island was now peopled, and I thought myself very rich in subjects;
and it was a merry reflection, which I frequently made, how like
a king I looked. First of all, the whole country was my own mere
property, Baso that I had an undoubted right of dominion. Secondly,
my people were perfectly subjected. I was absolute lord and lawgiver,
they all owed their lives to me, and were ready to lay down their lives,
if there had been occasion of it, for me.
This passage, from Chapter XXV, shows
us Crusoe’s astonishing ability throughout the novel to claim possession
of things. He sells his fellow slave Xury to the Portuguese captain
even though he has no claim of ownership over the boy. He seizes
the contents of two wrecked ships and takes Friday as his servant
immediately after meeting him. Most remarkably, he views the island
itself as “my own mere property” over which he has “an undoubted
right of dominion.” We may wonder why he has no reason to at least doubt his
right of dominion, but his faith in his property rights seems absolute.
Moreover, Crusoe’s conception of property determines his understanding
of politics. He jokes about his “merry reflection” of looking like
a king, but it seems more than a merry thought when he refers to
“my people” being “perfectly subjected.” Kingship is like ownership
for Crusoe. He does not mention any duties or obligations toward
his people. His subjects are for him like his possessions: he imagines
them grateful for being owned, expecting nothing further from Crusoe.
Of course, this view is only Crusoe’s presumption. It is hard to
believe that the Spaniard sincerely sees himself as “perfectly subjected”
to Crusoe, even if Crusoe does save his life. Nevertheless, Crusoe’s
personal point of view dominates the novel and shows us how deeply
colonialism depended on a self-righteous, proprietary way of thinking.