Vine & Fig Tree in history

Against "Separation"

George Washington and
Vine & Fig Tree Vision

George Washington's Diaries are available online at the Library of Congress. That website introduces those writings with these words:

No theme appears more frequently in the writings of Washington than his love for his land. The diaries are a monument to that concern. In his letters he referred often, as an expression of this devotion and its resulting contentment, to an Old Testament passage. After the Revolution, when he had returned to Mount Vernon, he wrote the Marquis de Lafayette on Feb. 1, 1784: "At length my Dear Marquis I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, & under the shadow of my own Vine & my own Fig-tree." This phrase occurs at least 11 times in Washington's letters. "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree" (2 Kings 18:31).
Many other American Founders wrote of this ideal. The phrase occurs a number of times in Scripture. These references are visual reminders of the Hebrew word for salvation, which means
• peace,
• wholeness,
• health,
• welfare, and
• private property free from pirates and princes.
When you read the word "salvation" in the Bible, you should be thinking about dwelling safely under your Vine & Fig Tree.

Enlarging and Beautifying The Mount Vernon Mansion

After completing several busy weeks of service in the House of Burgesses, Washington prepared to move his new family northward to Mount Vernon. He wrote ahead to his estate manager to ensure that everything would be in order for their arrival:

You must have the house very well cleaned, and were you to make fires in the rooms below it would air them. [p.74] You must get two of the best bedsteads put up, one in the hall room and the other in the little dining room that used to be, and have beds made on them [before] we come. You must also get out the chairs and tables and have them very well rubbed and cleaned; the staircase ought also to be polished in order to make it look well.

Inquire about in the neighborhood and get some eggs and chickens, and prepare in the best manner you can for our coming.[29]

In early April 1759 he reached Mount Vernon with Martha and the children. The home had been greatly expanded since the previous year. Washington himself had designed the changes, relying on English architectural manuals and borrowing ideas from other structures in the area. His friend George William Fairfax had served as his construction supervisor while he made the 1758 expedition to Fort Duquesne.
In accordance with Washington's plans, the roof of the old farmhouse was raised atop a new second story, and a handsome staircase was built in the central hallway. Palisades mounted on low brick walls connected four service buildings to the main residence, creating the impression of a larger mansion. The wooden exterior of the house was given the illusion of stone blocks by an ingenious innovation: vertical grooves were cut into the horizontal boards used for siding, and sand was mixed with the paint to produce a roughened surface. At least part of the interior was also redecorated. The west parlor, for instance, was now adorned with rich paneling, a marble chimneypiece and an oil landscape imported from London, and columns and pediments around the doorways.[30]
Additional improvements would come in the years that [p.75] followed. As the number of guests at Mount Vernon increased, the length of the home was gradually doubled—first by an extension on the west end which included a first-floor library and several second-floor bedrooms, and later by an extension on the east end that boasted a large, high-ceilinged reception hall. Following the Revolutionary War, the appearance of the home was further enhanced by the placement of an attractive pediment over the northern front and a cupola in the center of the roof. And constructed along the entire length of the south side, which overlooked the stately Potomac River, was "the first extensive colonnaded two-story porch in Virginia, presag[ing] what became almost the hallmark of Southern pre-Civil War architecture."[31]
Besides serving as his own architect, Washington also filled the role of landscape designer. On the grounds around the [p.76] mansion he arranged for beautiful flower and vegetable gardens bordered by decorative paths and hedges. Over the years he transplanted many varieties of shrubs and trees from the western territories, and he even imported numerous exotic plants from Europe. Throughout his eventful life Washington preferred his "small villa" at Mount Vernon above all other places on the continent. When the completion of public obligations permitted him to return home, he wished for nothing more than to enjoy "domestic ease under the shadow of my own vine and my own fig tree, with the implements of husbandry...around me."[32][p.77]


The Real George Washington (Parry & Allison)
Volume 3 of the
American Classic Series

By Jay A. Parry and Andrew M. Allison

Part I
George Washington: The Man Who United America
(A History of His Life)


29. GW to John Alton (1 Apr. 1759), Fitzpatrick 2:318-19.
30. See Flexner, George Washington: The Forge of Experience, pp. 195-96.
Ibid., p. 246; see also Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, Mount Vernon: An Illustrated Handbook (Mount Vernon, Va., 1967).
32. GW to the Marchioness de Lafayette (4 Apr. 1784), Fitzpatrick 27:385.

More on Washington's Achievements

The Real George Washington (Parry & Allison)
Chapter 30: Life at Mount Vernon

At length...I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac," Washington wrote in February 1784. Finally he was "under the shadow of my own vine and my own fig tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life,...solacing myself with...tranquil enjoyments."[1]  
He had long dreamed of retiring permanently from the public stage, and had even announced his determination publicly. But nerves long wrought up did not readily relax. After being home for two full months he still could say, "I am just beginning to experience that ease and freedom from public cares which, however desirable, takes some time to realize,...I feel I conceive a wearied traveler must do who, after treading many a painful step with a heavy burden on his shoulders, is eased of the latter, having reached the goal."[2][p.442]
Adding to the oppressive burden were the numerous visitors to Mount Vernon, many of whom freely expected meals and overnight lodging. So thickly did the crowds come, in fact, that Washington wrote that Mount Vernon had essentially become "a well-resorted tavern, as scarcely any strangers who are going from north to south, or from south to north, do not spend a day or two at it."[7] Dining without visitors became the exception rather than the rule. Washington confided to his diary in June 1785, "Dined with only Mrs. Washington, which I believe is the first instance of it since my retirement from public life."[8]

1. GW to the Marquis de Lafayette (1 Feb. 1784), Fitzpatrick 27:317-18.
2. GW to Henry Knox (20 Feb. 1784), Fitzpatrick 27:340-41.
GW to Mary Ball Washington (15 Feb. 1787), Fitzpatrick 29:160-61.
8. Diary entry (30 June 1785), Diaries 4:157.

