In prep for the release of my Columbus Day single “Chris ’n Iz — A Columbus Day National Ragtime” on MC1 Nashville’s Dark Lonesome Records, I examined more than 20 sources of historical Columbus information, including transcripts of Columbus’ own letters/logbook/diaries. Yes, bad things happened as a result of Columbus — but you’ll be surprised at the many good things that also took place. Here’s a sample:
Was Columbus a genocidal maniac?
The answer I discovered is a resounding no. But Columbus and his men could have been charged with 1st and 2nd degree murder. (The same would also have been true for some of the Arawak and most of the Carib Indian people.)
Was Columbus the first person responsible for slavery in the Americas?
Surprisingly no — the otherwise peaceful Arawak Indian people on the island of Jamaica had already enslaved their Ciboney Indian ancestors well before Columbus arrived. Yes, Columbus did capture local people — but you’ll be surprised to learn how well he treated his ‘captures’ (no, his generally ‘good treatment’ of the local people still does not justify any slavery activity; nor can the (Jamaican) Arawak people be justified in their slavery activity).
First Anti-Slavery Proclamations
Interestingly, it was specifically Columbus’ quasi-involvement in slavery that was responsible for triggering one of the first high-level, anti-slavery proclamations. His financiers, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, believed the ‘natives’ must be converted and that these new Christians should not be enslaved. When sending Columbus on his fourth and final voyage (1502-1504), the Spanish Monarchs wrote in their March 14, 1502 letter that on no account whatsoever should Columbus bring back slaves. While it never justifies making slaves of the local Indian people to work the gold mines, without realizing it, Columbus triggered some of the earliest beginnings of the anti-slavery abolitionist movement.
The Carib Indian people were vicious Cannibals
The Carib Indian people would hunt the Arawak people, rape their women, castrate the boys, and kill the men. Caribs had set aside two islands where they kept only women, which the Carib men would visit on occasion to rape and to impregnate (so they could eat some of the babies). The Arawak people asked Columbus to protect them from the Carib people, so Columbus made a treaty with one of the Arawak chiefs, promising he would protect them from the Caribs when he returned for a second voyage. When Columbus returned, he fulfilled his promise. He either destroyed the Caribs’ canoes (so they could not sail again to terrorize the Arawak people), or would capture the Caribs and send them to Spain as prisoners of war.
Was Columbus a poor navigator? (after all, he failed in his quest to find Asia)
Again, the answer is no. He was an excellent natural pilot who knew how to take advantage of the wind and currents and who developed remarkable navigation skills by accurately measuring altitudes of the sun and North Star — the very first sailor to do so; Columbus was the first to teach the Spaniards this vastly superior, scientific method of navigation. Columbus’ navigational and sailing skills as a Captain and Pilot far surpassed many of his contemporaries. His societal contribution of scientific navigation has saved countless lives at sea.
Did Columbus force Christian conversion onto the local people?
Here again, the answer is no. Columbus’ own log book from his first voyage notes: “…your Highnesses decided to send me, Christopher Columbus, to see these parts of India and peoples of those lands and consider the best means for their conversion. For, by neglect of the Popes to send [missionary] instructors, many nations had fallen to idolatry of perdition …”. He also writes “... I knew they were a people to be converted and won to our holy faith by love and friendship rather than by force …”. Columbus eventually asked King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and the Pope to send priests who would learn the local Indian language and instruct the people in the Christian faith prior to baptism.
Did Columbus and his men steal the land and plunder its gold?
Yes they did. Columbus was under contract to do so in all four of his voyages. Guilty as charged.
And there’s much, much more (more good, more bad) ...
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I have personally examined more than 20 sources of historical Columbus information, including transcripts of Columbus’ own letters/logbook/diaries. Separate out the lies from the ASTONISHING REAL TRUTH about Columbus (both good and bad).
Copyright © 2020, 2021 Roger Paul Peterson, dba RogerPetersonMusic — Orlando Florida USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Homepage headline adapted from J.S. Bach. Featured photo shots of Roger Peterson & Keyboards thanks to Matthew Peterson and Bruce Wilson Photography.
Cornerstone Family Church Worship Band photo thanks to Beth Minks. Album cover photos thanks to Denny Müller, Joe Beda, Jan-Willem van Braak, John Salvino, Franck V on Unsplash; and Bruce Wilson Photography. Upright player piano thanks to Bob Beauchamp (Chime&Time). Columbus photo thanks to history.com
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