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1) n. money paid to a kidnapper in demand for the release of the person abducted. Ransom money can also be paid to return a valuable object such as a stolen painting. 2) v. to pay money to an abductor to return the person held captive. (See: kidnapping, abduction)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

RANSOM, contracts, war. An agreement made between the commander of a capturing vessel with the commander of a vanquished vessel, at sea, by which the former permits the latter to depart with his vessel, and gives him a safe conduct, in consideration of a sum of money, which the commander of the vanquished vessel, in his own name, and in the name of the owners of his vessel and cargo, promises to pay at a future time named, to the other.
     2. This contract is usually made in writing in duplicate, one of which is kept by the vanquished vessel which is its safe conduct; and the other by the conquering vessel, which is properly called ransom bill.
     3. This contract, when made in good faith, and not locally prohibited, is valid, and may be enforced. Such contracts have never been prohibited in this country. 1 Kent, Com. 105. In England they are generally forbidden. Chit. Law of Nat. 90 91; Poth. Tr. du Dr. de Propr. n. 127. Vide 2 Bro. Civ. Law, 260; Wesk. 435; 7 Com. Dig. 201; Marsh. Ins. 431; 2 Dall. 15; 15 John. 6; 3 Burr. 1734. The money paid for the redemption of such property is also called the ransom.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
"It's like you are being held to ransom in your own office," said Jim, at the Edgbaston base of the UK's longest established independent record company.
He said: "We will not be held to ransom and pay over the odds because that is the road to ruin.
RICKY SBRAGIA has warned Sunderland will neither be held to ransom by sellers nor treated as a charity by buyers during this month's transfer window.
But the board will not be held to ransom or let the club go bust.
THOUSAND Sof pubs are pulling the plug on live football after being "held to ransom" by Sky, campaigners said yesterday.
It's a no brainer we need to get on with Nuclear so we cannot be held to ransom by oil producers
Once again, the punter is unfairly being held to ransom, whilst the industry sorts itself out.
MOTORISTS say they are being 'held to ransom' when filling up at motorway service stations and want prices to be capped.
He added: "The people being held to ransom here are the 4,000 people in this pension scheme.
Passengers say they were "held to ransom" for six hours on the tarmac in Vienna after the chartered Comtel Air flight from Armistar stopped off to refuel in Austria.
Transport convener Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, said: "This city will not be held to ransom by this contractor any longer.
EFFORTS to secure a legally-binding climate change deal failed last week because talks were "held to ransom" by a small number of countries, Gordon Brown said yesterday.