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The Great American Myth: American History, Part 3

Discovering Columbus

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In Ted Morgan’s book, Wilderness At Dawn, The Settling of the North American Continent, he places this picture from the Elizabeth Waldo-Dentzel Collection, by Joshua Shaw called, The Coming of the White Man.

“A ship appears on the horizon line, with the sun rising behind it, while in the foreground four Indians on a bluff are seen in various attitudes of terror. One is sitting bent over with his arms over his head, one is shielding his face with his arm, and one is carrying a hatchet as if already knowing he is going to have to defend himself against an invader. Below, on the shore, an Indian skiff has landed and one of the Indians is already out of it, running like hell. They know that nothing good is going to come of this.”

One hundred and fifty years before the settling of Jamestown Columbus sets out on his first voyage. There are another 169 years between Jamestown and the Declaration of Independence, and 239 years from the Declaration of Independence to the present. There is 523 years that separates us from the adventures of Columbus. Has anything changed? No, not really.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9. It is truth that sets us free. Columbus had a wicked heart, and so does the writers of history books. It was a lie that initiated the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and it is the lie that binds our hearts captive today; yet truth is the key that unlocks the door of the cell that holds us tight. All of our forefathers were men whose hearts were malignant and corrupt who we want to believe were honest and upright; and publishers feed this desire, because it is profitable. Wicked men, writing about evil men, for immoral purposes; this is the true history of the world and America. In hind-sight we now see that that little cloud on the horizon is a terrible storm, and it is headed our direction.

“Forewarned is forearmed.”

Looking from atop the twenty-first century we can see that there has been “nothing good” that has come from the lies generated by history book authors; they were all self-serving. Today after 523 years many people are becoming aware of the disgrace affected by Columbus and are demanding the removal of Columbus and his “Day” as a recognized memorial to this man and his “true” deeds. But who was Christopher Columbus and what were his deeds?

Columbus is given credit for the discovery of America, but is that true?

Although he won the support for his adventure from the Spanish King and Queen he was not Spanish, he was Italian from the city of Genova, and was rejected by Italy, Portugal, and England. The general story line is that Columbus was out to prove that the world was round and to find an alternate trade route to the West Indies, but inadvertently landed in America. This is not completely true because first of all it was practical knowledge at that time that the world was round: it looked round, it cast a round circle onto the moon, and ships gradually disappeared over the horizon; Columbus had no uncertainties on this subject. Secondly, as far as going to West Indies, that is speculation; there is no absolute certainty where he wanted to go. Some evidence indicates that he did want to find “new” lands to the west, because “India was known for its great wealth,” Las Casa points out, it was in Columbus’ interest, “to induce the monarchs, always doubtful about his enterprise, to believe him when he said he was setting out in search of a western route to India.”[i] Thirdly, after two months Columbus landed on a small island in the Bahamas that he named San Salvador. It is a known fact that Columbus was an excellent navigator and that he had purposely held back information concerning the length of the voyage and certain other navigational particulars that others later questioned.

It is a foregone conclusion that Columbus did not discover a new world but rather an old world that had already flowered and was in decline. Even the word “discovery” is incorrect in the sense that what he did was not a discovery but more like an incursion or annexation. Wherever Columbus landed the first thing he did was to declare the land a possession of the King and Queen, and the greatest pleasure he received was not a sense of new discovery but the, “gold they (the inhabitants) wear hanging from their noses.” Columbus would later write a letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez, treasurer of Aragon and one of his supporters, dated March 14, 1493, stating his initial impression of the people;

“As soon … as they see that they are safe and have laid aside all fear, they are very simple and honest and exceedingly liberal with all they have; none of them refusing anything he may possess when he is asked for it, but, on the contrary, inviting us to ask them. They exhibit great love toward all others in preference to themselves. They also give objects of great value for trifles, and content themselves with very little or nothing in return … I did not find, as some of us had expected, any cannibals among them, but, on the contrary, men of great deference and kindness….”

But, on a menacing note, Columbus writes in his log, “Should your Majesties command it, all the inhabitants could be taken away to Castile [Spain], or made slaves on the island. With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

From there he sailed southwest to Cuba and eventually arrived at the eastern shores of South America, but Columbus did not discover North America nor did he ever set foot on it. What he found was a bunch of Caribbean islands and bits of shoreline in South America. It is obvious that the story has been dramatized for the sake of interest and salability, and anything disgusting removed or minimized.

