top of page

A Defense of Christopher Columbus

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

There was a time when Christopher Columbus was accredited with discovering America. We have a day celebrating his accomplishments. But in recent decades, elementary schools and high schools alike are teaching children an entirely different story. They are "shedding light" on the subject of Christopher Columbus. After all, he was a stupid, genocidal rapist who never actually set foot in America. They then go on to tell you that Leif Erikson, a Viking explorer from the 11th century, was actually the first man to discover America. But is all this true? Did Leif Erikson actually discover America? Was Columbus really a monster?

The truth is, many of these facts have been misunderstood, misrepresented, and in some cases even straight-up fabricated. Many teachers in our school system don't even realize this and have come to truly believe the things they have been instructed to teach, without doing any true research into the topic themselves.

Historians are in consensus in regards to whether or not Leif Erikson existed. He did. We also have Leif Erikson's personal account of his journey, along with multiple other accounts of his journey from secondary sources, none of which are in agreement. All agree that Erikson traveled to a land which he called "Vinland", but none of them really understood just where Vinland was. He may have landed on the North American continent, though he may also have landed on some of the many islands north, which are now part of Canada.

Most importantly, however, is that Erikson neither shared his discovery with the world nor did he ever return to Vinland after his initial discovery. He abandoned mainland North America and decided that it was not an enterprise worth pursuing. With this in mind, can we really credit him with anything? I like to use this analogy when speaking to those who believe Erikson should be credited with the discovery of America:

One day, a man is walking along the road and he discovers a one hundred dollar bill. He examines it, but after some thought, he decides it isn't worth the effort of bending over and picking it up, so he leaves it on the ground. The next day, you are walking along that same road, but rather than ignoring the one hundred dollar bill, you pick it up with enthusiasm, and show all your friends about the incredible discovery you have made. In this example, would the first man have the right to knock on your door and demand he be given the credit for discovering the money when he had taken no action and told no one of his discovery? Leif Erikson's discovery amounted to nothing, but Columbus' discovery opened up two entire halves of the world to each other.

Now to Columbus himself. Many view him as a cruel man who brought slavery to the Americas, and who didn't even understand that he wasn't in India. this is a very inaccurate representation of Columbus, which has grown from decades of indoctrination from our school system.

Columbus did not believe he was in India. When setting sail, Columbus charted a course for Cippangu, or what is known as Japan today. Columbus was using a map created by a man named Toscanelli, who was regarded as one of the greatest cartographers of all time. Columbus believed that there were several uncharted islands east of Japan, and when he landed in the islands of the Bahamas and the Caribbean, he believed he had discovered many of these islands. He gave the native Americans their name, due to their supposed proximity to India, which he believed he had landed near.

Another accusation thrown at Columbus is that he was a cruel, genocidal man. Many cite a quote from his very own account of the voyage. In it, he states, "I believe that with the force I have with me I could subjugate the whole island." (pg. 204 Journal of Columbus) They argue he was bloodthirsty and thought only of conquest. However, the context of that quote is always omitted. In this passage, he is writing to the king and queen of Castille and Aragon (these countries would later unite to be known as Spain) explaining that he was building a fort on the island. He was telling them that he did not believe the fort would be necessary, due to the friendliness of the population, but that in a hypothetical situation he could easily take the island by force.

Columbus had strict rules regarding the treatment of the natives, and did much to prevent his men from mistreating the population, often going so far as to imprison or execute men who took advantage of the inhabitants. Though he did participate somewhat in the slave trade on the islands he came across, he participated in the slave trade only so far as it existed. Slavery was common all over the world at this time, and Natives routinely imprisoned one another in tribal disputes and wars. Columbus would simply purchase these slaves cheaply from the natives on the islands, and send them back to Europe to be sold for profit. When Columbus used non-purchased native labor for the building of forts, Columbus would insist to his men that they be compensated for their labor.

Throughout his voyages, Columbus routinely gave orders that his men use restraint and avoid mistreating the natives. They often disobeyed, and he nearly always handed out severe punishments to his men. Columbus was arrested after his third voyage to the Americas and brought to Spain. This is always presented as proof of Columbus' mistreatment of the Natives. However, Columbus was arrested and punished not for the mistreatment of the natives, but for punishing European settlers too harshly after they had mistreated the natives themselves. Columbus had instructed that the natives go unharmed. He then discovered that a group of men had raped and killed many of the natives on the island. Columbus had these men hanged for their crimes, and he was punished for it by the Spanish crown.

Many native Americans died after Columbus' voyages. But they did indeed die after. Columbus himself did little to harm the population, and most that would die after him would die from disease brought from Europe, something that the Europeans neither intended nor even understood. Like everyone on this planet, Columbus was not perfect, but the severe scrutiny we subject him to is not warranted. Simply reading and understanding his journal entries could tell you that. He was not malicious in intent, and he deeply desired to preserve the native populations of America, not destroy them.

I encourage you to take another look at Christopher Columbus. Do the research and come to your own conclusions, keeping in mind that no one is perfect. He was often forced to do things against his will while facing a mutiny. He routinely punished those who mistreated natives, and he was committed to bringing Christianity to the population as well. Don't judge his book by its cover, as you may find a not so terrible man within those pages.

Have any comments, criticisms, or article suggestions? Contact us at

Follow us on Twitter!


Columbus's Journal In English:

Myth vs. Fact take on Columbus:

106 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page