Why Christopher Columbus matters

Yesterday it was reported that Oklahoma City changed the name of its Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous People’s Day. This is an effort on the part of Leftist and Native American groups who, like cultural termites, seek to eat away at the moral fabric of free societies like the United States. No doubt Christopher Columbus did some terrible things while governor of Hispaniola (now the Island of the Dominican Republic and Haiti) but his accomplishment and what the day named after him represents is the spreading of civilization via opening of shipping and trade routes to the Americas.

The debate over Columbus day is representative of the struggle between civilization and barbarism. Civilizations do not conflict, they compete and for all of the bad things Christopher Columbus did I am sure I can find even more evidence of savagery on the part of American Indian tribes against European white settlers. The campaign to remove the Christopher Columbus holiday and to slander his reputation is grounded in racism against white people. Racism is wrong no matter who articulates it and for whatever reason.

It is often claimed by opponents of Christopher Columbus and critics of the United States that our civilization largely benefited off the labor of slaves. Never mind, of course, that to this day slavery is still practiced in developing countries many of whom are Islamic. Though slavery is an evil practice, societies influenced by the idea of freedom via events like the Enlightenment can not long justify or continue immoral practices like involuntary servitude. That is what resulted in the United States, Great Britain and most of Spain’s colonies abolishing slavery.

In mid-September, The New York Times published an excellent essay by author Sean Wilentz addressing, if not outright refuting, the claims made by the political Left that the Constitution is a document that legally enshrined slavery. What is of particular note is when Welentz concludes with:

As slavery was abolished throughout the North and as Southern slavery became an internal empire, proslavery advocates tried to reverse the framers’ work, claiming that, with the fugitive servant clause, the Constitution actually established slaves as property in national law. “[H]ave we not a right, under the Constitution, to our property in our slaves?” Senator [John] Calhoun declared in 1840. This became the foundation for proslavery arguments about the expansion of slavery into the national territories that divided the nation in the 1850s.

Antislavery leaders answered with chapter and verse that the framers had refused to extend a constitutional right to property in slaves, and that therefore Congress was empowered to halt slavery’s expansion, putting slavery, in [Abraham] Lincoln’s phrase, on “the course of ultimate extinction.” [Stephen] Douglass broke with those abolitionists who, he said, “hold the Constitution to be a slaveholding instrument.” Running for president in 1860, Lincoln asserted that the framers had operated “on purpose to exclude from the Constitution the idea that there could be property in man.” He added that “[t]o show all this is easy and certain.” It was so well understood in 1860 that it provoked the Civil War.

Far from a proslavery compact of “racist principles,” the Constitution was based on a repudiation of the idea of a nation dedicated to the proposition of property in humans. Without that antislavery outcome in 1787, slavery would not have reached “ultimate extinction” in 1865.

On the eve of Columbus Day, it is important to remember what Western Civilization is all about and the agenda of its detractors. By twisting or misrepresenting the context behind Christopher Columbus’s accomplishment they obviously prefer primitivism and the savagery that goes along with it. If Columbus did not discover the New World, then the civilization that resulted from his accomplishment would have been greatly delayed keeping American Indians in their tribal conditions much longer. Leftists misrepresent and insult their opponents in an attempt to intimidate true discourse and discussion of the consequences of their ideas and polices. It isn’t just limited to environmentalist groups but the political Left as a whole.

When celebrating Columbus Day tomorrow please consider eating out at an Italian restaurant. Since Christopher Columbus was of Italian descent the holiday bearing his name is an extension of Italian culture but his contributions helped lay the groundwork to civilize the Americas he discovered. However, no matter where you decide to eat or what you decide to do, do so knowing of the greatness of the United States and Western civilization along with the Enlightenment ideas they are based upon.