 

Death as a Mindset

Now we move on to the attitude toward death, which plays an important part of the history of Columbus, but diminished or neglected by most school texts. The way the inhabitants were treated is the most appalling aspect of the whole discovery story, and again played down for the sake of our hero.

The reader must keep in mind at this point the mentality of the people during this time in history, they were accustomed to disease and death and the ever present struggle to survive. They were at the tail end of the “Dark Ages” (300 – 1500), a thousand years of ignorance instituted by the Catholic Church who acted as their feudal lord and ruler. The crusades, initiated by the “Church” to stop the advance of the marauding Muslims, which endured for over 4oo years beginning in 1054, reinforced the association between Catholicism, feudalism, and militarism, which ideas are directly counter to true Christian notions of peace, mercy, freedom, and forgiveness, instituted by Jesus Christ. In April 1487, Pope Innocent VIII called for a crusade even against the non-resistant and harmless Christian Waldensian People of Italy, the precursors of the looming Reformation, who were mercilessly slaughtered for reading the Bible and obeying it, which so irritated the pope.

Death and war were not as sanitary as they are today where large numbers of people are killed without ever seeing their faces. Death was up close and personal then, and the unrelenting carnage of hunting down and killing infidels and heretics of the “Church,” hardened the consciences of adventurous soldiers of fortune who understood nothing of mercy, love, and forgiveness, even though they were called “Christian.”

During this time men had a warped sense of destiny instilled by the Church. Their destiny was tied up with the fear of judgment, and that judgment rested with the pope and his executioners, and not God. Salvation came as a matter of degrees to be earned and those degrees were in direct proportion to obedience to the Vicar (in the place of) of Christ. So, in essence the crusader whose duty it was to destroy infidels and heretics could do no better than to destroy many infidels and heretics. It was a twisted mindset of the cosmic struggle between good and evil, and everything outside the Catholic Church was evil. Of course these all professed to love the ones they killed, in accordance with the teachings of Augustine and Aquinas, otherwise they too would be judged. “Death, so omnipresent in the past that it was familiar, would be effaced, would disappear. It would become shameful and forbidden,”[ii] in our own day. What we are witnessing today, with the senseless murders of innocent people by terrorist, is no different than what Catholics were doing then, only in the name of a different god. It wasn’t enough to simply kill a person, suffering was equally important, because they needed to be converted to the “Church” and suffering would elicit the necessary response; it was Christian terrorism, instilling a “fear” which Christ had come to remove.

Human Relations

War has consequences, not least of which is debt and loss of manpower. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, having married, joined their military forces to ward off the incursions of the Mohammedans. To restock their coffers after driving out the Moslems, the bold proposal of Columbus sounded better than the same offer would have sounded just a few years before; now resources were needed and the answer appeared to lay in the Eastern nations written about by Marco Polo. The slave trade was an up and coming enterprise also, which could not be overlooked as a side benefit of a Columbus venture.

Christopher Columbus familiarized the modern world with two events: the plundering of land, wealth, and labor from the indigenous peoples, which led to their extermination, and the growing slave trade which reinforced a division of race in European minds of the White Man, as different from the rest of humanity.

At San Salvador, Columbus’ first “discovery,” he took up to twenty-five of the indigenous people prisoner and held them in cages to be taken back to Spain, of which only seven survived. Columbus called these people Los Indios and labeled them uncivilized and deficient. Therefore, in his mind it was alright to exploit them, imprison them, and take them back to Spain as slaves. The abortion industry has done the same thing in the minds of people today with the misrepresentation of the human fetus as something “sub-human.”

Continuing southwest the flagship Santa Maria run aground on Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and Dominican Republic) presenting a problem, but also finding what he was looking for, gold. With the loss of the main ship only the two smaller boats were able to make the return trip to Spain, so thirty men volunteered to remain behind. Columbus had made no secret of his desire for gold, and the volunteers may have concluded that to remain would allow them to build their own fortunes in advance of the others. The initial friendly reception of the Indians had changed by the time Columbus returned and he found that all thirty men were dead. They had been overcome by the larger number of Indians who had grown unreceptive to the men’s lust, greed, and forceful tactics, so they killed them. An engraving by Theodorus de Bry (1528 – 27 March 1598) depicts the Islanders pouring gold into the mouths of the men who remained behind. It also shows the cannibalism that Columbus states that he never witnessed. So, both the pouring of gold and the cannibalism are conjecture, but it is known for sure that the men were gone when he returned.

