Skip to comments.SLEEPLESS VIGILANCE - THE "LETTERS OF MARQUE" CLAUSE
Posted on 01/13/2007 3:11:14 PM PST by SLEEPLESS VIGILANCE
By Worth Baldwin
14 August 1999
"You have the highest of human trusts committed to your care. Providence has showered on this favored land blessings without number, and has chosen you as the guardians of freedom, to preserve it for the benefit of the human race. May He who holds in His hands the destiny of nations make you worthy of the favors He has bestowed, and may He enable you, with pure hearts and hands and SLEEPLESS VIGILANCE, to guard and defend to the end of time the great charge He has committed to your keeping." - Andrew Jackson
THE "LETTERS OF MARQUE" CLAUSE: ADDITIONAL PROTECTION FOR THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS
Americans should never read the U.S. Constitution. They should study it. Our Constitution was specifically and brilliantly designed to keep our government under control and keep us free. In fact, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are so exquisitely crafted that millions of Americans (including myself) believe that, like the Bible, the U.S. Constitution was Divinely inspired (however, unlike the Bible, it was not Divinely authored. That's why it can be amended, although experience has proven that we usually regret doing so).
One of the primary freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution (as well as the constitutions of most states) is the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Most Americans are undoubtedly aware of the Second Amendment, which states that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". This simple, clear, and eloquent statement should be more than adequate to deter any attempt to restrict our liberty. Tragically, we all know that the enemies of American freedom have used every underhanded rhetorical device they can think of to distort the meaning of the Second Amendment. In recent years, they have resorted to an extremely dangerous and diabolical device called the "sporting purposes test". Under this twisted anti-Constitutional philosophy, ownership of certain weapons can be prohibited if they are found by the government to be "unsuitable for sporting purposes." The Gun Grabbers contend that, since citizens still have access to "sporting" weapons, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has not been violated.
Of course, the "sporting purposes" test is pernicious for several important reasons. First, it trivializes the Right to Keep and Bear Arms by implying that this essential liberty exists only so that we can engage in sport hunting activities, participate in competitive shooting matches, punch holes in paper targets, and plink at tin cans and other rubbish. All lovers of life and liberty instinctively know better. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms was given to us by God to facilitate our self-defense against criminal attack, whether by common thugs or oppressive governments.
Second, the "sporting purposes" test allows governments to restrict or prohibit access to the very types of military arms that would be most useful for defense against either street crime or despotism.
And third, the "sporting purposes" test was invented by the Nazis! The Nazi origin of this concept has been thoroughly documented by the excellent pro-gun group Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO), in a new book entitled Gun Control - Gateway to Tyranny. In this book, JPFO translates the German gun control laws enacted by Hitler's Nazi regime into English, and then compares the Nazi gun control laws side-by-side with the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended. According to JPFO, this analysis proves conclusively that our current gun control laws were patterned after those used by Hitler's Nazis. One specific aspect of the Nazi firearms law that was appropriated by the authors of GCA '68 is the "sporting purposes" test.
Of course, our Founding Fathers would strongly disapprove of such nonsense. During the debates surrounding the adoption of the Second Amendment, there is no mention whatsoever of "sporting purposes" (indeed, the shooting sports as we know them today did not exist when the Bill of Rights was ratified). However, the Founders did emphasize over and over again that the Right to Keep and Bear Arms was intended to guarantee that American citizens would always have access to military type weapons, so that we could both deter the establishment of oppressive governments and destroy such regimes if deterrence failed.
Examples of this philosophy abound. Thomas Jefferson said that "The strongest reason for the people to retain the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." Jefferson also stated that "It is the right and duty of an American to be at all times armed", and advised his fellow citizens to "...let your gun be the constant companion of all your walks." Tench Coxe, fund raiser and financial backer of the American Revolution, prominent Federalist spokesman, and close friend of James Madison, wrote that "The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people. Every terrible implement of the soldier is the birth-right of an American." There can be no doubt that our Founding Fathers intended for us to own and operate military weapons, so that we could effectively defend our country and our liberty.
But how far should we take this concept? Was Coxe speaking rhetorically about "every terrible implement of the soldier" being our birth-right? Did the Founders mean to limit the Right to Keep and Bear Arms to small arms, possibly supplemented by other man-portable weapons like hand grenades? Is there any evidence in the Constitution that the Founders had even bigger weapons in mind?
