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    [War of 1812]. James Monroe Document Signed as Secretary of State. One page with partial print, January 21, 1814, 7" x 10." To the Collector of Customs, Baltimore, signed "Jas Monroe." Department of State broadside forbidding customs collectors to issue licenses to private vessels manned by fewer than twenty officers and men.

    "Sir,
    The President directs, that in the future you issue no commissions to private armed vessels, unless they have a complement of at least twenty officers and men, and an armament in proportion to that number of persons: Nor even then, without the construction, equipment, and preparation of the vessel, shall manifestly indicate the properties and design of a cruiser. He directs, moreover, that you immediately revoke all commissions heretofore issued by you to those of less effective force. In cases of applications hereafter for commissions for vessels of this inferior class, you are to report the same to this department, with a statement of all the circumstances within your knowledge, that may lead to a probable estimate of the real objects of such small cruisers.
    "

    Privateering was critical for the American war effort, with privateers capturing between 1,200 to 2,000 British merchant vessels compared to approximately 250 captured by the U.S. Navy during the three years of the War of 1812. While some privateers were privately owned, most were owned by consortiums of men of financial means who split investment costs, profits or losses, and received compensation if their ship made profits. If U.S. courts determined that a ship captured by a privateer was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans. The U.S. government took a large cut of the proceeds off the top as customs duties. All privateers carried letters of marque or commissions, issued by U.S. customs officials, which identified the vessel, its home port, its owners and officers, number of men, and length of voyage. If any of this information changed, a new letter of marque or commission was required. Privateers tended to regulate all activities of the ship, particularly those of an illegal nature that would embarrass the United States. Privateers that participated in illegal or questionable behavior ran the risk of having their licenses revoked by the U.S. government. Such activities resulted in President Madison's directive circulated by Secretary of State Monroe to various customs officials, including the one at Baltimore.

    The British blockade had a devastating effect on the American economy and largely prevented the U.S. Navy from getting to sea. Thus the privateers' war on British shipping was the only way America court hurt Great Britain. The success of the privateers became legendary and their financial and psychological impact on British merchants may have played a role in curbing British enthusiasm for continuing the war against the United States.

    Condition: Folded, with scattered foxing and toning. Glue residue along lower left edge. Very good.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2016
    19th Wednesday
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