Archived Story

American Heritage: The beginning starts with a man’s vision

Published 9:57pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We’ve been taking a look at the Declaration of Independence, the reason for its inception, and its writers.  But one thing that we have not looked into is the history of how we got to the point where such a document was even necessary.  How did our American nation start?

We need to take a look back into the history of America, as we know it. Our history actually goes back to the year 1436.  It was in that year that we find the birth of a child by the name of Christopher Columbus, in the city of Genoa, Italy. His name means “Christ-bearer.”

Christopher had a dream from the very early years of his childhood. He wanted to be a sailor. His desire caused him to become very diligent in his study of geography and navigation.  It was at age 14, that he began to see his dream become a reality. It was at this age that Christopher Columbus began his life of sailing the seas.

The more that he sailed, the more he was convinced that one could leave Europe and sail west and find more land and more civilization.  No one, that was known to him, was convinced of this fact. But that did not dampen his spirit.  He was determined to find that land. But how could he do it? He did not have enough money to buy a ship, equip and man it for such an undertaking.

Some how in his early past, something was responsible for instilling in his heart that he was chosen by God to find this land and it’s inhabitants. Was it when he found out what his name meant? Was it from his being raised with a Bible study background and prayerful upbringing?  No one really knows. But he was fully persuaded that this was the case.

When going back into his journals, one would find such verses as Isaiah 49:1,6 which states, “Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name … I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Columbus felt that God was going to use him to expand the message of Christ to a new people. The Bible had a very keen influence on his life.

At 33, in 1484, Columbus was involved in the profession of map making. He gained great wealth of intelligence in the area of navigation by studying the works of an ancient Greek geographer, Erathosthenes, who had 2000 years prior, calculated the circumference of the earth very precisely.  He also was able to benefit from information that he received from individuals who were returning from voyages.

Columbus made several attempts to get assistance for support for a voyage from the king of Portugal and the king and queen of Spain.  His attempts were a disappointment. No one felt that the plan would succeed and all thought that it would be extremely dangerous for Columbus and his crews. Not only that, but if the vessels sank, it would be very costly, financially.

After his failure in Spain, he decided to leave and return home. A friend of Columbus’, Father Perez, made another attempt at getting some assistance for Columbus.  He sent a messenger to the Queen. He told her that he was fully persuaded that Columbus was under the direction of God to make this voyage.

During this time, Columbus was in La Rabida. While there he received word that he was to return to Santa Fe. He arrived there at the end of 1491. He went to meet the King and Queen and was allowed to present his case to them. The King and Queen gave careful consideration to what Columbus had told them. They called for him and told him that they had accepted his plan and would support his effort.

One of Columbus’ problems was one of pride, self-ambition and an insecurity in that he did not trust people.  After getting his approval from the King and Queen, he reverted back to one of his weaknesses. The King and Queen saw this and decided to withdraw their support.

A man by the name of Luis de Santangel, who was the royal treasurer, intervened on Columbus’ behalf. The Queen changed her mind and again decided that she would finance the expedition.  She was so impressed that she even stated that she would put up her jewels, if necessary, to raise the money. However, Santangel assured her that she would not have to do that.

Columbus proceeded, upon receiving the news that he would be able to make his voyage, to purchase his three ships and supply them for the expedition. He then found two men to take charge of the other two ships. They were Martin and Vicente Pinzon. They were very experienced men and were very much behind Columbus’ idea.  They were natives of the port of Palos on the Rio Tinto. Columbus was also able to find top hands in this port city as well.

On Aug. 3, 1492, the journey was about to begin.  Columbus and his crew were preparing for their adventure. He and his crews knelt on the dock very early in the morning and received communion.  When the tide was right, the voyage began.

By Aug. 9, 1492, they were at the Grand Canary Island. They remained there until Sept. 8, taking on provisions and making necessary repairs. Then, the journey continued.

None of the crew had ever been more than 300 miles off the coast prior to this voyage.  The further past that mark they got, the more they became fearful. The next thing they knew, they were more than 2,000 miles away from their homeland.

Fear began to overtake the crews. Finally, the fear had gotten so bad that Martin and Vicente Pinzon went to Columbus and told him that they and their crews were ready to turn around and return home. Columbus knew that he had a problem. He made the Pinzon’s a promise. If they would give him three more days and they had not arrived at their destination, he would turn back. The deadline would be Oct. 12, 1492. The Pinzon brothers were not sure that they could convince their crews to continue on, but they agreed to Columbus’ request.

On Oct. 11, 69 days since they began their voyage “…some fresh grass, such as grows in rivers, floated by the ships, and one of the sailors drew up a carved staff, and a thorn branch with berries on it, which the waves dashed against the side of the vessel.” (“Life of Washington” by Anna Reed, Pg. 10). Does this mean that the voyage was going to be a success?

We will continue this in our next session.

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