The staggering answer to this question is "yes", and it is found under Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which defines the powers of Congress. Among many other things, Article 1, Section 8 authorizes Congress to "...grant letters of marque and reprisal." This statement, which was part of the Constitution even before the Bill of Rights was adopted, provides penetrating insight into the original intent of the Founding Fathers with regard to the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
So what's a "letter of marque and reprisal?", you ask. Well, according to my American Standard Dictionary (1968 pre-political correctness edition), a "letter of marque and reprisal" (usually called simply a "letter of marque") is "a license granted by a state to a private citizen to capture the merchant ships of another nation". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that private citizens don't venture forth to capture other nations' ships armed with only a flintlock musket. To capture other ships on the high seas, you must own and operate an armed ocean-going vessel. Indeed, many private citizens have operated their own warships, and made good livings raiding and plundering enemy merchant ships with the full blessing of Uncle Sam. Such ships were called "privateers", which my dictionary defines as "a privately owned warship commissioned by a government to fight or harass enemy shipping". According to the Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia, the U.S. Government employed privateers during both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. During the Civil War, Congress authorized the President to commission privateers, but this power was not exercised. The Confederacy, however, being critically short of warships, did make use of privateers.
It is therefore evident that the Founders of this nation intended for private citizens, operating their own warships, to augment our Navy in time of war. At the time the Constitution was written, the warship was the most elaborate, sophisticated, and formidable weapon system on earth. Even today, warships remain among the most potent packages of mobile military capability and firepower.
The American Founders trusted individual citizens to own and operate any and all military weapons, up to and including warships. When Tench Coxe said that our birth-rights as Americans include "every terrible implement of the soldier", he meant it literally.
In this context, the fact that we are now seriously debating whether American citizens should be allowed to own relatively low-powered small arms such as AK-47s, AR-15s, UZIs, and handguns demonstrates how far we have already come down the road to total tyranny.
The next time some ignoramus tells you that our Founding Fathers never envisioned "military assault weapons" in the hands of private citizens, you can reply that they most certainly did, up to and including privately owned warships operating on the high seas. When they ask you to prove it, you will have your chance to introduce another citizen to the other "right to arms" protection provided in our Constitution: the "letters of marque" clause.
Until next time, do right, shoot straight, and keep your powder dry!
Wow, that's an eye opener.
Can this be used to repeal gun-control laws as unconstitutional (as if the 2nd amendment wasn't enough for that lol)?
I want letters of marque and reprisal for my boat.
Should be extended to aircraft, IMHO.
When I'm in charge I will make it so.
Just like the first was extended to typewriters and TV, the second should be extended to air and land vehicles. I'll make it apply to ATVs and unmanned vehicles too.
I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of power and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and power-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a power of power; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned Officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon; and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound; and every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.Under the United States Code, all males between 18 and 45, who are not already in the military (with certain exceptions) are currently members of the militia. Why was this never repealed? Because it is the basis of the draft. There is no "selective service" clause in the Constitution. The only authority that Congress and the President have in the area of compelling citizens to take up arms, is their power to call the Militia into federal service. No militia == no draft
The letters of marque and reprise clause of the US Constitution was superceded by a treaty banning such in the 1860s I believe.
Prior to the US Civil War there was an effort by the major maritime states to ban or restrict letters of marque and reprise, an effort that was resisted by the US at the time. The US position was based on the US not having much of a Navy, privateers could be a useful augmentation to US naval power.
Following the US Civil War and coincident with technological developments that made privateers mostly moot (armored warships, steam power, rifled cannon firing exploding shells) and the Union experience of Confederate commerce raiders, the US position changed and she adhered to the treaty.
Is this newbie trying to steal your thunder?
I know that you probably have seen this thread already, but just in case, consider yourself PINGED.
Hey, at least he's defending God-given, unalienable rights.
I still want to be a privateer.
LOL! It's pretty sad we have to make sure our sources are from far enough in the past not to be sullied with PC-ism, isn't it?
Here's a relevant little tidbit I came across recently
In this case the letters of marque and reprisal (words used as synonymous, the latter (reprisal) signifying, a taking in return, the former (letters of marque) the passing the frontiers in order to such taking,) contain an authority to seize the bodies or goods of the subjects of the offending state, wherever they may be found, until satisfaction is made for the injury.
Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 1833
I guess it should surprise me that government is still questioning the RKBA, but a solid rebuttal to that assertion is simple-
If the courts have found that the police cannot be held legally liable for protecting the citizenry, then government can have NO legal authority to prevent that citizenry from protecting itself....whether we choose to use a firearm or a frying pan is OUR business, not the governments.
'Letter' was the theme of a novel. Wasn't it Vince Flynn's first one?
Well, OK. But no pouffy sleeved shirts.
Treaties CANNOT override the Constitution. The power to make treaties was given to the President by the People, in the Constitution. The power to ratify treaties was given to the Senate by the People, in the Constitution. The Constitution can only be changed by the People, acting through 3/4 of the state legislators, or via state delegations to a 2nd Constitutional Convention (the latter of which is, at present, only theoretical, as a 2nd one has never been called...and I hope it never is).
In short, the creator cannot be overridden by the created. Treaties can be found unconstitutional - what would you think of a treaty that revoked equal rights for women and all non-Muslims, and which instituted Sharia Law as the supreme law of the land?
Well first you forgot that under Article V the Constitution can be amended by a 2/3rds majority of both houses of Congress. Proposed amendments are then sent to the states for ratification, adoption being contingent upon majority votes in the legislatures of 3/4s of the states or a majority vote in 3/4s of ratifying conventions called for the purpose of considering the proposed amendment(s). The method of ratification is proposed by Congress.
The 3/4s requirement is for 3/4s of the legislatures or conventions, not the legislators or convention members voting, a simple majority there is all that is required for adoption of the proposed amendment(s).
You are correct that 2/3rds of the several states can call a
convention for the purpose of amending the constitution.
I see no reason to fear another convention, any action taken there by majority vote would require the same super majority of 3/4s of the states.
For your view regarding treaties versus the Constitution I refer you to Article VI of the Constitution:
"...and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the US, shall be the supreme law of the land..."
Treaties, as you point out have to be ratified by the Senate. Key here is not to elect softheads or traitors, no?
As you point out, treaties can be over-ridden as un-Constitutional. The same constitution that establishes the Supreme Court defines the jurisdiction of that court to include treaties among other things.
What would I think of a treaty revoking the rights of women and non-Muslims and instituting Sharia law?
About as much as I think of straw man arguments.
About as much as I think of straw man arguments.
What I stated wasn't a straw-man argument, it was an illustration of how a treaty cannot override the Constitution. Granted, it is a rather extreme example, but it is the point that counts - treaties cannot supercede the Constitution. That was the point of my entire post.
Sigh...pearls before swine I guess.
The 1856 Declaration of Paris was signed by diplomats from Austria, France and Great Britain. US participation was initially rejected by the Buchanan administration. The Lincoln administration adhered to the Declaration in an attempt to limit potential Confederate naval power.
This adherence to the Declaration of Paris laid the legal basis for the Alabama claims settlement since Britain, a party to the Declaration, permitted the construction and purchase of a warship by a party it did not recognize as an independant nation-state, only a co-belligerant.
Among other things the declaration abolished prize courts. This prevented the condemnation and sale of captured vessels and cargoes and the division of the proceeds between crews, financial backers and national governments. This removed the profit incentive for private parties to finance warships. The prospect of being hanged for piracy provided further disincentive for those that might think to officer or crew such vessels.
I said believe because I didn't have the exact date, the treaty in question does indeed exist. Ever heard of a nation, ANY nation flagging privateers since the mid/early 19th century? No? Not even one? Didn't think so.
I further believe you have your head stuck in your nether regions. I suggest you grab your ears and pull firmly, I believe this may help free the object in question, of course if you aren't going to use it you may as well leave it there.
Here endeth the lesson.
Here endeth the lesson.
I'd say class is still in session.
Privateers in Charleston 1793-1796
By the early nineteenth century, however, privateering finally came to be recognized for the incorrigible institution it was, and in 1856 it was swept away by the Treaty of Paris, to which, it is interesting to note, the United States and Spain did not subscribe.
Don't believe I said "ratify" did I? No, I said "adhered", as does the Wikipedia article you cited (hint: you have to actually read and comprehend what you cite and what others post). Now run along, I don't have enough hairs left to be splitting them with you.
Your silence is deafening.