privateer


privateer
/pruy'veuh tear"/, n.
1. an armed ship that is privately owned and manned, commissioned by a government to fight or harass enemy ships.
2. privateersman.
v.i.
3. to cruise as a privateer.
[1640-50; PRIVATE + -EER, modeled on volunteer]

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Privately owned vessel commissioned by a state at war to attack enemy ships, usually merchant vessels.

All nations engaged in privateering from the earliest times until the 19th century. Crews were not paid by the government but were entitled to receive portions of the value of any cargo they seized. Limiting privateers to the activities laid down in their commissions was difficult, and the line between privateering and piracy was often blurred. In 1856, by the Declaration of Paris, Britain and other major European countries (except Spain) declared privateering illegal; the U.S. finally repudiated it at the end of the 19th century, and Spain agreed to the ban in 1908. See also buccaneer, Francis Drake, William Kidd, Jean Laffite.

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ship
      privately owned armed vessel commissioned by a belligerent state to attack enemy ships, usually vessels of commerce. Privateering was carried on by all nations from the earliest times until the 19th century. Crews were not paid by the commissioning government but were entitled to cruise for their own profit, with crew members receiving portions of the value of any cargo or shipping that they could wrest from the original owners. Frequently, it was impossible to restrain the activities of privateers within the legitimate bounds laid down in their commissions. Thus, it often became difficult to distinguish between privateers, pirates, corsairs, or buccaneers (buccaneer), many of whom sailed without genuine commissions.

      In the late 16th century, English privateers such as Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake were encouraged or restrained, according to prevailing political conditions. With the growth of a regular navy, however, the British Admiralty began to discourage privateering because it was more popular among sailors than was serving in the navy. At this same period, Dutch Sea Beggars and French Huguenot privateers were active. Throughout the 17th century, English buccaneers in the West Indies, such as Sir Henry Morgan, sometimes sailed as genuine privateers. From 1690, French privateers from Dunkerque (Dunkirk) and Saint-Malo were particularly active against English commerce. During the American Revolution the American colonists found it difficult to form a new navy because more than 1,000 privateers were already licensed. The popularity of privateering continued in the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States when, for example, the U.S. brig Yankee alone seized or destroyed $5,000,000 worth of English property. France used many privateers during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

      In 1856, by the Declaration of Paris (Paris, Treaty of), Great Britain and the other major European countries (except Spain) declared privateering illegal. The U.S. government refused to accede, holding that the small size of its navy made reliance on privateering necessary in time of war. The rise of the American navy at the end of the 19th century and the realization that privateering belonged to an earlier form of warfare prompted the United States to recognize the necessity of finally abolishing it. Spain agreed to the ban in 1908.

      At the Hague Peace (Hague Convention) Conference of 1907 it was then stipulated, and has since become part of international law, that armed merchant ships must be listed as warships, though there have been various interpretations of the word armed. The ambiguous status of the privateer has thus ceased to exist—the state now assumes full responsibility for all converted ships engaged in military operations.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Privateer — Pri va*teer (pr[imac] v[.a]*t[=e]r ), n. [From {Private}.] 1. An armed private vessel which bears the commission of the sovereign power to cruise against the enemy. See {Letters of marque}, under {Marque}. [1913 Webster] 2. The commander of a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Privateer — Privateer, SC U.S. Census Designated Place in South Carolina Population (2000): 2118 Housing Units (2000): 797 Land area (2000): 8.178530 sq. miles (21.182295 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.060744 sq. miles (0.157325 sq. km) Total area (2000):… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Privateer, SC — U.S. Census Designated Place in South Carolina Population (2000): 2118 Housing Units (2000): 797 Land area (2000): 8.178530 sq. miles (21.182295 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.060744 sq. miles (0.157325 sq. km) Total area (2000): 8.239274 sq. miles …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • privateer — ☆ privateer [prī΄vətirz′mən] n. pl. privateersmen [prī΄və tirmənprī΄və tir′] n. [< PRIVAT(E) + EER] 1. a privately owned and manned armed ship commissioned by a government in a war to attack and capture enemy ships, esp. merchant ships 2. a… …   English World dictionary

  • Privateer — Pri va*teer , v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Privateered} (pr[imac] v[.a]*t[=e]rd ); p. pr. & vb. n. {Privateering}.] To cruise in a privateer. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • privateer — A privately owned vessel that is commissioned by one power to attack merchant ships from a hostile power. The term also refers to the commander or a crew member of such a vessel. Dictionary from West s Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005.… …   Law dictionary

  • Privateer — (engl., spr. Preiwätihr), der Caper, das Caperschiff …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Privateer — (engl., spr. praiwĕĭīr), s. Kaperei …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • privateer — 1660s, originally private man of war (1640s), from PRIVATE (Cf. private), probably modeled on volunteer, buccaneer …   Etymology dictionary

  • privateer — *pirate, freebooter, buccaneer, corsair …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • privateer — ► NOUN chiefly historical ▪ an armed ship owned by private individuals, holding a government commission and authorized for use in war …   English terms dictionary


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