Since I’ve been talking about different personality types in this blog for awhile, I thought it might be fun to address the personality types of our most famous founders: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
George Washington was an ESTJ: a man of immediate decisive action, details, duty, honor, unflinching personal beliefs, and strategy. He neither sought power nor wanted to hold onto it, but served in whatever capacity was required. He was known for his ability to devise and execute tactical plans, and his impatience with incompetence and cowardice. His decisiveness in taking action helped win him many victories when battling the British, showing his ability to discern the immediate facts, consult the time-honored tactics of war, and generate new possibilities. Like many ESTJs, he tended to believe his values were universal and that men ought to be governed, a view shared by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.
John Adams was an ENTJ: like Washington, he believed in immediate action and was very good at seizing opportunities, both for political gain and in pointing out the logical fallacies of his contemporaries. He was extremely driven, with a no-nonsense approach aimed at making his vision of an independent nation and new government a reality. Adams had an uncanny ability to predict events and plan for them. He was ambitious, driven, and brutally honest in his assessment of others; this alienated him in Congress and made him “unpopular.” He was a man of tremendous insight, both a visionary and in some small part, a romantic. Like many ENTJs, he tended to dominate the room and felt more comfortable issuing orders than offering heartfelt sympathies. He also believed in a strong central government.
Thomas Jefferson was an INTP: he was gifted in music, architecture, invention, politics, writing, farming, and science. He spoke many languages, continually sought to incorporate a wide variety of ideas and philosophies into his worldview and his political stances, and preferred the quiet life to one of constant debate and controversy. His ability to concentrate on multiple tasks and ideas at once meant he could practice law all day, then come home and write legislation all night. He was a romantic, idealist, abolitionist, and rational thinker who dabbled in music, art, philosophy, design, and botany. He proposed legislation to evangelize the Indians, educate the illiterate (through tuition-schools), and solve many of the financial and legal problems in his home state of Virginia. His incredible ability to process and store away information, as well as focus on a greater vision allowed him to write the Declaration of Independence, among many other documents. Like many INTPs, he was interested in much, dabbled in all, proficient in a multitude of ways, and prone to compromise to keep the peace.
Benjamin Franklin was an ENTP, a more social and outgoing version of Jefferson. He too was an inventor, writer, scholar, scientist, politician, ambassador, and many other things, but had greater self-confidence in a group. He was quick-witted, a master of irony and sarcasm, inclined to poke humorous fun at others but do it through the guise of good-natured likability. He was excellent at playing the “game” of politics, in discerning how to encourage opposing parties and individuals to compromise, find common ground, and work together for the greater good. His interests and inventions were just as varied as Jefferson’s, but he was far more appeasing and more inclined to adapt to his environment. Like many ENTPs, he enjoyed intellectual debate and rarely took criticism personally, but also sought a group dynamic of friendship.
Their shared belief in the need for the Colonies to declare Independence is what allowed such different personalities to coexist in peace during the Revolution, but once the war ended, their differences became more apparent and led to violent disagreements on matters of policy. This is a classic example of how differing dominant functions play in to political beliefs. Washington and Adams had a dominant function pointed at the outside world: extroverted thinking. It is concerned with organizing, establishing rules, giving orders, and controlling the outside world. Their thinking was backed up with introverted feeling, or a belief in one’s own moral values. This contributes to a desire for a larger central government, based on a high moral code.
Jefferson had a dominant function pointed at the inside world: introverted thinking. It has faith in its individual ability to find solutions, discern logic without outside interference, and simplify the complex. It’s a highly independent function that doesn’t like to be controlled. His thinking was backed up with extroverted feeling, or a desire to do what is best for all involved. This gave him want smaller central government, but have an emphasis on humanitarian pursuits.
The Founding Fathers were remarkable but also flawed. Their personalities shaped history in ways that can never be repeated, but knowing them helps us understand them better.