Part II:
Timeless Treasures from George Washington

Prepared by
Andrew M. Allison, Jay A. Parry, and W. Cleon Skousen

The Real George Washington, p.723

JEWS, Washington's Good Wishes for.—May the same wonder-working Deity who long since delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors and planted them in the promised land, whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing [p.724] these United States as an independent nation, still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven, and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.
—To the Hebrew congregation of the city of Savannah. Sparks 12:186. (1790.)

The Real George Washington, p.724

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the Father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
—To the Hebrew congregation of Newport, Rhode Island. Philip S. Foner, ed., George Washington: Selections from His Writings (New York: International Publishers, 1944), p. 87. (1790.)

The Real George Washington, p.801

UNITED STATES, And the Fruits of Freedom.—I really believe that there never was so much labor and economy to be found before in the country as at the present moment. If they persist in the habits they are acquiring, the good effects will soon be distinguishable. When the people shall find themselves secure under an energetic government, when foreign nations shall be disposed to give us equal advantages in commerce from dread of retaliation, when the burdens [i.e., debts] of war shall be in a manner done away the sale of western lands, when the seeds of happiness which are sown here shall begin to expand themselves, and when everyone, under his own vine and fig tree, shall begin to taste the fruits of freedom, then all these blessings (for all these blessings will come) will be referred to the fostering influence of the new government....Indeed, I do not believe that Providence has done so much for nothing. It has always been my creed that we should not be left as an awful monument to prove "that mankind, under the most favorable circumstances for civil liberty and happiness, are unequal to the task of governing themselves, and therefore made for a master."
—To the Marquis de Lafayette. Fitzpatrick 29:525. (1788.)

The Real George Washington, p.816

At length...I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own vine and my own fig tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments of which the soldier who is ever in pursuit of fame, the statesman whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own [country or] perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all, and the courtier who is always watching the countenance of his prince, in hopes of catching a gracious smile, can have very little conception. I am not only retired from all public employments, but I am retiring within myself, and shall be able to view the solitary walk and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this, my dear friend, being the order for my march, I will move gently down the stream of life until I sleep with my fathers.
—To the Marquis de Lafayette. Fitzpatrick 27:317. (1784.)

The Real George Washington, p.824

WASHINGTON (George), Enjoyed Farming.—A few months more will put an end to my political existence and place me in the shades of Mount Vernon under my vine and fig tree....It is true (as you have heard) that to be a cultivator of land has been my [p.825] favorite amusement; but it is equally true that I have made very little proficiency in acquiring knowledge either in the principles or practice of husbandry. My employments through life have been so diversified, my absences from home have been so frequent and so long at a time, as to have prevented me from bestowing the attention and from making the experiments which are necessary to establish facts in the science of agriculture. And now, though I may amuse myself in that way for the short time I may remain on this theater, it is too late in the day for me to commence a scientific course of experiments.
—To Landon Carter. Fitzpatrick 35:246. (1796.)

The Real George Washington, p.825

At no period have I been more closely employed than within the three months I have been at home, in repairing the ravages which an eight years' absence (except occasional short visits which were inadequate to investigation) have produced on my farms, buildings, and everything around them....At the age of sixty-five I am recommencing my agricultural pursuits and rural amusements, which at all times have been the most pleasing occupation of my life, and most congenial with my temper, notwithstanding a small proportion of it has been spent in this way.
—To the Earl of Buchan. Fitzpatrick 35:487. (1797.)

The Real George Washington, p.825

WASHINGTON (George), His Activities in Retirement.—For myself, having turned aside from the broad walks of political [life] into the narrow paths of private life, I shall leave it with those whose duty it is to consider subjects of this sort [i.e., public affairs], and (as every good citizen ought to do) conform to whatsoever the ruling powers shall decide. To make and sell a little flour annually, to repair houses (going fast to ruin), to build one for the security of my papers of a public nature, and to amuse myself in agricultural and rural pursuits will constitute employment for the few years I have to remain on this terrestrial globe. If, [in addition] to these, I could now and then meet the friends I esteem, it would fill the measure and add zest to my enjoyments; but, if ever this happens, it must be under my own vine and fig tree.
—To Oliver Wolcott. Fitzpatrick 35:447. (1797.)

The Real George Washington, p.826

WASHINGTON (George), His Post-Retirement View of Public Affairs.— I am now seated in the shade of my vine and fig tree, and although I look with regret on many transactions which do not comport with my ideas, I shall, notwithstanding, "view them in the calm lights of mild philosophy," persuaded, if any great crisis should occur to require it, that the good sense and spirit of the major part of the people of this country will direct them properly.
—To Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Fitzpatrick 35:471. (1797.)

The Christmas Conspiracy


Vine & Fig Tree

Paradigm Shift


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