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Christopher Colombus Letters and Their Responses

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Christopher Columbus discovered the New World during an expedition to India. Even if he was not the first one who reached America, he was the first one who furnished proofs of his discovery. Indeed, during his four voyages to the New World he wrote several letters to Luis de Santangel and to Ferdinand and Isabella (sovereigns of Spain) in which he described his journey. These letters, that may be classified as an epistolary biographical work, have been written in formal tone and descriptive style; for instance, he referred to his interlocutor as “Sir” in the first letter and affirms “to pray for [their] highnesses” in the last one. By doing so Columbus underlined the authority of the receivers and, at the same time, established the formality of his style.

The first and the last letter, however, differ both in contents and in aim. The purpose of the first letter is descriptive; Columbus described is astonishment for the great variety of greenery that he encountered during his expedition, so that he ended his letter writing that “Espanola is a marvel.” He also described the success of his expedition and how he managed to subjugate the native under his will without them offering no opposition. It is clear from his letter that he considered the native as inferior compared to him and his float, and that he thought he had the right to conquer their land. The intent of the last letter, on the other hand, is explicative. Even if Columbus opened the letter with a concise description of the lands he had discovered saying that “they are in an exhausted state,” this is the only description of the land that can be found on that specific letter. Everywhere else in the letter Columbus was trying to rehabilitate his name and credibility. He first addressed the fault of the death of the land to those who were governing them, and then he prayed the sovereigns for mercy.

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