Christopher Columbus didn’t know where he was going; didn’t know what he was going to do when he arrived; didn’t know where he was when he got there and did it all with other peoples’ money. Like many progressive Democrats and pathetic RINOs.
As every schoolchild knows, Columbus had difficulty funding his trip to the New World. He asked for funding from various kings, but he found them reluctant to write him a check. Maybe it was because he was so demanding, even arrogant. He demanded the title of Admiral, the rulership of all lands he might discover, and one-tenth of all things of value in those lands. He then demanded the sponsoring king make him a knight. Yes, he was demanding.
The merchants of Europe were excited over the possibility of a short water route to Asia. If they could shorten the journey, their profits would be multiplied enormously. Products from the Far East were greatly desired throughout Europe but difficult to get. When they could be purchased, they were highly-priced. Ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves were of major importance not so much to enhance the flavor of food but to disguise the taste of spoiled meat in a world without refrigeration. Wealthy Europeans paid huge prices for figs, dates, oranges, and rice to pamper their palates and stuff their stomachs. They were desirous of silk and fine textiles to cover their bodies.
A short journey to the east by sailing west was a merchant’s dream come true. Marco Polo had written about seeing great quantities of gold in Japan, and Columbus took that book on his first voyage. Gold was the answer to Spain’s major problem after fighting a war for ten years. They needed vast sums of money. Columbus talked about finding gold, but the Spanish sovereigns had to wait for Cortez and others to produce prodigious amounts of gold from Peru, Mexico, and other places.
Columbus was a very religious man, as his diary clearly proves, and he was committed to spreading Catholicism everywhere, although he became less religious as gold, spices, and fame increased. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Spanish sovereigns, agreed to finance his journey, and they were pleased with his spirituality. In a letter from the New World to Isabella, he wrote, “I think they [Indians] can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language.”
Ferdinand and Isabella were very religious (outwardly), and they were determined to spread Catholicism and persecute Islam and Jews. In fact, all Jews (Spain’s bankers) were expelled from Spain on the day Columbus sailed west. Of course, all the loans made to the king and queen and other Spaniards were canceled. Isabella was the decision-maker (an early feminist) and loved her husband, although it was a political marriage. Ferdinand was unfaithful to her and fathered at least two children by mistresses. Immediately after her death, he married a very young, very pretty French girl generating much criticism although he was the king and rank hath its privileges. The queen decided to fund Christopher Columbus’s voyages leading to the discovery of the New World; she also supported the Pope in the brutal Spanish Inquisition that continued 300 years after she died. That means she made the best decision and maybe the worst decision ever made by a sovereign.
Columbus was now plying the ocean, sailing farther from the coast than any other man. He was going to make everyone happy except some natives. None of his sailors had been more than 300 miles from land; now they were 3,000 miles away, and they started to be mutinous until they sighted land on October 12, 1492. It was one of the Bahamian Islands that Columbus named San Salvador. He thought he had found India, and as friendly natives approached, he called them Indians. He decided to take six of them back to Spain without thinking they might not want to go.
Boarding his ship, Columbus sailed to Cuba, thinking he had found China. On landing, no one greeted him except an old dog that paid no attention to him and his men. As always, he planted a cross in the sand “as a token of Jesus Christ our Lord, and in honor of the Christian faith.”
He still had not found the gleaming cities of gold that he was looking for, and that failure would prove embarrassing when he arrived home. He finally found gold on the island of Haiti and took the king and queen a chest full. He left a crew of men to supervise the panning for gold since Isabella and Ferdinand were expecting an inexhaustible supply.
With his gold, Indians, parrots, peacocks, etc., he set sail eastward and home. On a calm July day in 1493, Columbus was led by an honor guard toward the winter palace in Barcelona to report to the king and queen. The crowds grew ever larger as he approached the palace. Beautiful senoritas threw roses from upper balconies as the people shouted, “The Admiral! The Admiral!” Shops closed, and church bells rang throughout the city in his honor.
The Admiral made his way to the magnificent throne room and was greeted by Ferdinand and Isabella as “Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy of the Indies.” The royal couple rose to meet him as he approached the throne, an unusual honor. Additional honor came to him as he was asked to sit beside the royal couple.
The court listened in silent reverence as Columbus told of his difficult journey, fear of mutiny, and the excitement on sighting land. He then presented the court with fruits, parrots, and six dark-skinned natives. When he finally opened the chest of gold, the king and queen got on their knees, followed by everyone in the court, and wept and sang, “Oh Lord, in thee have I trusted, let me ever be confounded.” What they were thinking was, we can now pay some of our bills. The Pope had given the king and queen control over “the funds in the Americas.” However, it was not the popes to give. The sovereigns and the Pope had a quid pro quo agreement—you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. It worked; the pope gave them the income from the New World discoveries since they had supported his horrendous inquisition years earlier.
Columbus could now have anything he wanted and what he wanted was a fleet of ships to colonize the islands. He had lost or forgotten most of the high idealism he had at the beginning of his adventure. He was too much impressed with himself and too concerned with the results of success: possessions, power, and position. The discovery of limited gold in Haiti had salvaged his first trip, but the successive voyages were disasters taking many lives, ships, and reputations of famous men. The supporters of his second journey were not thrilled with him spiritualizing his trip and talking about planting a cross on each island. They were interested in products, profits, and prestige.
The mighty admiral’s reputation was tarnished, and his momentum had fizzled. His virtues were not as impressive; his vices were magnified; his victory was limited to his first trip. Whatever his failures and they were many, Columbus was the first man who was willing to risk his life to prove a theory and had discovered what would become the greatest civilization that has ever blessed mankind—America.
He should be honored for that, not cursed, criticized, and condemned by lesser men.