SAN JOSE, October 10, 2016 – Over the last forty or fifty years, numerous groups or organizations have disparaged celebrations of Columbus Day with growing contempt because of the mass genocide attributed to Columbus when he encountered the Native Americans in the Caribbean. It seems that the pendulum of political correctness has swung far to the left and away from the popularity the Genovese explorer previously enjoyed. Much of this has to do with who writes his story.
Certainly, Columbus receives much less respect today as Progressive revisionist historians attempt to paint Columbus as the poster boy for all the evil that befell the Native Americans in the “New World.” Recent American Columbus Day celebrations have been stifled in their importance, and have been tainted by the lingering fallout of animosity and bitterness leftover from the tragic clash of cultures between Western European and Native American peoples.
Students in this day who learn about Christopher Columbus, must themselves negotiate tempestuous waters of contemporary historical revisionist scholarship bearing a definite political or ideological perspective regarding the Admiral’s journeys to the West.
While many volumes of scholarly (and sometimes unprofessional) material has been produced over the many centuries since Columbus “sailed the ocean blue,” there are some key lessons to be learned from the Italian sailor. However, a true student needs to use common sense and a capability to look back on history without a reliance upon the knowledge, advancement of morality, and political sophistication enjoyed by people in the twenty-first century, in order to put historical events in a clearer perspective.
the academically-initiated character assassination of Christopher Columbus is not new, and it is not only unwarranted, it detracts from a more fundamental reality that should be important to all Americans – even Native Americans. Also, while it may be important for people to recognize Columbus for what he truly was (he was no saint), it is also important to realize how his character was assassinated in his own time, by the very people he trusted.
Especially, Americans should appreciate the value of living in a free society and being able to speak freely, assemble peaceably for protests, publish incendiary psuedo-intellectually based materials, and worship the deity of choice – or worship one’s right to believe in no deity as well. Yet, Columbus, nor any of his contemporaries living in Spain in 1492, did not enjoy such liberty. They lived under an absolute monarchy. Americans often lose perspective when dealing with the concept of kings. It is understandable that King George III was viewed as a tyrant by the Founding Fathers because a study of United States history makes this point crystal clear. Yet, understanding the concept of kings as ruthless dictators may seem foreign to Americans today.
A case in point: The Spanish Inquisition was generated in 1478 by Ferdinand II, king of Aragon and Isabella I, queen of Castile, the two monarchs who supported the Genovese explorer’s journeys to the West. The ostensible purpose of the Spanish Inquisition was to maintain the purity of religious worship in the Roman Catholic Church and the fundamental adherence to the traditional Catholic orthodoxy. Interestingly enough, there was already in existence a Medieval Inquisition, which had been under Papal control, but King Ferdinand and Queen wanted to have direct control under their governments. Absolute monarchs could do that.
Not surprisingly, after the Reconquista, the recovery of Spain from the Moors, royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1501 ordered Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or leave the country (dead or alive was irrelevant). Absolute monarchs could get away with that. Yet, it is hard for Americans to connect the dots that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who agreed to back the Italian sailor were ruthless dictators. If King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were willing to severely permit torture and death of their own citizens for the sake of a “pure” Roman Catholic country, what could they be expected to do to some primitive heathens from the Caribbean? A simple question needs to be asked: who was really in charge of Columbus’ trips to the West?
Most Americans, have never lived under a despot; thus, it is hard to fully comprehend the vulnerability of Columbus when he submitted himself to the Spanish crown. His desire to find a new route to Cathay and in the process obtain power, status and wealth led him to contract his services with any government which would provide the means with which he could pursue his dreams. How is this playing out now in 2016 with those who would sell their souls to gain the world – fame, fortune, or power – or all three?
Surprisingly, when Columbus returned from his journey in 1493 with bold and glittering promises to the monarchs regarding his discovery of gold in the foreign lands, it changed the paradigm, as the monarchs were sold on the potential. To a recently established nation with depleted treasuries due to battles with the Moors, gold would have provided a very powerful incentive to remedy the impoverished Spanish state. The ensuing quest for gold followed with many of those who ventured with Columbus harboring their own visions of wealth and personal gain. Sadly, this Spanish gold rush shifted to real estate when little gold was unable to be found from the islands.
