The new life of Christopher Columbus by Dr. Justin Winsor, Librarian of the university, deals with the discoverer of America in a manner essentially different from that of any other author on the subject. The aim seems to have been to present carefully collected facts in a way which will enable the reader to form the most real and accurate idea possible of Columbus as a man. Few men have been more written about and had more romances invented to fill out what they ought to have been, but in this work, special pains have been taken to separate the legends from the facts.
The principal sources of information are mostly Spanish and to a considerable extent are the writings of Columbus himself. Unfortunately, a great deal of his manuscript was thrown away because it was of no apparent value, for not until Columbus had been dead many years did his name rise to that position of honor which it has since held among Europeans.
In the early life of Columbus there are no promises of genius about which so much has been said by some writers. He was what we would call today, a nautical and geographical crank, and it was mainly his own imperfections as a man which stood in the way of his early success.
The great interest of Columbus and his companions in the discovery of America was to find gold in the new land. It was this excessive desire for money and for recognition of his services to Spain which disclosed to the court that he was an insincere man and not capable of following out to advantage the discoveries he had made. This is the reason why he was not treated with more consideration by Ferdinand and Isabella. Speaking of his weaknesses Dr. Winsor says: "When we view the character of Columbus in its influence upon the minds of men, we find some strange anomolies. Before his passion was tainted with the ambition of wealth, and its consequence, and while he was urging the acceptance of his views for their own sake, it is evident that he impressed others in a way that never happened after he had secured his privileges. It is after this turning point of his life that we begin to see his falsities and indiscretions, or, at least, to find record of them."
As a viceroy, no man ever showed less capacity than Columbus. While he talked a great deal in Spain about making converts of the poor souls, yet it is to him that we trace the Spanish law which allowed every colonist to exercise the vilest absolute power over as many natives as his means and rank entitled him to hold.
As a whole, Dr. Winsor's book throws a new light on the career of Columbus and gives precisely the information that was wanted to fill out our knowledge of him as a man. ["Christopher Columbus," by Justin Winsor, Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co. 8 vo.].