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Columbus’ next visit lasted two and one half years. Sailing on north, seventy-five miles past San Salvador, he founded the town of La Isabela; here Columbus switched roles from successful navigator to dictatorial island governor. Bringing the Indians into slavery he began demanding a steady tribute of gold and instituted a system of forced labor to grow crops and to mine more gold. To instill fear and nonviolent behavior from his subjects he took five hundred natives prisoner, sending them to Spain to be sold as slaves. Indians who began to commit faults were made examples to the others by cutting off their ears and noses then sent back to their villages. During this period the population dwindled and other islands were raided and slaves brought back to make up the shortage of manpower. After a while the villagers began to fight back, but to no avail. Abandoning their homes they fled to the mountains to escape. With this rebellion Columbus had an excuse for open war. On March 24, 1495 Columbus set out to conquer the Arawak people of the island. Bartolome de Las Casa described the force Columbus assembled to put down the rebellion. “Since the Admiral perceived that daily the people of the land were taking up arms, ridiculous weapons in reality . . . he hastened to proceed to the country and dispose and subdue, by force of arms, the people of the entire island . . . For this he chose 200 foot soldiers and 20 cavalry, with many crossbows and small canon, lances, and swords, and a still more terrible weapon against the Indians, in addition to the horses: this was 20 hunting dogs, who were turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart.”[iii] “The soldiers mowed down dozens with point-blank volleys, loosed the dogs to rip open limbs and bellies, chased fleeing Indians into the bush to skewer them on sword and pike, and ‘with God’s aid soon gained a complete victory, killing many Indians and capturing others who were also killed.’”[iv]

The killing never let up, now all remaining were rounded-up and sent to Spain as slaves, many dying en-route or killed for sport and used as dog food. Columbus viewed the death rate optimistically: “Although they die now, they will not always die. The Negros and Canary Islanders died at first.”[v] Within fifty years Hispaniola of Columbus’ first voyage, the once friendly and generous people had been totally exterminated.

Some will reject the word “slavery” used above because it was not used at the time, but rather a system called “encomienda.” In the encomienda, the Spanish crown granted a person a specified number of natives of a specific community, with the indigenous leaders in charge of mobilizing the assessed tribute and labor. In turn, encomenderos were to take responsibility for instruction in the Christian faith, protection from warring tribes and pirates, instruction in the Spanish language and development and maintenance of infrastructure. Encomienda sounds so humane, but was just another word for slavery. “As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured (under encomienda), the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth . . . Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery.”[vi]

All of these gruesome facts, and more, are available in primary source material – letter by Columbus and by other members of his expeditions – and in the work of Las Casas, the first historian of the Americas.

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Christopher Columbus was no hero, yet the public schools, and homeschool associations propagate his myth. There can be no reason outside the idea that someone feels it is improper or counter-productive for American children to know the truth about their history. These people who think this, are the enemy of truth, and may feel as Columbus felt toward the “Savages,” that they simply are not worthy of anything else; that people need only know what the elite, powerful, or intellectuals consider worthy.

The Discovery of Columbus has been fascinating for me; I hope it is for you also. These studies are not meant to be detailed and all inclusive, but only to highlight some areas which are presently missing in education; and, hopefully to encourage investigation and some oversight of what is being passed off as the truth of American history.

Next we will go to the Pilgrims and the Puritans;  stay tuned.


[i] Las Casa, History of the Indies, 21.

[ii] Philippe-Aries, Western Attitudes Toward Death, 85.

[iii] Quoted in Michael Paiewonsky, The Conquest of Eden, 1493-1515.

[iv] Kirkpatrick Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 153-54.

[v] 1496 letter, quoted in Eric Williams, Documents of West Indian History (Port of Spain, Trinidad: PNM, 1963), 1:57.

[vi] De Cordoba letter in Williams, Documents of West Indian History, 1:94.

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