The politically correct may seek to denigrate Columbus and his contribution to the civilized world, but I see him as a great man whose courage, ingenuity and perseverance made it possible for civilization to flourish in North America. Although he sailed for Spain, he made it possible for later English settlers to brave the trip to the New World.
Columbus critics repeatedly speak of atrocities committed by Columbus. However his original intent was not violence. He did want to convert them to Christianity but that can hardly be considered abuse. His religion was obviously important to him so why wouldn’t he try to convert a people who had no religion of their own?
Columbus’ initial assessment of the Indians was mostly positive. It wasn’t until his interaction with the Carib Indians at what Columbus called the Bay of Arrows, that things became less pleasant. Columbus and his crew organized a meeting to trade with the Caribs who, for reasons unknown, began to attack. It was a small skirmish but made Columbus and his crew more anxious about the natives.
After returning to Spain, Columbus sailed back to Hispaniola (Haiti) to check on his settlement at La Navidad only to find that all of his men had been killed. There are differing stories as to what happened but this was another altercation that inevitably soured Columbus’ opinions of American Indians.
I am not doubting that Columbus and his men committed some horrible acts but one must put these acts into context. Columbus was looking for a trade route to the Indies and began creating settlements and trade with the natives. These settlements were attacked and many of his men were killed. It was the natives who began hostilities, not Columbus. Instead of giving in to fear and defeat, Columbus persevered and brought Europe solidly into the New World.