Friday, October 16, 2009

Spin Doctor: 1776

When Columbus, upon his return from his first voyage, was introduced with a sort of triumphal honours to the sovereigns of Castile and Arragon, the principal productions of the countries which he had discovered were carried in solemn procession before him. The only valuable part of them consisted in some little fillets, bracelets, and other ornaments of gold, and in some bales of cotton. The rest were mere objects of vulgar wonder and curiosity in some reeds of an extraordinary size, some birds of a very beautiful plumage, and some stuffed skins of the huge alligator and manati ; all of which were preceded by six or seven of the wretched natives, whose singular colour and appearance added greatly to the novelty of the show.

In consequence of the representations of Columbus, the council of Castile determined to take possession of the countries of which the inhabitants were plainly incapable of defending themselves. The pious purpose of converting them to Christianity sanctified the injustice of the project. But the hope of finding treasures of gold there was the sole motive which prompted to undertake it; and to give this motive the greater weight, it was proposed by Columbus, that the half of all the gold and silver that should be found there, should belong to the crown. This proposal was approved of by the council.
--From An Inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations--

I love Adam Smith, he's not swooning in hero worship over Columbus like some people. Instead, he spends a couple of pages pointing out Columbus's failings with dry British humor. But who was the spin doctor, Columbus or Smith? Maybe they both were. Maybe everyone is who tries to interpret things.

Make me laugh and I wont complain.

1 comment:

Trooper York said...

Hey at least Columbus didn't try to sell Isabella shares in a gold mine. He was going to get gold the old fashioned way.

Stealing it from the Indians.