Columbus’s Letter on the First Voyage: Analysis

Christopher Columbus is arguably the world’s most renowned explorer. His discovery of the New World was of epic significance to the European nations. In his voyages, Columbus wrote letters detailing his discoveries and other items of interest. In this paper, I shall review a letter written by Columbus on his return journey from his first voyage. By reviewing this letter, I shall highlight Columbus’s intentions, his attitudes, and the various arguments that he raises in the letter. His prospective audience shall also be deduced from the contents of the letter.

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The main purpose of this letter by Columbus is to shed light on discoveries in the New World. It is possible that by outlining the successes of his voyage, Columbus aims to encourage future expeditions to the New World as well as encourage the ruling class in Spain to finance future voyages. The voyage is deemed to be a great success and Columbus records that he has found many islands with a significant population. More importantly, Columbus aims to demonstrate that he has taken possession of these new lands for his King. This is highlighted by the subsequent renaming of various islands. Columbus also intends to reassure all that the lands are fertile and rich with gold.

Columbus argues that the inhabitants of the islands that he comes across are inherently timid people. To support his claims, he illustrates how fathers flee without waiting for their sons when Columbus’s scouts appear in the village. This is despite Columbus and his team showing nothing but hospitality to the natives. In addition to this, Columbus observes that his crew members and other sailors take advantage of the natives’ naivety and kind-heartedness. In his opinion this taking advantage is wrong and he goes on to forbid his men from dealing unfairly with the natives.

While the people of the islands are intelligent and have knowledge of weapons, Columbus proposes that they would be no match for his men whom he has left at a fort. While the king of the land is an agreeable character and indeed treats him as a brother, Columbus argues that even if the king changes his attitude and decides to attack the fort, the arms and artillery held by his men will ensure their safety. Furthermore, Columbus restates that the people are the timidest in the world and his few men could easily destroy the whole land if they so wished.

This letter is addressed to the monarchs in Spain. The chief recipient of this letter is probably the King himself who is throughout the letter referred to as “his highness”. Columbus’s voyage had been financed by the monarchy and as such he was enthusiastic to report his findings. From the statements made by Columbus, it can safely be assumed that there were other voyages to the Indies before his. These voyages brought home tales of violent tribes and inhospitable lands. Columbus refutes these claims and says that his voyage was a victory. He also insists that the stories told about the lands were baseless and mostly lies.

Some of Columbus’s ideologies and attitudes can be deduced from the letter. For example, it can be observed that Columbus was a staunch believer of the Christian faith. He gives thanks to the Lord for a successful voyage. He also names one of the islands for his Lord and Savior. Throughout his expedition, Columbus seeks to convert the natives to his Christian faith demonstrating that he regards the natives’ religion as inferior and based on error.

This paper set out to analyze the letter by Columbus To discover Columbus’s intentions in drafting the letter. It has been identified from the various arguments that the letter was mainly aimed at highlighting the success of his voyage to the new world. Columbus envisions another voyage and asserts that the newfound land contains treasures for Spain and a lot of people to be converted to the holy faith of Christianity.

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Columbus, C. (2019). Select Letters of Christopher Columbus: With Other Original Documents, Relating to His Four Voyages. Wentworth Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Columbus’s Letter on the First Voyage: Analysis'. 18 January.

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