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Christopher Columbus, The New World, and Private Property

October 14, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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With the exception of a few ethnic Italian activists, no American appears to actually celebrate Columbus Day anymore (assuming it was ever “celebrated” in any meaningful sense). And unless you work for a bank or a government agency, you may not even notice it’s a “holiday” at all. Indeed, it’s quite possible that Columbus Day would be all but ignored, if it were not for a perennially enraged group of activists who take the Columbus’ many acts of thievery and murder in the New World and use them to indict people born nearly 500 years after Columbus drew his last breath.

Even in his own day, Columbus was accused of inexcusable brutality, and even his friends had to admit he suffered from extreme vanity, ambition, and a lust to rule over other people. A politician par excellence, he continually lobbied for more and more political power, riches, and favors from the Spanish crown. His record was not impressive, and King Ferdinand refused to grant him the governorship of the West Indies which Columbus so longed for.

His own contemporaries noted with contempt that Columbus presided over the mass murder of the natives, and contrary to the current narrative among anti-Columbus crusaders today, it was hardly European gospel that the natives be treated as unpersons without property rights. Indeed, the natives were regarded by many as having the same rights as all human beings. Being non-European certainly did not bring with it sub-human status, and a papal envoy sent to Peking in the 14th century was  not sent to inform the Chinese that they were to surrender all their property.

In fact, this pro-property position was established clearly, at least among the Catholic countries, by 1537 when Pope Paul III issued the papal bull “Sublimus Dei” which stated that the American natives are rational beings while concluding:

…the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.

Of course, people listened to the Pope back then about as much as they do now, so much …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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