Christopher Columbus: Hero or Villian?

Essay by skierdude1000Junior High, 9th gradeA+, December 2005

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Columbus was a hero and a villain. He is a hero because he found the Americas for the Old World (consisting of Africa, Europe, and Asia.) This discovery allowed for more trade between the two very different lands. On the other hand, he is a villain for treating the Natives ruthlessly, and for abusing them.

Columbus is a hero because he discovered the Americas for the Old World and allowed the two "worlds" to meet. Document A says that " a sense he made it all happen (referring to American History)..." Before Columbus, no one (except the un-talked about trip of the Vikings) had been daring enough to go out and find the route to Asia. Columbus didn't find what he was looking for, instead he found the Americas. Now the Europeans and the Native Americans could learn from each other. This resulted in more trade between the two groups.

Both wanted to get things from each other that they had never seen or heard of before. They traded foods, tools, and technologies. The Europeans could now eat foods like corn and potatoes, and the Indians were introduced to sugar. This transfer of goods and ideas is called the Columbian Exchange and is talked about on Page 69 of the "American Nation" textbook. Columbus's discovery lead to trade, and this allowed people to learn about and see new things for the first time in their lives.

The first Conquest of the Americas was when Columbus took over the land of the Tainos. Many more tribes and empires would soon follow in their footsteps. Columbus came to the Americas with the intent of seizing the Indian lands and converting the "heathens" to Christianity. According to Document E "...'Discovery' also cost the Native Americans their land..." The Europeans felt they had the right to take the lands away from the Natives and that they were justified in doing so; some thought it was ok, just because "...the Indians were not Christian..." states article E. Columbus basically just took over their land, because he felt it was right, he had power to do so, and because they were Indian. Columbus committed an un-justice against the Natives who had done nothing wrong and had only had friendly intentions. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew 7:12. None of the Europeans would have wanted someone to steal all of their land. Even though Columbus claimed to have "discovered" the Indians and their land, the Natives already occupied the land; he had no right to take it away. The Tainos had no way to stop Columbus and others from taking their land, and they didn't really have much say in their futures either.

In addition, Columbus is a villain because of how he treated the Natives. Right off the back he took advantage of them. Document D refers to how he knew that the Natives thought he and his men came from the heavens; "...they believe that all strength, all power, in short, are from heaven, and that I have come down from there with these ships and sailors..." Columbus clearly knew this and benefited using this knowledge. According to Document F the Tainos, the first Natives that Columbus came in contact with, were "...overworked, poorly fed, and many died from exhaustion and malnutrition..." The Natives were used as slaves and the Europeans considered it a normal thing to do. This clearly shows that Columbus could care less about them. In addition to the fact that they were used as slaves and overworked, they weren't fed inadequately. Being malnourished caused them to get more diseases, not even including the European diseases that nearly wiped out all of the Natives, and in the end came death. Columbus and his men considered the slaves as commodities, not as fellow people. They just abused them and simply let them do work, until they died one way or the other. Indians were put into mines and fields to unbearable tasks. Many died from exhaustion. This is cruel because the fact that so many Indians died due mainly to their cruel treatment, and were taken advantage of by Columbus because of their beliefs. That is something that is so inhumane, that it is impossible to even comprehend the level of evilness someone had to be at to commit such a crime against humanity.

Over the course of Columbus's voyages he committed evils as well as opening a gateway between the Americas and Europe that still remains intact today. Although he did make this heroic accomplishment, in my eyes his reputation is sullied by the atrocities that he committed. He abused and exploited the Natives as well as taking away their homes. The mark that Columbus has made in History will never be forgotten, but underneath the identity that we so commonly see depicted in children's books, lies the other side of a man thought to be so great in the eyes of the innocent.