This term originally meant the thing or goods saved from shipwreck or other loss; and in that sense it is generally to be understood in our old books. But it is at present more frequently understood to mean the compensation made to those by whose means the ship or goods have been saved from the effects of shipwreck, fire, pirates, enemies, or any other loss or misfortune.
This compensation, which is now usually made in money, was, before the use of money became general, made by a delivery of part of the effects saved.
When a ship and cargo, or any part thereof, are saved at sea by the exertions of any person from impending perils, or are recovered after an actual abandonment or loss, such persons are denominated salvors; they are entitled to a compensation for their services, which is called salvage.
As soon as they take possession of property for the purpose of preserving it, as if they find a ship derelict at sea, or if they recapture it, or if they go on board a ship in distress, and take possession with the assent of the master or other person in possession, they are deemed boua fide possessors, and their possession cannot be lawfully displaced. They have a lien on the property for their salvage, which the, laws of all maritime countries will respect and enforce. Salvors are responsible not only for good faith, but for reasonable diligence in their custody of the salvage property.