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Columbus and Champlain Comparison Essay

In two of the selections that we read, we had extensive accounts of Europeans that kept detailed journals of their observations and experiences during their voyages to the New World. The accounts given by Christopher Columbus and Samuel de Champlain differ both in their perceived value of the lands they were exploring and their views on the Natives they encountered. Although both Columbus and de Champlain had vested interests in the success of their explorations, Columbus was far more the mercenary. Columbus, an Italian, had first offered his services to Portugal, France, and England before finally getting the Spanish sovereigns King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel to grant him permission and funding for a voyage. (p.66). He was therefore indebted to his employers so he claimed, without reservation for Spain, both the lands and the natives he encountered. (p.68). Columbus may not have known the brutal Spanish conquests that were to swiftly follow his initial voyage but his letter laid the groundwork for a quick conquest. Columbus heightened interest in his discoveries by exaggerating some of his findings, especially the gold he said he found on the islands he explored. (p.68). Furthermore in describing Espanola, Columbus stated that it as the situation most convenient and in the best position for the mines of gold and for all trade. (p.71) In describing the natives he referred to them as incurably timid (p.70) and that they have no iron or steel or weapons, nor are they fitted to use them. In citing his relationship to the king of one of the islands, Columbus stated that even if the king were to grow hostile, he and his do not know what arms are. (p.72).

De Champlain’s exploration initially started on a ship chartered by the Spanish government but he soon turned his sights on exploration efforts that helped establish New France (Quebec). (p.86) He didn’t waste his time searching for gold and other treasure. Rather, his goal was to
Christianize the native peoples. (p.87) He proved adept at developing alliances with various native tribes which was in-line with his goal of differentiating French policy from the Spanish policy. Although de Champlain refers to the natives as savages (p.89) it is clear that is not in a disparaging way. views on what was going on and how they reacted to it were very different. Columbus ushered in the first wave of New World exploration in the 1490’s, whereas de Champlain’s adventures occurred more than a century later. De Champlain had the benefit of viewing other explorers’ successes and failures. I believe this is what largely led to the success he attained. By working with others, he showed that long-term settlements were achievable.


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