Christopher Columbus: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Anthony W. Hager
On Columbus Day it is appropriate to discuss Christopher Columbus's legacy. Critics seem emboldened on the day we recognize the famous mariner's arrival in the New World. Was Columbus the barbaric sadist his detractors claim? Or was he a great explorer and discoverer?

Columbus lived an impoverished, unspectacular childhood. He spent his youth studying geography and developing his love for sailing. In manhood Columbus was relentless in peddling his belief in a spherical earth and westward sailing route to reach India. His audiences with the Spanish royalty are legendary.

However, the concept of a round world didn't originate with Columbus. Neither was a westward trade route to India his idea. His desires to prove these theories weren't rooted in scientific advancement. Columbus sought personal fame and fortune, expressing an entrepreneurial, capitalist attitude, which could partially explain why the modern Left hates him so.

Ultimately, Christopher Columbus never amassed the fortune he sought and died in poverty just 15 years after a discovery he never realized. He secured fame, but not in his time. Columbus never sailed west to India. Actually, he believed the New World was India. According to modern standards he would be an ignorant failure. But Columbus didn't live by modern standards.

Columbus was an excellent navigator, a courageous explorer and an able captain. He discovered a land unknown in his world and returned home across a trackless ocean. He commanded sailors who believed the Atlantic Ocean was full of sea serpents intent on devouring the wayward seaman. They thought the Atlantic an infinite sea that boiled at the equator. Christopher Columbus' accomplishments were remarkable considering the obstacles he faced.

Then there's the other portrayal of Columbus, that of the murderous, slave-trading ogre that detractors use to besmirch his memory. Not content with his true faults, Columbus haters accuse the Genoa mariner of destroying the peaceful paradise that was the Caribbean.

Columbus, his antagonists allege, sparked a genocidal avalanche of misery and mayhem that decimated the Arawak Indians. In fact, the entire European exploration and settlement era exploded into an imperialistic inferno with Christopher Columbus holding the match. Yet the idea that the Western Hemisphere was the Garden of Eden prior to 1492 is fairly naïve. Some European explorers were brutal, and the Taino Arawak tribe suffered at Spanish hands. But to lay all violence at the feet of Columbus ignores the New World brutality that existed before his arrival.

The Taino were rather passive. But the Caribs were a fierce people who abused the Tainos and took their lands before Columbus arrived. The Caribs made wives of captured Taino women (slavery, anyone?), fashioned necklaces from their vanquished enemy's teeth and may have practiced cannibalism.

The Caribs may have decimated the Ciboneys who once inhabited the Caribbean. The Ciboneys descended from a prior culture that was all but exterminated by yet another people. And if the Caribs themselves weren't cannibals, the Tupinamba Indians were. Finally, these tribes were indigenous Caribbean Indians; they migrated from the mainland. Thus the peaceful natives Columbus assaulted were neither peaceful nor native, but warrior explorers and conquerors.

Each person must render an individual judgment on history. Make what you will of Columbus and his successors. But remember that many civilizations originated in other places and expanded their holdings and influence through force. Mankind has explored, fought, conquered, settled and lost throughout world history. That reality isn't going to change just to suit the unrealistic notions of Utopian fantasists.
Christopher Columbus is neither as pure nor as despicable as he is portrayed. He was human, a walking paradox whose life was filled with flaw and virtue, success and failure. He accomplished more than he knew while never quite realizing his dreams. Why not celebrate Christopher Columbus' courage and contributions while learning from his faults and failures?

Anthony W. Hager has authored more than 250 articles for various newspapers, periodicals and websites. Contact him via his website, www.therightslant.com. 
On Columbus Day it is appropriate to discuss Christopher Columbus's legacy. Critics seem emboldened on the day we recognize the famous mariner's arrival in the New World. Was Columbus the barbaric sadist his detractors claim? Or was he a great explorer and discoverer?

Columbus lived an impoverished, unspectacular childhood. He spent his youth studying geography and developing his love for sailing. In manhood Columbus was relentless in peddling his belief in a spherical earth and westward sailing route to reach India. His audiences with the Spanish royalty are legendary.

However, the concept of a round world didn't originate with Columbus. Neither was a westward trade route to India his idea. His desires to prove these theories weren't rooted in scientific advancement. Columbus sought personal fame and fortune, expressing an entrepreneurial, capitalist attitude, which could partially explain why the modern Left hates him so.

Ultimately, Christopher Columbus never amassed the fortune he sought and died in poverty just 15 years after a discovery he never realized. He secured fame, but not in his time. Columbus never sailed west to India. Actually, he believed the New World was India. According to modern standards he would be an ignorant failure. But Columbus didn't live by modern standards.

Columbus was an excellent navigator, a courageous explorer and an able captain. He discovered a land unknown in his world and returned home across a trackless ocean. He commanded sailors who believed the Atlantic Ocean was full of sea serpents intent on devouring the wayward seaman. They thought the Atlantic an infinite sea that boiled at the equator. Christopher Columbus' accomplishments were remarkable considering the obstacles he faced.

Then there's the other portrayal of Columbus, that of the murderous, slave-trading ogre that detractors use to besmirch his memory. Not content with his true faults, Columbus haters accuse the Genoa mariner of destroying the peaceful paradise that was the Caribbean.

Columbus, his antagonists allege, sparked a genocidal avalanche of misery and mayhem that decimated the Arawak Indians. In fact, the entire European exploration and settlement era exploded into an imperialistic inferno with Christopher Columbus holding the match. Yet the idea that the Western Hemisphere was the Garden of Eden prior to 1492 is fairly naïve. Some European explorers were brutal, and the Taino Arawak tribe suffered at Spanish hands. But to lay all violence at the feet of Columbus ignores the New World brutality that existed before his arrival.

The Taino were rather passive. But the Caribs were a fierce people who abused the Tainos and took their lands before Columbus arrived. The Caribs made wives of captured Taino women (slavery, anyone?), fashioned necklaces from their vanquished enemy's teeth and may have practiced cannibalism.

The Caribs may have decimated the Ciboneys who once inhabited the Caribbean. The Ciboneys descended from a prior culture that was all but exterminated by yet another people. And if the Caribs themselves weren't cannibals, the Tupinamba Indians were. Finally, these tribes were indigenous Caribbean Indians; they migrated from the mainland. Thus the peaceful natives Columbus assaulted were neither peaceful nor native, but warrior explorers and conquerors.

Each person must render an individual judgment on history. Make what you will of Columbus and his successors. But remember that many civilizations originated in other places and expanded their holdings and influence through force. Mankind has explored, fought, conquered, settled and lost throughout world history. That reality isn't going to change just to suit the unrealistic notions of Utopian fantasists.
Christopher Columbus is neither as pure nor as despicable as he is portrayed. He was human, a walking paradox whose life was filled with flaw and virtue, success and failure. He accomplished more than he knew while never quite realizing his dreams. Why not celebrate Christopher Columbus' courage and contributions while learning from his faults and failures?

Anthony W. Hager has authored more than 250 articles for various newspapers, periodicals and websites. Contact him via his website, www.therightslant.com.