Words of Advice:

"We have it totally under control. It's one person coming from China. It's going to be just fine." -- Donald Trump, 1/22/2020

“We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here..and isn't it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama."
-- Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, 2/25/20

"I don't take responsibility for anything." --Donald Trump, 3/13/20

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot, by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse." -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Musings on Columbus Day

(Since today is the real Columbus Day)

First off, I'd like to make the point that, no matter how people bash Christopher Columbus, it is nonetheless true that if not for Columbus, it would have been somebody else to land in the Western Hemisphere and stay there.

The Vikings came early in the Eleventh Century and possibly Chinese Admiral Zheng did in the early Fifteenth. The Vikings did not have the technology for crossing the ocean in large numbers, nor did they have the weapons necessary to defeat a larger foe. The Chinese have not traditionally been maritime powers. But the Europeans were and had been for centuries.

By the end of the Fifteenth Century, the Europeans had far better and larger ships as well as better weaponry. If Columbus had not made the trek, others would have. There was knowledge of the rich fisheries in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. Whether to set up fish-processing colonies or look for treasure, the Europeans were going to come to the Western Hemisphere.

The two hemispheres had been separate for thousands of years. The people in one hemisphere were immunologically unfamiliar with the diseases of the other. The Western people gave the Easterners syphilis. The Easterners gave the Westerners smallpox. The exchange was largely accidental, at least at first. The fatality rate in some areas, whether from smallpox or from the collateral effects depopulated much of the Western Hemisphere, with population reductions of 90% or more. The population that remained was not large enough to fight off the European invasions.

At least of large numbers of Europeans. Things might have been different in the local tribes had diligently wiped out the European settlements once the initial transport ships had sailed back to Europe. Once the Europeans had gained a foothold, the game was effectively over. For it would be a few more centuries before the "civilized world" rejected the right of conquest.[1] Back then, the rule was that if you could take land from another nation and hold it, it was yours. Some areas changed hands a lot.

So it could be argued that the Euros did unto the Native Peoples what they repeatedly did unto each other. To paraphrase Jack Vance in "The Grey Prince", control of a country or region derived from a war, no matter how remote in time, and control of that territory depended on the willingness of the authorities and the people to defend it by force. The moanings of those defeated were futile.
[1] Kellogg-Briand Pact. Which is why many nations do not formally recognize Chinese control of Tibet or Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.


Dark Avenger said...


Dark Avenger said...

With Fred MacMurray:


Ten Bears said...

Who will provide the grand design, what is yours and what is mine. There are no more new frontiers, we have got to make it here. We satisfy our endless needs, and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny. In the name of dog.

And you can see them there, on Sunday morning, stand up and sing about what it's like "up thete". They call it paradise. I don't know why. Call some place paradise kiss it goodbye.

War is a racket.

dinthebeast said...

The depopulation from disease played a larger part than is usually acknowledged in the success of the European settlements on this continent. All of those people already lived somewhere, and without them around, that somewhere was easier for the Europeans to inhabit.

-Doug in Oakland

J4rh34d said...

The Oregon malarial plague of 1829-1833 wiped out or scared off 90% of the native Americans from the Willamette Valley, leaving behind fire-cleared pastures for others to claim.

Comrade Misfit said...

Thomas, since 1945, it's been "simply not done" to change borders. Conquest is now an internationally recognized war crime.

3383 said...

Everything you posted rings true except for the wiping out initial settlements after the ships left. It would have delayed matters a few years, but there was no way Europe was staying away, and the Europeans were much better at warfare.

GolFoxtrotYankee said...

Columbus doesn't get anywhere near enough grief for being a complete idiot. Mariners observing mountains at a distance knew that the earth was round and mathematicians had known the relative size of the earth for centuries. Opposition to his plan wasn't because people believed the earth was flat, but that his plan (sail 20000km to China and claim it was a shortcut) was mathematically impossible. "You're going to find a shortcut by going the long way around a sphere in ships that can't carry enough supplies to survive? Great Great. Just leave your plan right there on the floor on your way out." Great Mariner indeed.

Comrade Misfit said...

GFY, about two thousand years, give or take. It took a few centuries until Eratosthenes had calculated a figure for the diameter of the Earth that was pretty accurate (within a percent or so).

Ptolemy recalculated it to be considerably smaller. Columbus set off to Asia based on Ptolomey's calculations. So without running into the New World, he'd have run out of supplies and his expedition likely would have perished. I'm too lazy to do the math of the sailing distance from Spain to China along the 36th parallel.