The American Conservative is privileged to publish this excerpt from Newt Gingrich’s latest volume of historical fiction, coauthored by Chase Madar.
It was a dark and stormy night. Gen. George Washington thought he had never been so drenched as his boat plied the ice-choked Delaware River toward Trenton to make a desperate surprise attack on the Hessian troops of King George. Even for December, it was unseasonably horrid weather, with rain turning into sleet turning into snow.
No, it was definitely not the best Christmas ever this year of 1776. With morale dangerously low, how could his troops, sick, ragged and undersupplied, ever defeat the British and their ruthless mercenaries?
“Excuse me, General sir?” said a voice redolent of bold, game-changing ideas. “May I have the floor?”
The speaker was Lt. Crispus N. Gingnutt, a citizen-solider and nut farmer from Georgia. In all the 13 colonies, a more loyal patriot could not be found.
Though no longer young, Gingnutt still possessed fine good looks, with nary a hint of a paunch nor surplus chin wattle. He was gifted with such charm and vigor as to make all the maids blush in their bonnets, though wenching did not accord with his famously strict moral compass, and neither for that matter did lying, accepting bribes, wagering on games of chance, drinking spirits, misusing tax-exempt funds, nor gazing on the naughty pictures sold by General Lafayette’s troops, especially not on the Sabbath.
Crispus Gingnutt’s square and manly head was framed on three sides by an indomitable mane of silvery hair, and his eagle eyes were browed with rich ebon tufts. His high tenor voice, oft praised for its silken amiability, did pierce the squalling night as if ringing out in an enthralled meetinghouse.
“General Washington, sir, it seems the problem with this military campaign is a lack of big, positive ideas to get this young nation moving again. Allow me to float three innovative policy solutions that are long overdue.
- Replace the three-cornered hat with more efficient uni-cornered hats and mandate that haberdashers use the time and labor saved to run workhouses for war orphans, for the manufacture of nutcrackers, nut brittles, and nut hatches for export.
- Divert resources from this War of Independence into a national War on Hemp—for the sake of our children, this is one challenge we can’t ignore.
- Take what I call a more holistic approach to religious tolerance, requiring Quakers, Shakers, Deists, and Unitarians to affirm their faith in a more mainstream, traditional form of Christianity (of their own choosing, of course) that is less offensive to decent Americans than their current belief systems.
“Folks, if all these years of colonial rule have taught us anything, it’s that real problems require real solutions!”
“Lieutenant, you are a haversack stuffed full of clever schemes,” said George Washington with great enthusiasm. “Carry on,” implored the General. “That’s an order!”
“Thank you, General. I’d like to suggest some bold, strategic innovations that will energize the troops—and the nation.
- First, eliminate wasteful spending on the Continental Army’s field hospital bureaucracy and replace it with a personalized, individual-responsibility-based system that encourages the avoidance of typhus, gangrene, and bullet-wounds through a comprehensive wellness program further incentivized by tax credits and flogging.
- Second, it is imperative that we conquer the Nubian duchy of Timbuktu (partnering with the Prussian Empire and the Kingdom of Fiji) and fast-track it to become the 14th colony. Make no mistake, our national security depends on it.”
At this, the General interrupted. “Er, very well, Lieutenant Gingnutt, but might it not be wiser to avoid entangling alli–”
But the words did not leave his mahogany dentures, for just then did the squall toss a cold wet wave into General Washington’s face, as if God in His wisdom wanted the Georgian citizen-sage to continue his counsel for the guidance of this young and blessed nation.
“And if I may finish, my third point—
- After defeating the Barbary Pirates on the North African shore, we should take possession of their hinterlands, establishing a colony of our own there to be named New Gingnutt, Gingnuttlandia, or St. Gingnutt-by-the-Sea. My personal preference is for the third option.
“Only with such NextGen leadership and forward-planning will the United States be able to compete effectively in the 19th century. Folks, the choice is ours!”
But not everyone in the heaving vessel was satisfied with Crispus Ging-nutt’s innovative policy solutions. One long-haired, grimy, patchouli-scented corporal could scarce contain his anti-American wroth. “How now, Lieutenant, invade the wastes of Araby? Have you gone off your nut, my dear Ging–”
But before the naysayer could finish his spiteful diatribe, Crispus had drawn his flintlock rifle and shot the man, whom he had long suspected, and no doubt correctly, of spying for the British, and what’s more, for being a catamite and a Mahometan. He dumped the traitor’s corpse overboard into the icy river.
“So long—and best fishes,” said Crispus, wittily, as the troops erupted into raucous huzzahs and tossed their hats high into the air.
“By gum, master Gingnutt, such bold ideas as you give tongue to do make my own pamphlets seem like so much chopped offal,” exclaimed Tom Paine, who also happened to be on board. “Methinks you shall inspire many other glorious feats from this young nation! Will you someday lead it as our president or monarch or chief executive?”
Crispus Gingnutt flashed a winning but exceedingly humble smile—it was not the first time he had been so esteemed. Truly, he heard all too clearly the call to lead this young nation, which needed him so badly. On the other hand, he might be of even greater use by returning to his nut farm and selflessly hatching other innovative policy solutions for the immeasurable benefit of his country.
A vexing dilemma, with so much hanging in the balance!
Presently, General Washington’s boat did furrow the ice-choked river no more as it reached the eastern shore of the Delaware, depositing crew and passengers to safety and onward to historic victory in Trenton.
And our nation has been the better for such safe passage. For the gale-tossed boat did hold within its gunwales a man of great destiny—not to mention George Washington, who was also an important figure in his own right.
Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House from 1995-99. With William R. Forstchen, Ph.D., he has authored six history-based novels, including Gettysburg, Grant Comes East, and Pearl Harbor. Chase Madar is a lawyer in New York.
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