Chistopher Columbus

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade October 2001

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Perhaps more than any other single figure in American History, Christopher Columbus sparks controversy. Some people praise him praised as a hero of courage and vision. Other people utterly despise Columbus as a villain of the first order who enslaved the natives. Somewhere in the mix of those divergent opinions exists the truth about the legacy of Christopher Columbus. Columbus was a man armed with the dream of reaching the East Indies by sailing west. Columbus possessed mixed motives. First, he wanted to bring the Christian Faith to the inhabitants of the Indies. His contemporaries described him as a pious and thoughtful man. These were the qualities, which most impressed Queen Isabella. Second, and arguably of equal or greater importance as a motive, Columbus wanted a share in the wealth of any trade with the Indies in order to secure his and his family's financial future. Doing better by doing good is certainly a familiar enough refrain in the opera of human history.

Third, Columbus was ambitious. He demanded of the Crown that he be named "Viceroy of the Indies" and "Admiral of the Ocean Seas." These were not titles attached to sinecures. Yet, Columbus' talents were not in administration. Viceroy was a role beyond his abilities and that is where the trouble truly began. Legend says that Queen Isabella pawned her jewels to fund Columbus' voyages. It is true that Isabella had some history of putting her gems out as collateral in times of dire necessity. However, the 1492 voyage was funded by back taxes owed the Crown taken in the form of two small ships and crews. The financing deal, which the Spanish Crown worked out with Columbus, called for him to repay the Crown for the expenses of mounting the voyages out of Columbus'...



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