Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11

Document 3

Continental Congress

Apr. 1781Journals 19:361

Be it ordained, and it is hereby ordained, by the United States in Congress assembled, that the following instructions be observed by the captains or commanders of private armed vessels commissioned by letters of marque or general reprisals, or otherwise, by the authority of the United States in Congress assembled:

I. You may by force of arms attack, subdue, and seize all ships, vessels and goods, belonging to the King or Crown of Great Britain, or to his subjects, or others inhabiting within any of the territories or possessions of the aforesaid King of Great Britain, on the high seas, or between high-water and low-water marks. And you may also annoy the enemy by all means in your power, by land as well as by water, taking care not to infringe or violate the laws of nations, or laws of neutrality.

II. You are to pay a sacred regard to the rights of neutral powers, and the usage and customs of civilized nations; and on no pretence whatever, presume to take or seize any ships or vessels belonging to the subjects of princes or powers in alliance with these United States; except they are employed in carrying contraband goods or soldiers to our enemies; and in such case you are to conform to the stipulations contained in the treaties subsisting between such princes or powers and these states: and you are not to capture, seize or plunder any ships or vessels of our enemies, being under the protection of neutral coasts, nations, or princes, under the pains and penalties expressed in a proclamation issued by the Congress of the United States, the 9th day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight.

III. You shall permit all neutral vessels freely to navigate on the high seas, or coasts of America, except such as are employed in carrying contraband goods or soldiers to the enemies of these United States.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11, Document 3
The University of Chicago Press

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774--1789. Edited by Worthington C. Ford et al. 34 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904--37.

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