Article I of the United States Constitution lists "grant[ing] Letters of Marque and Reprisal" as an explicit power of the Congress. Are these still being issued? If not, when was the last one of these issued?

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    – MCW
    Dec 16, 2020 at 17:15
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    Letters of Marque covers much of this. mysticseaport has a more concise treatment. It appears that they probably were not issued after the war of 1812.
    – MCW
    Dec 16, 2020 at 17:19
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    The CSA issued letters of marque during the Civil War, and according to the Wikipedia article on Confederate privateers this is the last time they were used. Does the article I linked to answer your question?
    – Spencer
    Dec 16, 2020 at 21:55
  • @costrom You did not provide evidence of prior research. This question can be searched up on google (Search: "when was the last us letter of marque") and the first result will exactly answer your question.
    – Tardy
    Mar 4, 2021 at 16:18

2 Answers 2


The last time the United States Congress issued a letter of Marque and Reprisal was during the War of 1812. The last time they considered it was during Andrew Jackson's administration. The Declaration of Paris is an international law signed onto by over fifty nations. Created in 1856, the United States abides by the provisions thereto. It prohibits the act of privateering. Thus, although Congress have the Constitutional authority to grant letters of Marque, they essentially cannot do so without violating international law.


The Supreme Court stated in dicta in several cases that treaties may not alter the Constitution or authorize acts that the Constitution expressly prohibits.

Doe v. Braden, 57 U.S. (16 How.) 635, 657 (1853) ( “The treaty is . . . a law made by the proper authority, and the courts of justice have no right to annul or disregard any of its provisions, unless they violate the Constitution of the United States.”

The Cherokee Tobacco, 78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 616, 620 (1870) ( “It need hardly be said that a treaty cannot change the Constitution or be held valid if it be in violation of that instrument.”

The US never ratified the Declaration of Paris, as required by the Constitution. The US may abide by the provisions regarding privateering at the US's pleasure. Additionally, where international law conflicts with the Constitution, the US does not defer to international law.

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