If you work for a man, then work for him with all your heart. If he pays wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, 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. An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must vilify, condemn, and eternally disparage, why don’t you resign your position? And when you are outside, speak ill of the man and his institution 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 institution of which you are a part, you disparage yourself. And don’t forget – “I forgot” won’t do in business.
This essay, ‘A Message to Garcia’, was written one evening after supper, in a single hour. It was on the 22nd February, 1899, Washington’s Birthday, and we were just going to press with the March issue of ‘Philistine’. The essay leaped hot from my heart, written after a really busy day, when I had been struggling to train some rather lazy villagers to come out of their sleepy, idle state and get active & productive. The immediate suggestion, though, came from a little argument while having tea, in my house. During the argument, my son 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.
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 the essay ‘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. 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.
At the time Mr. Daniels was distributing the ‘Message to Garcia’, Prince Hylakoff, 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. 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 Russia. 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’. 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.
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!
The world bestows its big prizes, both in money and in honors, for only one thing. And that is Initiative.
What is Initiative? I’ll tell you: It is doing the right thing without being told.
But next to doing the thing without being told is to do it when you are told once. That is to say, carry the Message to Garcia: those who can carry a message get high honors, but their pay is not always in proportion.
Next, there are those who never do a thing until they are told twice; such get no honors and small pay.
Next, there are those who do the right thing only when necessity kicks them from behind, and these get indifference instead of honors and a pittance for pay. This kind spends most of its time complaining about hard-luck and injustice.
Then, still lower down in the scale than this, we have the fellow who will not do the right thing even when someone goes along to show him how and stays to see that he does it; he is always out of job, and receives the contempt he deserves
To which class do you belong?
By Elbert Hubbard
A Message to Garcia
By Elbert Hubbard
In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out in my memory. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba – no one knew where. Neither mail nor telegram could reach him. The President of USA must secure his cooperation, and quickly.
What to do!
Someone said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan in our Army. He will certainly find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How ‘the fellow by the name of Rowan’ took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin 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, & 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 I wish to make is this: President McKinley gave Col Andrew Summers Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he? Where can I find Garcia?” By God! There is a man whose form should be cast in pure bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning that young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the backbone which will make them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, to concentrate their energies: Do the thing – ‘Carry a message to Garcia!’ General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.
Every man, who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, would have certainly been shocked at the imbecility of the average man. What do I mean by imbecility? It is the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slip-shod assistance, foolish inattention, indifference, & half-hearted work seem to be the rule. In the present circumstances, no man succeeds in getting work done by others, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him. Of course, in the rarest of the rare situations, God in His goodness performs a miracle, & sends him an Angel of Light as an assistant.
You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office. Six clerks are working in your office and you are free to call any of them and assign them a task.
Call any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and write a brief note for me concerning the life of Correggio.”
Will the clerk quietly say, “Yes, sir”, and go do the task?
I will bet you a thousand dollars, he will not. He will look at you out of the corner of his eye and ask one or more of the following questions:
Who was Correggio?
Where is the encyclopedia?
Was I hired for that?
Don’t you mean Bismarck?
What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?
Is he dead?
Is there any hurry?
Wouldn’t it be better if I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
What do you want to know for?
And I will bet you another thousand dollars 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 C, not under K, but you will smile sweetly and say, “Never mind”, and go look it up yourself.
This incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for their own good, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? A first-mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the fear of getting ‘fired’ 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 Accountant”, said the foreman to me in a large factory.
“Yes. What about him?”
“Well he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him to town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, but there is an equal chance that he might stop at four shops on the way for some personal matter of his own, 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 sympathy expressed for the ‘downtrodden, poor people’ and the ‘homeless wanderer searching for honest employment’. Generally, along with such cries, we also hear many hard words spoken about the men in power, the people who employ.
Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get these idiots to do intelligent work. No one ever speaks about the employer’s long & patient striving with ‘the assistant’ who 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 constantly sending away ‘assistants’ that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues. The incompetent and unworthy worker goes out of work. 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 brilliant man, who cannot manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to anyone else. Why? Because, he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him! He cannot give orders; and he will not receive them. If we gave a message to him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, “Take it yourself”.
Today, this man walks the streets looking for job. He doesn’t even have a good coat to protect him from the cold wind. No one who knows him will dare to employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent. He is impervious to reason. And I believe that the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled size-9 boot!
It may be argued that this man is morally deformed. And family conditions, school & college situations, and life in general is responsible for his moral deformity. As a result, he has to be pitied just as we pity a physically handicapped person. But in our pitying this imbecile, let us also drop a tear for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the siren, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line the stupidly indifferent, the slip-shod imbecile, the heartless & ungrateful idiot. It is a fact that these imbeciles and idiots would be both hungry & homeless, if they were not painfully kept in employment by the very business that they curse day and night.
Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have. But when the entire world has gone to sleep at night, I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds, the man who, against great obstructions, has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there’s nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes. In my own life, there was a time when I have worked for daily 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.
My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the ‘boss’ is away, as well as when he is in office. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly take the letter, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no hidden intention of throwing it into the nearest sewer, never gets ‘fired’. Neither does he have 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. Such a kind of person 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, & needed very badly – the man who can carry a message to Garcia.
A note on Andrew Summers Rowan:
Colonel Andrews Summers ROWAN was born in Gap Mills, Virginia, in 1857. He was an American officer and graduated of West Point class of 1881. In the years before the Spanish American War, Rowan served several frontiers posts and with military intelligence in Latin America. He was interested in Cuba in particular and wrote a book about the island. With tensions between the United States and the Spanish (who then ruled Cuba) growing, President William McKinley saw value in establishing contact with the Cuban rebels who could prove a valuable ally in case of war with Spain. McKinley asked Colonel Arthur Wagner to suggest an officer to make contact with Garcia’s rebels. Wagner suggested Rowan who then traveled to Cuba via Jamaica. Rowan met Garcia in the Oriento Mountains and established a rapport. Rowan garnered information from Garcia who was eager to cooperate with Americans in fighting the Spanish. Rowan returned to the US and was given command of a force of ‘Immunes’, African-American troops assumed to be immune to tropical diseases found in Cuba. After his service in the Spanish-American War, he served in the Philippines and posts in the US Fort Riley (Kansas), West Point (Kentucky) and American Lake (Washington), retiring in 1909. More than twenty years later, Rowan was presented the ‘Distinguished Service Cross’ for his extraordinary heroism in action in connection with the operations in Cuba in May, 1898. Rowan died in San Francisco in 1943. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.