Lake Champlain Maritime Museum Logo; Click to return to our Home Page.

Letter of Marque

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: War of 1812

Grade Level: 6-12

Common Core Standards
R.6-12.1. Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
R.6-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

Content Areas: Reading, Social Studies

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minutes

Learning Goals: Students will examine a document typical of the early 19th Century.

Description/Sequence:

  1. Discuss or have this lesson follow the lesson on Privateers. Introduce the Letter of Marque as the official document authorizing private ship owners to act in a war.
  2. Have students examine the image of the original document. Guiding questions could include.
    • Why are some words printed and others written in?
    • Why are some words larger than others?
    • Were there few or many letters produced? Why do you think so?
  3. Have students read the text of the letter independently, as a small group, or together as a class.
  4. Have students answer the questions independently or as a small group.
  5. When students have had a chance to answer the questions, have them share their responses. The teacher should correct any errors and resolve any disagreements.

Assessments: Collect and assess the accuracy of responses.

Materials/Resources:
Letter of Marque worksheet (pdf)

Special Considerations: Younger students may benefit from a discussion of legal language. Identifying the meaning of legal or archaic terms before or during the reading will support fluency and comprehension.

Extensions: Students may want to find other examples of Letters of Marque in digital records on-line.
Students might be interested to research how private soldiers, “contractors,” “mercenaries,” are used in warfare today.

Notes: This Letter of Marque is a reproduction of one housed at the Navy Department library. See an image online: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/manuscript/marque.htm