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    Message to Garcia

    by Elbert Hubbard
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    A Message to Garcia: Being a Preachment (1914)



    If you work for a man, in Heaven's name work for him. If he pays wages
    that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of
    him, think well of him, and stand by him, and stand by the institution
    he represents. I think if I worked for a man, I would work for him.
    I would not work for him a part of his time, but all of his time. I
    would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an
    ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must vilify,
    condemn, and eternally disparage, why, resign your position, and when
    you are outside, damn to your heart's content. But, I pray you, so
    long as you are a part of an institution, do not condemn it. Not that
    you will injure the institution--not that--but when you disparage the
    concern of which you are a part, you disparage yourself. And don't
    forget--"I forgot" won't do in business.

    [Sidenote: _A trying day_]

    This literary trifle, "A Message to Garcia," was written one evening
    after supper, in a single hour. It was on the Twenty-second of
    February, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-nine, Washington's Birthday, and we
    were just going to press with the March "Philistine." The thing
    leaped hot from my heart, written after a trying day, when I had been
    endeavoring to train some rather delinquent villagers to abjure the
    comatose state and get radio-active.

    [Sidenote: The real hero of the war]

    The immediate suggestion, though, came from a little argument over the
    teacups, when my boy Bert suggested that Rowan was the real hero of
    the Cuban War. Rowan had gone alone and done the thing--carried the
    message to Garcia.

    [Sidenote: The increasing demand]

    It came to me like a flash! Yes, the boy is right, the hero is the man
    who does his work--who carries the message to Garcia. I got up from
    the table, and wrote "A Message to Garcia." I thought so little of
    it that we ran it in the Magazine without a heading. The edition
    went out, and soon orders began to come for extra copies of the March
    "Philistine," a dozen, fifty, a hundred; and when the American News
    Company ordered a thousand, I asked one of my helpers which article it
    was that had stirred up the cosmic dust.

    "It's the stuff about Garcia," he said.

    [Sidenote: George H. Daniels]

    The next day a telegram came from George H. Daniels, of the New York
    Central Railroad, thus: "Give price on one hundred thousand Rowan
    article in pamphlet form--Empire State Express advertisement on
    back--also how soon can ship."

    I replied giving price, and stated we could supply the pamphlets in
    two years. Our facilities were small and a hundred thousand booklets
    looked like an awful undertaking.

    The result was that I gave Mr. Daniels permission to reprint the
    article in his own way. He issued it in booklet form in editions of
    half a million. Two or three of these half-million lots were sent out
    by Mr. Daniels, and in addition the article was reprinted in over
    two hundred magazines and newspapers. It has been translated into all
    written languages.

    [Sidenote: Prince Hilakoff]

    At the time Mr. Daniels was distributing the "Message to Garcia,"
    Prince Hilakoff, Director of Russian Railways, was in this country. He
    was the guest of the New York Central, and made a tour of the country
    under the personal direction of Mr. Daniels. The Prince saw the little
    book and was interested in it, more because Mr. Daniels was putting it
    out in such big numbers, probably, than otherwise.

    [Sidenote: The Russian railroad-men]

    In any event, when he got home he had the matter translated into
    Russian, and a copy of the booklet given to every railroad employee in

    Other countries then took it up, and from Russia it passed into
    Germany, France, Spain, Turkey, Hindustan and China. During the war
    between Russia and Japan, every Russian soldier who went to the front
    was given a copy of the "Message to Garcia."

    [Sidenote: The war in the East]

    The Japanese, finding the booklets in possession of the Russian
    prisoners, concluded that it must be a good thing, and accordingly
    translated it into Japanese.

    And on an order of the Mikado, a copy was given to every man in the
    employ of the Japanese Government, soldier or civilian. Over forty
    million copies of "A Message to Garcia" have been printed.

    [Sidenote: Its great circulation]

    This is said to be a larger circulation than any other literary
    venture has ever attained during the lifetime of the author, in all
    history--thanks to a series of lucky accidents!--E.H.


        As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful
        messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of
        his masters.--_Proverbs xxv:_ 13


    In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon
    of my memory like Mars at perihelion.

    [Sidenote: The President needed a man]

    When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very
    necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents.
    Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba--no one knew
    where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The President
    must secure his co-operation, and quickly. What to do!

    [Sidenote: And found one]

    Some one said to the President, "There is a fellow by the name of
    Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."

    [Sidenote: He delivered the message]

    Rowan was sent for and was given a letter to be delivered to Garcia.
    How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in
    an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by
    night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the
    jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island,
    having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter
    to Garcia--are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.
    The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to
    be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where
    is he at?" By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in
    deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land.
    It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and
    that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be
    loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the
    thing--"Carry a message to Garcia."

    [Sidenote: The Moral]

    General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.

