On June 9, 2020, a statue of Columbus in Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park in Boston was beheaded. On June 16, a statue of Christopher Columbus was removed from Tower Grove Park in St. Louis; an empty pedestal remains. At least seven statues of Christopher Columbus have been destroyed this year. My question is: where are the historians?
Christopher Columbus was not a villain. Here’s an interesting article for those looking to learn the truth of the matter. Columbus never owned slaves. He took some natives of the Caribbean islands into his ship when he arrived so that he could learn the language and have help navigating the area; he treated them well, and they came to regard him as a friend. He took six willing natives back to Europe with him where they were baptized. One of these accompanied Columbus on his subsequent voyages and served as his interpreter. When Columbus’s men took advantage of the natives by trading pieces of broken glass and pottery for gold and other valuable resources, Columbus put a stop to it. Columbus writes, “The people are a friendly and amiable race, and the king took a pride in calling himself my brother.”
After his first voyage to the new world, Columbus wrote a letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, king and queen of Spain, who had financed his endeavor. You can read the full letter at this link. Here’s the final paragraph:
“And now ought the King, Queen, Princes, and all their dominions, as well as the whole of Christendom, to give thanks to our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has granted us such a victory and great success. Let processions be ordered, let solemn festivals be celebrated, let the temples be filled with boughs and flowers. Let Christ rejoice upon earth as he does in heaven, to witness the coming salvation of so many people heretofore given over to perdition. Let us rejoice for the exaltation of our faith, as well as for the augmentation of our temporal prosperity, in which not only Spain, but all Christendom shall participate. Such are the events which I have described to you with brevity. Adieu.”
Some might question Columbus’s motives. Some might spend so much time reading between the lines of his letter that they forget to read the actual lines. “Critical thinking” has taken its toll on the American mind: teaching children to question everything, take no one at his word, and assume the worst about people, training at least one generation (if not two or three) to sit in the seat of scoffers. In place of this critical thinking, children need to be taught to uphold the reputation of others, assume the best until the worst is proven, and, even if the worst should be proven, speak of people kindly, seeking to cover over faults rather than publicize them.
It doesn’t take bravery to be a part of the unruly mob and tear down a statue. It doesn’t take fortitude to stage destructive riots with a thousand critical thinkers. But it takes both bravery and fortitude to do what Columbus did: to sail west from Europe, not knowing what lay ahead, to forge on when the maps had long run past their margins and the crew had long grown fainthearted. Here’s a great poem that honors Columbus properly on this Columbus Day. In an age that seeks to destroy heroes, it does us good to appreciate the virtues of respectable men and seek to attain those virtues ourselves.