Christopher Columbus, it has been claimed, is one of history's greatest monsters--a fraud who doesn't deserve either the credit for "discovering" the New World or his own holiday.
Yet this isn't a modern liberal claim; it was first made by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s as it attempted to block Italian-American efforts to make Columbus Day a federal holiday. The Klan despised the Italian-American immigrants and children of immigrants behind this effort, especially since most of them were Catholic--a religion the Klan hated with a passion.
Because of this hatred, the Klan tried to get rid of Columbus Day as a state holiday in Oregon, temporarily blocked the erection of a Columbus statue in Virginia, and even burned a cross in an effort at disrupting a Columbus Day celebration in Pennsylvania.
Little to modern liberals know how proud the Klan would have been of their vandalism of Columbus statues and attempts at getting rid of Columbus Day altogether.
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The Christopher Columbus Association (CCA) has had altogether too much of these attacks on the famed explorer, and has set up a new website, TruthAboutColumbus.com, to combat some of the most pernicious myths about him.
The most notable one, of course, was that he systematically attempted to commit genocide against the native peoples he encountered. As the CCA notes, this is demonstrably false:
Columbus did not commit genocide. He sought to form good relationships with the native peoples of the New World and had no intention of doing them any harm. He had intended to sail to Asia, a land both populous and technologically advanced. His intent was trade and evangelization, not conquest. In exploring and settling the New World, Columbus frequently ordered his men to treat the natives well and not commit injustices or atrocities against them. Columbus punished and even executed some of the settlers who went against his orders and abused the natives. Scholars like Stanford professor emeritus Carol Delaney describe his interactions with the native peoples as generally benign and his motivations as religious; he was not violent, hostile, or cruel to those he encountered. Furthermore, the vast majority of the natives who died in the years after Columbus’ arrival succumbed to communicable diseases inadvertently transmitted by the Europeans rather than from any intentional act on the part of Columbus, his men or the settlers.
Far from being the brutal despot he is often depicted as today, Columbus was actually a fair and just man who advocated for adequate treatment of the indigenous tribes he met. In fact, he "often sought to restrain his men from mistreating the native peoples."
Columbus was a deeply religious man who believed in the sanctity of all human life and, as a result, "in a time when some would question whether the native peoples of America were truly human, Columbus immediately acknowledged their humanity and innate dignity. He recognized them as humans with immortal souls and was concerned for their salvation and their right to choose freely to embrace the Christian faith. He even adopted the son of a native chief as his own son."
Does that sound like a genocidal madman whom the natives feared?
While Columbus was indeed eventually arrested and returned to Spain in chains, it wasn't for of his mistreatment of the natives, but rather for his treatment of his fellow Europeans because of their mistreatment of the natives:
After his third voyage, while he was governor of Hispaniola, Columbus was indeed arrested and taken back to Spain in chains, but it was for actions taken against rebellious European settlers. He had punished and even executed some of the Europeans for abusing the natives. Bartolomé de las Casas, although sometimes critical of aspects of Columbus’ administration, wrote of the “sweetness and benignity” of the explorer and added: “Truly, I would not dare blame the admiral’s intentions, for I know him well and I know his intentions were good.”
Those intentions, it seems, were largely lost to history. Columbus today regarded with about as much reverence as a tinpot dictator, but demonization of him is a largely modern construct--and one that the Christopher Columbus Association is finally starting to debunk.
Learn more about the real Christopher Columbus at TruthAboutColumbus.com