Item #5000787 Letter of Marque issued to George Garnett Huske Munnings, Captain of the Courier, "for the said Schooner against France" LETTER OF MARQUE.

Letter of Marque issued to George Garnett Huske Munnings, Captain of the Courier…
Letter of Marque issued to George Garnett Huske Munnings, Captain of the Courier, "for the said Schooner against France"

London: 25 September 1811.

Manuscript on vellum, approximately 555 x 650 mm., engraved decorative border at head including a portrait of George III within its large initial letter; attached blue paper seal, remnants of paper wafer seal attached at base.

The war against Napoleon privatised: "pirates with papers"

An excellent and interesting example of the privatisation of war during the age of sail. A Letter of Marque was a document that authorised its recipient to attack enemy shipping on a private (hence 'privateer') basis. Munnings is here authorised to attack French shipping at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. He has 'equipped furnished and victualled a Ship called the Courier (a Schooner) of the Burthen of about One hundred and Fifty Tons, foreign built Square Stern no Head and two Masts mounted with Six Cannonades carrying Shot of Six Pounds weight and no Swivel guns and navigated with Fifteen Men...' and is authorised 'to set forth in a warlike manner' and 'by force of arms to apprehend, seize and take ships, vessels and goods' belonging to the Fourth Republic of France.

An excellent and interesting example of the privatisation of war during the age of sail. A Letter of Marque was a document that authorised its recipient to attack enemy shipping on a private (hence 'privateer') basis. Munnings is here authorised to attack French shipping at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. He has 'equipped furnished and victualled a Ship called the Courier (a Schooner) of the Burthen of about One hundred and Fifty Tons, foreign built Square Stern no Head and two Masts mounted with Six Cannonades carrying Shot of Six Pounds weight and no Swivel guns and navigated with Fifteen Men...' and is authorised 'to set forth in a warlike manner' and 'by force of arms to apprehend, seize and take ships, vessels and goods' belonging to the Fourth Republic of France.

The Courier evidently got busy, as in 1812 we can see Munnings being sued in the High Court of Appeals for Prizes by a ship broker, Thomas Baker, and Jacob Brandon, a merchant, for the Courier having taken the Debora, a Prussian ship, and her cargo (source: "Making of modern law. Trials, 1600-1926"). Presumably his offence was that he had attacked a ship of a nationality for which he had not been authorised.

Munnings had had similar Letters of Marque aboard his smaller ship the Repulse in 1793, 1794 and 1795. He was also associated with the transportation of convicts to New South Wales, his ship the Indian, for example, having brought out 200 convicts in 1819, one of whom was James Hardy Vaux on his second time round.

This evocative document dates from almost exactly the period in which Patrick O'Brian set his great novel The Letter of Marque (1988), the twelfth historical novel in the superb Aubrey–Maturin series.

Recorded by Michael Dun in his "Register of Letters of Marque against France 1793-1815" (1812privateers.org/Great_Britain/marque1793-1815.html).

Condition Report: Slight discolouration and loss at the old folds, endorsement panel on verso browned.

Price (AUD): $3,100.00

US$2,013.63   Other currencies

Ref: #5000787

Condition Report