Maine's Mode of Privateering: A Tale of Fraud and Collusion in the Northeast Borderlands, 1812–1815 release_jrfjlu3yszgp7isuncrdixby4u

by Edward J. Martin

Published in The London Journal of Canadian Studies by UCL Press.

2021   Volume 28


The American declaration of war passed by Congress in June 1812 was followed by a prize act which authorised the issuing of Letters of marque. These commissions or licenses allowed American citizens to fit out privately armed vessels to seize British ships. Although most privateers complied with Congress's instructions, their counterparts operating along the Maine coast used their commissions to further own economic self-interest by orchestrating pre-arranged captures with British merchants in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Since the British government encouraged its subjects to trade with the enemy to undermine the American war effort, American privateers assumed most of the risks. Merchants and mariners from as far away as New York and Connecticut traveled to Maine to trade with the British despite the hazards of detection. As these privateers engaged in fraud, other Americans turned to vigilante violence to uncover and foil these schemes. After the British occupied Eastern Maine in the summer of 1814 trading with the enemy became illegal on the British side of the border. Despite the risks, British merchants continued to engage in trade with the enemy. Ultimately, persistence of conflict and accommodation in the Northeastern Borderlands, the area comprising Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, helped undermined Eastern Maine's allegiance to the United States.
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