    No man who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many
    hands were needed, but has been well-nigh appalled at times by the
    imbecility of the average man--the inability or unwillingness to
    concentrate on a thing and do it.

    [Sidenote: There are other Garcias]

    Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and
    half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook
    or crook or threat he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or
    mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel
    of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You
    are sitting now in your office--six clerks are within call. Summon any
    one and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a
    brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio."

    Will the clerk quietly say, "Yes, sir," and go do the task?

    On your life he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and
    ask one or more of the following questions:

    [Sidenote: Which Encyclopedia?]

    Who was he?
    Which encyclopedia?
    Where is the encyclopedia?
    Was I hired for that?
    Don't you mean Bismarck?

    [Sidenote: What's the matter with Charlie doing it?]

    What's the matter with Charlie doing it?
    Is he dead?
    Is there any hurry?
    Shall I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
    What do you want to know for?

    _I wasn't hired for that anyway!_

    And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the
    questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want
    it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him
    try to find Garcia--and then come back and tell you there is no such
    man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average
    I will not.

    Now, if you are wise, you will not bother to explain to your
    "assistant" that Correggio is indexed under the C's, not in the K's,
    but you will smile very sweetly and say, "Never mind," and go look it
    up yourself.

    [Sidenote: _Dread of getting "the bounce"_]

    And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this
    infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold
    and lift--these are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the
    future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when
    the benefit of their effort is for all? A first mate with knotted club
    seems necessary; and the dread of getting "the bounce" Saturday night
    holds many a worker to his place.

    Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply can
    neither spell nor punctuate--and do not think it necessary to.

    Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

    "You see that bookkeeper," said a foreman to me in a large factory.

    "Yes; what about him?"

    [Sidenote: _Who wants a man like this?_]

    "Well, he's a fine accountant, but if I'd send him up-town on an
    errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other
    hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main
    Street would forget what he had been sent for."

    Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

    We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the
    "downtrodden denizens of the sweat-shop" and the "homeless wanderer
    searching for honest employment," and with it all often go many hard
    words for the men in power.

    [Sidenote: _The weeding-out process_]

    Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a
    vain attempt to get frowsy ne'er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and
    his long, patient striving with "help" that does nothing but loaf when
    his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant
    weeding-out process going on. The employer is continually sending away
    "help" that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of
    the business, and others are being taken on.

    [Sidenote: _This man says times are scarce_]

    No matter how good times are, this sorting continues: only if times
    are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer--but out and
    forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the
    fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best--those
    who can carry a message to Garcia.

    I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to
    manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to
    any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane
    suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress,
    him. He can not give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a
    message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be,
    "Take it yourself!"

    [Sidenote: _A spiritual cripple_]

    Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind
    whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare
    employ him, for he is a regular firebrand of discontent. He is
    impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the
    toe of a thick-soled Number Nine boot.

    Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied
    than a physical cripple; but in our pitying let us drop a tear, too,
    for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose
    working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast
    turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference,
    slipshod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for
    their enterprise, would be both hungry and homeless.

    [Sidenote: _A word of sympathy for the man who succeeds_]

    [Sidenote: _Rags not necessarily a recommendation_]

    Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the
    world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the
    man who succeeds--the man who, against great odds, has directed the
    efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there's nothing in it:
    nothing but bare board and clothes. I have carried a dinner-pail and
    worked for day's wages, and I have also been an employer of labor,
    and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no
    excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all
    employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor
    men are virtuous.

    [Sidenote: _Good men are always needed_]

    [Sidenote: _Needed today and needed badly--A MAN_]

    My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is
    away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given
    a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any
    idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into
    the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets
    "laid off," nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization
    is one long, anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such
    a man asks shall be granted. His kind is so rare that no employer can
    afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village--in
    every office, shop, store and factory.

    The world cries out for such: he is needed, and needed badly--the man
    who can carry


        To act in absolute freedom and at the same time know that
        responsibility is the price of freedom is salvation.



    The supreme prayer of my heart is not to be learned or "good," but to
    be Radiant.

    I desire to radiate health, cheerfulness, sincerity, calm courage and

    I wish to be simple, honest, natural, frank, clean in mind and clean
    in body, unaffected--ready to say, "I do not know," if so it be, to
    meet all men on an absolute equality--to face any obstacle and meet
    every difficulty unafraid and unabashed.

    I wish others to live their lives, too, up to their highest, fullest
    and best. To that end I pray that I may never meddle, dictate,
    interfere, give advice that is not wanted, nor assist when my services
    are not needed. If I can help people I'll do it by giving them a
    chance to help themselves; and if I can uplift or inspire, let it be
    by example, inference and suggestion, rather than by injunction and
    dictation. That is to say, I desire to be Radiant--to Radiate Life.
    If you're writing a Message to Garcia essay and need some advice, post your Elbert Hubbard essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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