None of Columbus’ original journals survive. We have no first hand accounts in his original hand, although we do have copies of copies. So, supposedly these copies of Columbus’ journals damn Christopher for admitting his desire to enslave, rape, pillage, and kill off the native Americans. Are these charges true?
We must remember that for Columbus’ first voyage there are no charges of atrocities. He did leave a garrison with the comment that it would only take about 50 men to secure the island. He never states that he wishes to enslave, rape, or murder or conquer the natives. He only states that it would take about 50 men to leave a Spanish presence there.
There is the famous (or infamous) quote by Columbus that the natives would make excellent servants. In one translation he says, “It must appear to me that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants, and I am of the opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return home six of them to your Highness, that they may learn our language…”
In the context, what does Columbus mean by “servants”? We don’t know. He could mean slaves, or actual servants, or (in a figurative sense) servants of God, since he was talking about his desire for them to become Christians. We do know that Columbus was not the one enslaving or committing atrocities against the Indians, but rather other Spaniards were– led by one Nicolas de Ovando. Ovando, who became a leader in the new lands claimed by Spain, was the one chopping off the limbs and noses of Indians, not Columbus.
Columbus was not promoting sex traffickers– he was complaining against it! The whole time he was governor in the New World (1492-1500) he did not enslave or commit genocide against the Indians. The native population of the islands (and in particular the Taino people) did decrease…until they were virtually extinct within 50 years of discovery by the Spaniards. Did Columbus kill them off? Absolutely not. Did other Spaniards mistreat them (and other Spaniards valiantly fought for the rights and dignity of the natives)? Absolutely yes. But to attribute the decline of native population to an intentional desire within Christopher Columbus is to engage in dishonest psychoanalysis of what actually happened 500 years ago.