Columbus was an Italian, a commoner and a Catholic (if he had not been, the sailor would never have been able to make a contract with the Spanish monarchs); yet he was more realistically a pawn in a king’s game. Amazingly, he managed to emerge from this environment as an historic figure, but what the monarchs provided and promised, they also would take away. If one can view these two monarchs as more like a Godfather in the Mafia, it may help to more realistically visualize the type of people Columbus was dealing with in the late 1400s.
It should be noted that Spanish nobles who ventured with Columbus on his second journey were not going for some Caribbean vacation; they had been smitten by an insatiable desire for gold, which represented wealth, or even greater wealth than they possessed. Such Spanish nobles were better connected to the king than the foreign explorer, and many had fought alongside King Ferdinand in ridding Spain of the “infidel.” As colonization progressed from concept to the actual settlement, Columbus was on the receiving end of the increasing dissatisfaction and outright animosity of the colonists. Nobles increasing malice toward Columbus lingered because they felt deceived by his exaggerated accounts of the abundance of gold, as well as his misrepresentations of the dangers in the Caribbean.
It was not only the Spanish blue-bloods who manifested outright malice toward Columbus, but even the monarchs became annoyed with Columbus and began to distrust previous promises the explorer had made regarding the abundance of gold, as well as his attempts to compensate for the lack of gold with an increase in the numbers of slaves he would send back to Spain. The Italian had made promises based on his perceptions of reality, and not based upon the present reality existing in the lands of the Taino and Arawok Indians. Thus, his relationship with the monarchy became increasingly strained. A simple common sense question would focus upon the degree to which the Spanish king was so much more indignant over the failure to obtain as much gold as the Italian had promised.
Among the colonists, as a desire for gold was replaced with a more realistic approach to obtain land, the nobles had to deal with the essential problem of the king’s decree, which designated Columbus as the “governor” of the lands claimed in the name of Spain. The Spanish nobility and conquistadores must have viewed the mere commoner as a ridiculous anomaly and an imposter in the position of “governor.”
As early as 1495, the Spanish Crown attempted to get a better handle on their investment by sending a royal commission to report on the colony and to judge the governing capabilities of Columbus. However, returning to Spain in 1496, Columbus managed to appease the Royals, but they took their sweet time (two years) before sponsoring his third voyage. Tensions did not die though and after he returned in 1498, Columbus was eventually accused by his detractors and their complaints to the king are essentially the crimes repeated by people today. By May of 1499, the king appointed Francisco de Bobadilla as the replacement of Columbus as governor and chief justice of Hispaniola.
Bobadilla, a Spanish nobleman and a loyal knight who fought in the wars against the Moors, was given all that the crown had bestowed upon Columbus, but he received even more authority and power. Bobadilla arrived in Hispaniola in August of 1500, briefly investigated the charges of incompetent governance against Columbus and his brothers, had them all arrested, and had them shipped back to Spain in irons in October. The monarchs left them in a Spanish prison until December of 1500 when Columbus was allowed to defend himself. The result of the trial was that the outrageous charges against Columbus were dropped.
Although criminal charges were dismissed, the outcome permanently removed Columbus as governor, and by 1500, the sailor was out of the loop. The trial seemed to have been a very convenient method for allowing the Spanish Crown a reason to break the original decree designating Columbus as governor. Students of Columbus and all Americans should know that the King of Spain was always in charge of Columbus’ expeditions and definitely made sure the Spanish Crown was in charge of the dominion of the Caribbean islands and the lands beyond.
The story of Columbus is quite amazing, but it needs illumination from proper perspectives, and such a shining example of absolute tyranny in history should serve as a reminder to all true Americans the reasons why the Founders despised tyranny so much that they would offer their fortunes and their very lives to rid themselves of the treachery and tyranny of monarchies. The lessons regarding Christopher Columbus are many, but some are vital for Americans to receive.