The United States we know today is known for its principles such as life, liberty, freedom, and equality for all. In this day and age, it would be out right absurd just to show up at someone’s house unannounced. Even stepping into someone’s bubble will garner unpleasant emotions in this era. Everyone can choose what to believe or not to believe in. This is the beautiful United States of America that its citizens take pride in. However, the infamous America certainly did not begin this way and its path to the America of today is filled with animosity, bloodshed, racism, and tyranny. The road to the America of today are filled with events that result and stood for exactly opposite of the freedom and equality that America preaches today. In fact, the very beginning and discovery of America was filled with inequality and murder the moment Christopher Columbus decided to set foot on American soil in 1492.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus requested supplies and support from the King and Queen of Spain to embark on a journey for the glory of Spain. During that time, gold was highly valued and sought after due to its high value. Spain assumed that there were large amounts of gold in Asia due to previous expeditions made by voyagers. However, the land routes from Europe to Asia were controlled by the Turks who had recently conquered Constantinople and the Mediterranean. Christopher Columbus requested the aid of the King and Queen of Spain to sail west directly to Asian and India. Neither Columbus nor anyone else at the time knew there were two huge continents west impeding a direct sea route from Europe to Asia and India.
According to Privileges and Prerogatives Granted by Their Catholic Majesties to Christopher Columbus : 1492 “For as much of you, Christopher Columbus, are going by our command, with some of our vessels and men, to discover and subdue some Islands and Continent in the ocean, and it is hoped that by God's assistance, some of the said Islands and Continent in the ocean will be discovered and conquered by your means and conduct, therefore it is but just and reasonable, that since you expose yourself to such danger to serve us, you should be rewarded for it. And we being willing to honour and favour You for the reasons aforesaid: Our will is, That you, Christopher Columbus, after discovering and conquering the said Islands and Continent in the said ocean, or any of them, shall be our Admiral of the said Islands and Continent you shall so discover and conquer…” The King and Queen of Spain grants Columbus the aid he needs and that Columbus would be rewarded for his findings.
Columbus also states in his diary written for the King and Queen of Spain in The Log of Christopher Columbus translated by John Boyd Thacher that “Because, Most Christian and very exalted and very excellent and very powerful Princes, King and Queen of the Spains and of the Islands of the Sea [… ]decided to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the said regions of India, to see the said Princes and the peoples and lands, and learn of their disposition, and of everything, and the measures which could be taken for their conversion to our Holy Faith: and you ordered that I should not go to the east by land, by which it is customary to go, but by way of the west, whence until to-day we do not know certainly that any one has gone. So that, after having banished all the Jews from all your Kingdoms and realms, in the same month of January, your Highnesses ordered me to go with a sufficient fleet to the said regions of India: and for that purpose granted me great favours and ennobled me, that from then henceforward I might entitle myself Don and should be High Admiral of the Ocean-Sea and Viceroy and perpetual Governor of all the islands and continental land which I might discover and acquire.”
In the letter by the King and Queen of Spain, it is stated that Columbus would “discover and subdue some Islands and Continent in the ocean, and it is hoped that by God's assistance, some of the said Islands and Continent in the ocean will be discovered and conquered by your means and conduct.”
In the diary of Columbus, it is stated that he would “see the said Princes and the peoples and lands, and learn of their disposition, and of everything, and the measures which could be taken for their conversion to our Holy Faith […] which I might discover and acquire.” In both cases, Columbus would be instructed to attempt to discover new lands and/or conquer new lands. Columbus himself stated that he would also attempt to convert the religion of the people he would encounter. Even before the voyage began, the thoughts of conquest and conversion of religion were the motives and goals. This already goes against what America stands for today including freedom of religion and freedom of property.
When Columbus first encountered the Indians, the Indians were hospitable and kind. The Indians greeted Columbus and his men with food, water, and gifts. The first thing that Columbus did after thoughts of belittlement was to take several Indians by force so that they would give Columbus the information he needed. “The Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. […] They would make fine servants….With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want. […] As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.” Zinn p. 3-4.
As Columbus’s voyage was coming to an end, he killed two Indians because “they refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two Arawaks were run through with swords and bled to death.” Before Columbus returned to Spain, he took Indian prisoners aboard his ship due to the gold jewelry the Indians wore. This mislead Columbus into believing there were mountains and rivers of gold and the prisoners were his proof his claims of land full of gold. Zinn p 5.
This was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the injustice that was brought upon the Indians by Columbus and his men. Columbus did not treat these Indians as people and thought only about conquering the Indians and their land. What followed would be the slaughter and death of millions of Indians and their families. This was the beginning of the America we are so proud of today. Terms such as life, liberty, and freedom was nonexistent yet this beginning was the main event that would lead us to the America of today.
Columbus, Christopher translated by Thacher, John Boyd. “The Log of Christopher Columbus.” 1903. < http://www.columbusnavigation.com/diario.shtml>
King Ferdinand and Queen Elizabeth. “Privileges and Prerogatives Granted by Their Catholic Majesties to Christopher Columbus : 1492.” The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America. Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906 by Francis Newton Thorpe. Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909. <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/15th_century/colum.asp>
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States of America Volume 1: American Beginnings to Reconstruction. The New Press, 2003.