Christopher Columbus: Journey and Colonization Essay
The journey and colonization of the new world proved to be a monumental task, yet daunting task that presented a new set of challenges for the settlers. In his letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of Spain in the late 15th century and early 16th century, Christopher Columbus describes his colonization of the new world as a massive potential for the seemingly untouched utopia of natural resources. The letter reveals a sense of urgency and uncertainty in Columbus derived from the competition between world powers over the Island of Espanola and the unknown direction the New World would take.
Columbus’ purpose in writing the formal letter is to explain to the “Most High and Mighty Sovereigns” what he considers pivotal in the settlement, extraction of gold, farming of land, and trade system of the Island of Espanola. Columbus’ main concern, Spanish dominance in the New World, is clearly evident in the final paragraph, in which Columbus prays for “the increase of much greater states. ” The nature of Spanish presence in the islands is consequent to an era of immense competition between states over various colonies in Asia, Africa, and what would be known as America.
For states involved in colonization, such as England, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands, colonies meant prosperity and power through vast riches, mostly gold; an increase in foreign commerce; and new territory to utilize for farming and growth of Christianity. In these purposes there is a clear similarity between the values from the Renaissance and present- day values, in which governmental authority places large importance in the expansion and affluence of its territory.
In the introduction to his points about colonization, Columbus displays a sense of respect and obedience towards Ferdinand and Isabella and requests support through reinforcement of colonists. Columbus misrepresents the new world as a group of islands, unaware of the much larger continents in which he had not yet arrived. In the initial voyage, Columbus lands in the Caribbean thinking he has arrived in Asia, which is why he names the Indians so. Despite his incongruous concepts, Columbus’ voyage proved vital to further colonization of the Americas.
The main body of the letter is a set of thirteen points in which Columbus details the main issues of colonizing the Island of Espanola and other islands, namely God, gold, and glory. The expansion of Christianity was highly important to Ferdinand and Isabella, who considered Christianity crucial to the national unity of the newly united Spanish kingdom in the Reconstitutes period. Columbus states that the new world will be forcefully Christian and that the “conversion of Indians” shall be performed by “parish priests or friars”.
Most of Columbus points refer to the extraction, processing, ownership, and trade of gold, the natural resource which most colonizers obsessed over. Columbus presents concerns such as “no one shall have liberty to collect gold in it except those who have taken out colonists’ papers,” ‘that all gold shall be smelted immediately,” and “there shall be a treasurer, with a clerk to assist him, who shall receive all gold belonging to your Highnesses. The motive and obsession over gold is consequential of its use as back-up value in currencies, fancy garments, competitive nature between he major European powers, and other miscellaneous practices. Explorers were motivated to find gold by the “matter of the fifth,” which means that the explorers would be entitled to a certain amount of the riches derived from the land they discovered. To further expand on the importance of a successful trading system, Columbus explains another three points that refer to the stringent process of securing the gold.
As most of the glory from colonization came from gold, the method of collection gold and shipping it to the motherland is very strict in order to prevent fraud. Parts of the process which Columbus proposes include ‘that it [gold] should all be placed in one chest with two locks, with their keys, and that the master of the vessel keep one key and some other person selected by the governor and treasurer keep the other. There is evidently a clear concern over the safety of the gold, which displays the main purpose of increasing affluence of the motherland. The colonization of the new world influenced an arms race between powerful European states over the acquisition of gold and territory. Several states were exerting force over native people and exploiting the natural resources in a similar way the Spanish did in the Island of Espanola. Competition between powerful states is a centuries-long trend.
Whether searching for gold or plotting the destruction of communism versus the destruction of capitalism in the mid-20th century, dominant states have a tendency to seek the greatest riches from their settlements and disregard the well-being of native peoples. In his letter, Columbus is successfully reactive to the desires of Ferdinand and Isabella and he satisfies their concerns that result from competition in order to pursue further exploration.