WASHINGTON: The story of Christopher Columbus is quite amazing. The lessons to be learned from Christopher Columbus are more so. Unfortunately, Columbus is portrayed by progressive-revisionist historians as the poster boy for all the evil that befell the Native Americans. Much like mainstream media smears the character of contemporary political figures, revisionist historians attempt to.
Leading to a Columbus Day lessened in importance as a result of bitterness from the clash of cultures between Western European and Native American people.
Today, the mythologies surrounding Columbus, including valuable spiritual lessons, need illumination.
While many volumes of scholarly material have been produced about Columbus, the Italian sailor has many stories. Today’s students must themselves negotiate tempestuous waters of contemporary historical revisionists seeking to tell a new version of the Admiral’s journeys.
Simply put, students of history need to wear proper historical glasses. They cannot view Columbus, or any historical figure, using 21st-century levels of knowledge, morality, or political sophistication.
Historical revisionists also falsely portray native peoples. They persist in failing to mention important parts of the history regarding Columbus. Nevertheless, this message about Columbus dwells upon what he indeed was, what he truly sought, and what he obtained.
Most know the narrative of the outward quest of the Italian navigator to sail to the west to get to Cathay.
Columbus was an Italian commoner who sought to become a noble. Who wanted to have all that nobles enjoyed including power and wealth. We know this because of what he had requested from King Ferdinand.Before he could set sail, Columbus needed to find a patron with enough power and wealth to assist him in achieving such a huge dream. Unfortunately, his quest for personal wealth became entwined with a promise to the King and Queen of Spain.
Eventually losing his soul trying to keep what the worldly monarchs had given him. And which they eventually took away.
When the Italian explorer did tell the king what he wanted in return for opening up a new trade route to Cathay, he was on shaky ground. Columbus boldly requested to be called “the Admiral of the Ocean Seas” (fame), he asked for to become governor over any lands that he could claim in the name of Spain, (power), and he wanted a percentage of the wealth that would be derived from his enterprise (wealth).
In exchange for his services, Columbus sought what many people throughout history have sought fame, power, and wealth.
In his quest to obtain material goals, Columbus would have sold his services to the highest bidder. Yet, deals with despots often do not end well, and so it was with the Italian.
“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” and he then accidentally ran into the Caribbean Islands. It was a fantastic moment in human history, yet the navigator’s life would no longer be under his navigation from that point. He would no longer be in control, as he had made a deal with the wrong king.
Although later in his life, when his favor with the crown had significantly declined, Columbus says he had made his journeys for God and Christ. Many do not know the dark side of Columbus’ story, but ultimately the commoner became a pawn in a king’s game.
Living in a king’s time
The fundamental error of viewing Columbus from our world today is that the revisionist narratives neglect an underlying reality that Columbus lived in a time in which kings ruled the earth. Monarchs in his day were all-powerful. During the same period, the Catholic Church had been all-powerful, yet had less stature after surviving the disastrous Crusades against the Muslims.
The aftermath of this was not lost on the four Iberian monarchs. Rulers who carried out a crusade against the Muslims on the Iberian Peninsula.
Americans often lose perspective when dealing with the reality of monarchs.
Yet more than any people, Americans should especially appreciate the value of living in a free society that still ensures freedom of religion. The right to worship the deity of choice or the right to believe in none.
Yet Columbus, as well as his contemporaries living in Spain in 1492, did not enjoy such liberty. They lived under tyranny. As early as 1478, two monarchs Ferdinand II, King of Aragon, and Isabella I, Queen of Castile, initiated the Spanish Inquisition.
Unsurprisingly, 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 got away with such rulings in the age of absolute monarchs.
Yet, it is hard for Americans to compute that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were ruthless dictators. If these two monarchs were willing to initiate severe torture and the killing of their citizens for the sake of a “pure” Roman Catholic country, how is it they could be expected to deal with a simple foreign sailor from Genoa?
And although this Italian was a Roman Catholic (if he had not been, he would never have been able to make a contract with the Spanish monarchs), could they sincerely trust such a commoner to negotiate an international transaction or treaty on behalf of Spain?
Understanding Columbus’ place and time in history
Most Americans have never lived under a despot; so, it is hard to fully grasp the vulnerability of Columbus when he submitted himself to the Spanish crown. Columbus’ was seeking a new route to China, but he made promises to the king that would eventually ruin his life.
Columbus’ outward quest was to fulfill for the King and Queen of Spain what he had initially promised, yet the more his exploration continued, hollow promises followed. Without realizing what he was doing to ruin himself, Columbus made promises to “his king,” he could not keep.
And although he did not reach Asia, Columbus swore until the day he died that he had been to the East Indies in Asia. From his initial report, the Italian explorer would no longer be able to chart his course.
Amazingly, when Columbus returned from his journey in early 1493 with bold and glittering promises to the royal court regarding his “discovery of gold” in the foreign lands, the monarchs were sold on the potential for wealth and power for Spain.
The gold rush of 1493 was on!
Spain’s treasuries were depleted and gold became one of the prime motivators in mounting the second voyage to remedy the impoverished Spanish state. Sadly, the rush for gold did not “pan out” well. When gold did not materialize on Columbus’ subsequent trips to the Caribbean, the crown began to distrust him., As early as 1495, the Crown began to chart a different course for Columbus’ life.
It may have been embarrassing for King Ferdinand to have prematurely arranged a Genovese governor over Spanish nobles in the lands claimed in the name of Spain. It is hard to believe English kings would have trusted a Spaniard or an Italian as governor for British colonies.
After his third journey, Columbus was arrested and sent back to Spain in chains.
By 1500, Christopher Columbus faced the harsh reality that it was the king who made the rules.
Once freed from prison for his trial, which was mainly a “kangaroo court,” charges against Columbus were dropped. However, Columbus had been publicly smeared by the government. He was stripped of his title, his royal position of governor over the islands, and received no wealth.
The trial ended the fame and power he had enjoyed for a brief period of his life. Columbus never saw any of the wealth that Spain would eventually strip from the American lands they conquered. The tragic story of Columbus, the lessons from this common man’s quest for material wealth holds age-old lessons for all of us.
Such lessons have implications for Americans in this day, and for what free citizens ultimately seek. The Founding Fathers knew how kings could be tyrants. That those kings would willingly risk the lives of others for the sake of freedom. Not just for themselves, but all their descendants.
It is truly tragic what happened to Columbus. However, he sought material goals and risked losing all in his quest for material wealth.
Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus asked an extremely relevant question for people like Columbus: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
“TAKE NO PART IN THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS, BUT INSTEAD, EXPOSE THEM.” Ephesians 5:11