Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    1. In one of its original meanings, this term denoted a tribute paid by English dwellers along the Scottish border to influential chieftains of Scotland, as a condition of securing immunity from raids of marauders and border thieves.
    2. It also designated rents payable in cattle, grain, work, and the like. Such rents were called "black-mail," (reditus nigri,) in distinction from white rents, (blanche firmes,) which were rents paid in silver.
    3. The extortion of money by threats or overtures towards criminal prosecution or the destruction of a man's reputation or serial standing. In common parlance, the term is equivalent to, and synonymous with, "extortion,"—the exaction of money, either for the performance of a duty, the prevention of an injury, or the exereise of an influence. It supposes the service to be unlawful, and the payment involuntary. Not infrequently it is extorted by threats, or by operating upon the fears or the credulity, or by promises to conceal, or offers to expose, the weaknesses, the follies, or the crimes of the victim. Bdsall v. Brooks, 3 Rob. (N. Y.) 284, 17 Abb. Prac. 221; Life Ass'n v. Boogher, 3 Mo. App. 173 ; Hess v. Sparks, 44 Kan. 465, 24 Pac. 979, 21 Am. St. Rep. 300; People v. Thompson, 97 N. Y. 313; Utterback v. State, 153 Ind. 545, 55 N. El 420; Mitchell v. Sharon (C. C.) 51 Fed. 424.