A Messge to Garcia
Entire Contents Copyright 1999
All rights are reserved to the creators
This literary trifle, A Message To Garcia, was written one evening after supper, in a single hour. It was on the 22nd of February, 1899, Washington's Birthday: 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 radioactive.
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.
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 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.
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At the time Mr. Daniels was distributing A 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 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 A Message To Garcia. The Japanese, finding the booklets in
possession of the Russian prisoners, concluded 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 an author, in all history - thanks to a series of lucky accidents.
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"A Message To Garcia"
In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.
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.
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. 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,
"Yes, what about him?"
"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?
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.
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