or throughout their grinding raids on European coastlines? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:44, 23 May 2011 (UTC)

William Kidd, for instance, began as a legitimate British privateer but was later hung for piracy.[edit]

Hung? No. Hanged! the terminology is Hanged. Change it! Thank you. (talk) 07:14, 3 April 2012 (UTC)

Done! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:31, 5 April 2012 (UTC)


One aspect of this form of naval war still puzzles me though.

After WW1, the various naval powers, with vast resources at their potential disposal met at various conferences to discuss future naval construction.

The first line of the various agreements reads " Privateering is and remains abolished". So just what was it about privateering that made this the priority category of 20th century naval conference agreements? AT Kunene (talk) 12:44, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

Is it still allowed anywhere?[edit]

The reason it doesn't seem to happen anymore is it would be hard to compete with modern navies and their ships and technology, but do any government still issue letters of marque/privateering licenses? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:08, 25 May 2015 (UTC)

War of 1812[edit]

Recently, I have seen a number of uses of the term "American War of 1812". This appears to be a term in American use only, rather than an internationally-accepted term. I think we ought to stick to the generally-accepted "War of 1812". Heavenlyblue (talk) 21:06, 15 September 2013 (UTC)

It's not an American usage -- I'm not sure where it comes from, but your comment is spot on. I made the change. Not sure why you didn't -- Wikipedia is about bold corrections. (talk) 13:11, 7 October 2014 (UTC)