American Elephants


Samuel Eliot Morrison: “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” by The Elephant's Child

History_Ask_History_Did_Columbus_Really_Discover_America_SF_still_624x352How about we just call this “Make Fun Of History Day?” Or ‘I feel so superior because we don’t do the bad thing that our ancestors used to do.’ Tear down the Jefferson Memorial because Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Destroy his statues!  End history.  This is beyond silly. History is what actually happened. Our knowledge of what went on in another time is limited to the writings of the time. Slavery, at the time, was simply an accepted custom, as was indenture. Teachers were often indentured servants, as were others with little money and needed skills. We look back at the institution of slavery now and realize that it was a horror for those who were enslaved, but that is our mores or customs of today.

Some day in the future, people may find our dangerous way of driving cars on freeways with so many accidents hard to understand. It’s not our business to judge the past, only to learn from it. Besides, if Jefferson had not done anything else, the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition alone make him worthy of that beautiful memorial.

So pay no attention to those trying to rewrite history. Here’s an excerpt from Samuel Eliot Morrison’s biography of Christopher Columbus Admiral of the Ocean Seas: A Life of Christopher Columbus. Learn a little about him instead.

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .

Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”

Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

Thanks to Instapundit for the excerpt.


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