The Personalities of the Revolution

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

11 Replies to “The Personalities of the Revolution”

  1. Really awesome post, Charity! Really good.

    I haven’t been able to watch all of the John Adams miniseries, but it helped me rekindle my interest in the Founding Fathers, and others. I had to laugh, because I’m an ENTJ, borderline ENTP. I read a lot on people, but I always feel that I don’t know enough about them still. I marvel at the amazing couple John and Abigail were (personal heroes) , the sheer personalities of various people such as Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, and the courage and indomitable dedication of George Washington. He’s usually one of the first, when I think of my favorite heroes. They were people who stood strong through the struggle, fought long and bitterly hard, and continued to fight in various ways later on. I often think of when I read how Washington would charge ahead amid the cannonfire, with the stout belief that God will only take him when his time comes. I agree that we need more people like that–I think it all the time. (Most frequently when I’m watching the news, or thinking of modern issues). I also think we need to raise a generation that values people like that.

    And then I wonder, with such a good example, how will I try to make a difference? Interesting thing to think about.

    1. It’s totally awesome that you look at history, and people like that and ask HOW CAN I MAKE A DIFFERENCE? It’s one thing to admire, and another to use it as inspiration.

      Washington had total faith in God. He didn’t let fear stand in his way, because he knew that he would not die until it was his time. Imagine what we could do if we all believed that. If we all had total confidence in God. Wow! If every Christian acted like that, what would this world be like?

    1. Abigail Adams was an INTJ — more thoughtful and inclined to think through the consequences than her husband (and better able to relate to her children). They were an interesting couple.

      Jefferson has always been my favorite, I suppose because he was so much more circumspect than Adams — not quite so brazen, but equally intelligent. Or maybe Stephen Dillane playing him just made me predisposed to like him. I can, on frequent occasion be quite shallow. 😉

  2. I love Thomas Jefferson, especially how he was portrayed in “John Adams.” He is probably my favorite Founding Father, because he questioned all things and rationally thought through everything. I wish more of our modern presidents could be like him, or any of these four men. But when God made them, He broke the mold.

    1. I find it amusing that until the miniseries came along, no one cared about Thomas Jefferson except stuffy academic types. Now, there’s a surge in interest in all the founders, but mostly Jefferson thanks to Stephen Dillane’s mesmerizing performance. I admit, he’s what started me on the Jefferson kick, but I soon came to appreciate and admire the historical Jefferson for his own sake. Brilliant man on multiple levels, and the only “Rational-Inventor” president in history. (Most of the presidents are SPs, SJs, and NTJs — none have ever been an NF!)

      With the fear of God comes wisdom. Unfortunately, few modern presidents truly fear God.

      1. I knew Washington and Jefferson’s types but hadn’t gotten the chance to explore Franklin and Adams. But the latter had to be a Thinker — reading his letters between him and his wife makes it very clear he wasn’t much of a dominant Feeler personality. It’s interesting that he and his wife were both NTs: I’ve met a lot of NT types that wouldn’t enter relationships with each other because they realized they would be constantly competing for dominance. John and Abigail actually had a healthy, caring relationship that survived children, politics, and their mutual inclination to stubbornness. 😉 Very cool!

        1. Yeah, if he’d been a feeler, people wouldn’t have hated him so much for being “obnoxious.” 😉

          Abigail’s superior Ni probably helped John thwart a lot of problems before they ever began. They were a good match.

          1. Yeah, but if he’d been a feeler he would’ve been even more annoyed that people didn’t respect him and his views (a theme that seems to come up a lot in his letters to Abigail… not that he wasn’t right). 🙂

            I love how much John respected Abigail and trusted her to help him in his career. In a time and place where women could be looked down on for *just* keeping the house, he constantly affirmed his affection for her and brought issues to her attention so she could give him her insights.

          2. True. Poor John was often having an insecure Fi-related grip experience, due to stress or a lack of appreciation.

            Abigail was an extraordinary woman. He saw that about her. God knew what He was doing when He put them in one another’s life.

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