Letter of Marque
A Letter of Marque and Reprisal is an official warrant or commission from a government authorizing the use of force to discourage or prevent piracy.
- A private ship and its captain and crew operating under a letter of marque and reprisal was called a Privateer.
- It is a government document and piece of legislation allowing interstellar force to be used under specified conditions.
It is an official warrant or commission from a government authorizing the designated agent to search, seize, or destroy specified assets or personnel belonging to a party which had committed some offense under the laws of states against the assets or citizens of the issuing state, and was usually used to authorize private parties to raid and capture merchant shipping of an enemy.
Letters of Marque
A Letter of Marque is a formal statement of the warrant was to authorize the agent to pass beyond the borders ("marque", meaning frontier), and there to search, seize, or destroy assets or personnel of the hostile foreign party ("reprisal"), to a degree and in a way that was proportional to the original offense. It was considered a retaliatory measure short of a full declaration of war, and by maintaining a rough proportionality, was 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 had to have a certain degree of specificity, to ensure that the agent did not exceed his authority and the intent of the issuing authority.
Whether the actions of a ship operating under a Letter of Marque are or are not legitimate is a matter that can be brought before the Imperial Admiralty Courts. A ruling of these courts can be sought to confirm the legitimacy of any prize taken. Once condemned as a prize by the court, the previous owner has no further legal recourse to recover the vessel.
The Long Night was such a turbulent, chaotic period of instability that the nascent Third Imperium and the Sylean Federation explicitly emphasized the security of the starways in the Warrant of Restoration. There is a widespread expectation that the Imperial Navy will police the starways, build large fleets of Patrol Ships, and maintain a widespread level of prosperity within Imperial Space . This expectation is based upon Article IV of the Warrant of Restoration which explicitly states that
- No member shall engage in piracy or smuggling, nor allow its territory to be used for piracy or smuggling, nor shall it issue letters of marque or reprisal or other permission for ships operating within its territory to engage in piracy or smuggling.
This restriction has been worked around by carefully noting that letters of marque are issued for purposes other then piracy or smuggling.
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