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Christopher Columbus

A posthumous portrait of Columbus

Christopher Columbus (born 31 October 1450 or 30 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was an Italian explorer and navigator known for his accidental discovery of the Americas. His voyage started when he was trying to search for the East Indies in an effort to trade with India. He was also credited for spreading the Christian religion to the inhabitants of the island upon which he thought were the East Indies. He is known as one of the greatest explorers of all time, and has a holiday (Columbus Day) named after him.

However, he also had a morally dark side. Columbus was charged with the torturing and the genocide of most of the natives in the Bahamas, and he was also believed to have initiated slave trading with other people involving the Natives of the Bahamas archipelago. He is seen by some as a brave hero and by others as a murderous villain.

History

Born in Genoa, Columbus became interested in the problems of the Ottoman powers controlling all the trade routes from the east. Believing there to be a sea route to the silk and spices of Asia, Columbus petitioned to multiple monarch's in Europe. Eventually King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella agreed to support him, using borrowed Money, Columbus set off on his journey. He committed his first true act of villainy before arriving even arriving. The Monarch's of Spain offered a lifetime pension to the first man to spot land. Another sailor made it, but Columbus sole the discovery claiming he had spotted a light earlier, which must have been a fire so he got the reward. Arriving in the East Indies and finding gold, Columbus declared his discovery a success, he declared the island Spanish property and then he took around a hundred natives back to Spain, planning to sell all the natives into slavery to help repay his debts. However, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella forbid him from enslaving there new subjects. Likewise it soon turned out there was little gold on the island, as such his great achievement was lessened considerably.

Columbus symbolizes all that the left despises, a white, heterosexual, Catholic Christian man, an “imperialist” and “capitalist.”  Russell Means, an American Indian activist, epitomizes this attitude when he says of Columbus that he makes Hitler look like “a juvenile delinquent.”

While it would be dishonest to characterize Columbus as a saint or deny that his discovery of those lands that would one day be referred to by the world as “the Americas” came at the cost of injustices, it is at least as dishonest to depict him as the villain that the left would have us believe he is.

Not long after his first encounter with the indigenous peoples, Columbus wrote to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that “they are meek and know no evil.”  The Arawak-speaking tribes are without religion, he said, but neither is it accurate to describe them as “idolaters.”  “They are very trusting,” Columbus continued, and “believe there is a God in Heaven [.]”

In fact, the indigenous peoples believed that the Europeans were from Heaven.

Columbus concluded by imploring the King and Queen to approve of the explorers’ attempts to “make them Christians.”

Columbus, then, esteemed the first Indians with whom he had contact. And the feeling was mutual.

As it turns out, they were happy to have met up with the Spaniards because, contrary to what PC revisionists would have us think, the Taino Indians sought protection from the fierce Caribs, another indigenous tribe.  The Caribs regularly practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism. They would also routinely invade their enemies’ homes, abduct women and make concubines of them.

Nor were young boys safe: The Caribs would castrate them before eating them.

When returning on his second voyage, Columbus rescued both female and male captives alike.        

Yet neither were the Tainos as pure as Columbus thought, for they too engaged in human sacrifice.  According to a little booklet, Columbus on Trial, published by Young America’s Foundation in 1992 to commemorate the quincentenary of Columbus’s discovery of the New World, the Arawak speakers had ritual contests that would culminate with humans being sacrificed.  Though he could very well have been mistaken, one of the Conquistadors estimated that as many as 20,000 Indians died by means of this ritual in one year on the island of Hispaniola alone.

Still, Columbus retained cordial relations with some indigenous tribes.  There is one person in particular, a Chief Guacanagari, to whom Columbus felt especially indebted. On Christmas Eve of 1492, the Santa Marie ran aground off the shore of what is now Haiti.  The locals helped the Europeans salvage their goods and afterwards they held a feast to celebrate the rescue.  Gifts, lavish gifts, were exchanged and Guacanagari and his brother asked to visit Spain with Columbus when he returned.

Columbus didn’t bring his new friends back with him, but he did leave 40 sailors behind under Guacanagari’s protection.  When he returned the following year, every sailor had been killed. The Chief said that an enemy tribe had attacked and the Chief himself had suffered a leg wound trying to protect the Spaniards.  Even though the doctor with Columbus determined that no leg wound was visible, Columbus accepted the Chief’s story.

Their friendship endured, with Guarcanagari’s tribe frequently battling alongside the Spaniards against other Indian nations. At one point, upon seeing his ship, these Indians swam to Columbus to rescue them from the Caribs. 

Columbus lamented that the indigenous peoples “give everything for a trifle.”  He resolved to insure that they were treated fairly by the colonists in their exchanges, and as governor he didn’t hesitate to arrest and execute those Spaniards who committed criminal offenses.

The Dominican Friar Bartolome De Las Casas, a stalwart advocate for Indians, remarked on the “sweetness and benignity” of Columbus’s character.  Upon reflecting back on the latter in the light of the atrocities that would later ensue, he remarked: “Truly I would not dare blame the admiral’s intentions, for I knew him well and I know his intentions were good.”

Cecilia Kirk puts it well.  Columbus’s “behavior was not all bad,” she says, “and in some cases” it “was quite admirable…given the problems he faced.”  What we can’t deny is that “some undeniably great element in the human spirit manifested itself in the risks he took for the causes he embraced.”  Kirk notes that “the very reality of our world, a complex network of all the peoples of the globe, owes a great deal to Columbus’ courage and vision.”

She concludes by saying that “all of us, red, white, black, and yellow can feel some sense of gratitude toward the man who showed that we live in one world, not only in theory or in the abstract, but in actual living fact.”

This is probably the fairest, most accurate characterization of Columbus and his legacy—even if it is insufficiently politically correct.
Never the less Columbus was given support for a second voyage and was appointed Governor of this new colony. But upon arriving he abused his power, mistreated and slaughtered the natives, and ruled like a tyrant over the colonists. Angry at these crimes they complained back to Spain. Hearing these shocking reports of abuse and negligence the Monarch's recalled Columbus and stripped him of his titles, he was imprisoned for a short while. But he quickly built himself back into there favor and was allowed to go on two further voyages, however he never had his powers returned to him and was never a governor again. His fourth voyage proved to be a dismal failure. And after Queen Isabella's death he fell from favor, he never went on another voyage again and died in relative obscurity. Because of these accusations, he was relieved from his duties as the governor of the West Indies, and his job was then transferred to Henceforth Nicolas de Ovando y Caceres. When he arrived in what he wrongly believed to be India and the Orient in 1492, he thought the native people to be savages.Columbus died, believing he had found the east coast of Asia, and was not far from India, being on an island near Japan. Many other scholars and explorers soon realized he had found a completely new continent, but Columbus refused to believe it to his dying day. After his death, his descendants brought the matter of his inheritance to court and were allowed several of his titles back.

Links

Christopher Columbus on Real Life Heroes wiki

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