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Barry E. Frye

Privateers and Letters of Marque in North Carolina During the American Revolution.

(Under the direction of Professor William N. Still, Jr.) Department of History, November 1980.

The purpose of this study is to determine if there existed in North Carolina during the American Revolution significant privateering activity. If such activity did take place, it is then necessary to learn how their presence affected North Carolina during the war.

North Carolina did have many privateers and perhaps should be considered as one of the more active centers for privateering in the country. Blessed with geographic advantages and neglect from the British, North Carolina offered a deposit site for privateers from other states as well as its own.

The development of the state's privateering forces coincided and was greatly affected by its wartime trade. Due to its commercial opportunities, the variation of privateer known as a letter of marque dominated in North Carolina. This type of vessel not only had a license to raid the commerce of the enemy but was also involved in trade.

As both wartime trade and privateering activity began to peak during the early years of the war, large numbers of British privateers, often loyalists, descended upon the coastline. Their presence became so threatening that privateering in North Carolina never quite recovered.

The effects of the large numbers of privateers were almost completely economic. Militarily, they were never a threat to the British navy. However, in terms of the merchandise that was brought into the state, the privateers were a factor in preventing a complete paralysis of the economy of the state.