Columbus day happened this Monday, and, as there is a lot of controversy going around on whether we should celebrate it, I am going to write a paper on it. So should we celebrate Columbus day? After all, the U.S.A wouldn’t be around if Columbus hadn’t come. But Columbus committed terrible atrocities to the natives, so it feels wrong to celebrate the day he came there. So what is the answer? To get our answer, we need to go more in-depth.
Christopher Columbus had always loved gold. He had scoured through the journals of Marco Polo, underlining any references to it. But how would he obtain it? Marco Polo’s travel had been treacherous, because he had had to travel by land across most of the known world. But Columbus had an idea: He would travel by sea. It would be faster, easier, and he would get to the gold quickly. So now he thought it would be easy. He just needed to get a small loan to finance his expedition, which would very quickly be payed off by the riches he would obtain. But it wasn’t. He tried to get loans from England, Portugal, and Italy but they all thought he was a fool.
The problem is, if you don’t know about the Americas, Europe to India seems like a very long trip. You have to cross all of the Atlantic plus all of the Pacific. And you have to double that distance, because he has to come back to. And he has to make several voyages to carry the gold. With all this added up, it could be hundreds of thousands of miles. This would take a lot of money to finance. They would have to have a lot of food, but that would mean they would have to have more ships to carry the food, but they would have to have more sailors to man the ships that would carry the food, and those sailors would need to be fed. And both food, ships, and sailors costed money. So when Columbus asked them for a loan, they laughed in his face. Finally, he came to Spain. Queen Isabella, the ruler of Spain at the time and a devout Catholic, agreed to give him 3 ships because he presented his expedition to her as a religious mission. He said he was trying to convert the native populace to Catholicism. It didn’t seem like she had much faith in him, but she decided she could spare 3 ships.
Columbus had a long and hard expedition, but when he finally arrived on the islands he was surprised. While he had expected the locals too be hostile and protective, they welcomed him and his crew with open arms. His ship had been caught in a storm off the coast, and they bravely rescued him and his soldiers. In no time at all, he and the local chieftain became good friends. They could not properly communicate as he did not know their language and they did not know his, but they communicated in basic hand signs. They traded with each other, and had much fun learning of each others culture. But things eventually went sour. They did a gift exchange in which Columbus gave the chieftain his red cape and the chieftain gave Columbus a golden crown. While the chieftain saw this as an opening of trade between the two societies, Columbus thought this meant he was handing over his authority to him.
This very quickly sparked war between them. Columbus crushed the various island society’s with growing fervor, enslaving their populations and forcing them to mine gold for him. He became increasingly more brutal as his once adventurous spirit was twisted into a sadistic, cold, and uncaring persona. He did not hope for exploration but power and fame. Finally, the Queen lost interest in him and he stopped. After his final voyage he wrote “gold is most excellent; gold is treasure, and the person who has it does all he wishes to in this world.”
So what is my conclusion? Columbus was not a bad person initially, but he was twisted into one. So maybe we shouldn’t celebrate Columbus day, but we can hopefully celebrate the spirit of adventure and exploration.