Perhaps no other President of the United States is shrouded in so many myths and legends than George Washington. For someone whose public record and life history is known almost entirely, it is very difficulty to know who George Washington really was, due to his image as being the Perfect Man. When you consider that he lived in a place and time which would be like a foreign alien setting to you in 2010, judging morality, customs, belief systems, and actions become virtually impossible. It becomes even harder without 24/7 coverage on TV, radio, and YouTube.
Modern presidents are much more easier to type (although that still doesn’t stop Enneagram message boards from mistyping) than earlier ones. We must rely on Washington’s public actions, diaries, his peer’s opinions of him, “behind the scenes” information, and his own words, as opposed to historical rewrites and legends. Finally as with all Enneagram typing, we must ask ourselves: was he healthy? How strong was his wing? (Riso and Hudson say that everyone has a wing (read), it’s just a matter of its influence).
Let’s go through the Enneagram Checker real time to see how I reach my conclusion, as I did with President Obama. Please note: I am using actual sources, and not myths below:
Type 1: The most obvious choice, Washington was principled, set up the nations’s bureaucracy by being instrumental in creating the Supreme Court, cabinets, departments, and the nation’s governing system. This was a nation built on blood and paper, and GW was the glue that represented change (reform) and continuity. He was stoic and sometimes cold. He was awkward as public speaker (I wonder if he was as bad as GW Bush?). He was idealistic about creating a new nation, a true visionary, and was a hard-working productive citizen. He was a strong man in a weak nation. He thought he was right, and he believed and practiced self-sacrifice. He had a personal code of justice and honor, and he was not a man to mess with. Behind the scenes, he was prone to bursts of anger and irritation when people questioned him. One of his great fears was to be criticized. Without a deep education, he was sensitive about the grammar and spelling in his diaries and journals, and actually edited them later on in his career. Yes, he was an Enneagram Type 1. He wasn’t perfect in real life, but he was darn close, considering the circumstances. Like all Ones, there were some hypocritical moments (huge staff of paper pushers, slaves, killing Indians, etc) that go with being a One. The only questions are did he have strong wing, and was he a healthy 1- was he always a 1 or did he integrate from a Type 4?
Type 2: I was going to quickly dismiss this without a second thought, but gave Riso and Hudson’s Personality Types (the Orange Book) a look to read about 1w2′s. 1w2′s are much more emotional than straight 1′s and 1w9′s. They scold and are much more domineering. Washington is known for letting Jefferson and Hamilton to debate and argue, while GW was the mediator. A Type 2 would have helped France during its Revolution and to fight England, while GW went against popular opinion and remained neutral, certainly not a trait of a 2. A 1w2 likes to reform people around him, while the 1w9 likes to reform society and systems. Washington kept his emotions in check, although he did lash out at imperfections and criticisms behind the scenes. If Washington was a 2, it would be hard to reconcile him attacking Americans during the Whiskey rebellion. He may have fallen for compassion and would have been overcome by rooting for the underdog. He would have done more to please people. Even a 1w2 slips every now and then. There is a small number of Enneagram fans that type him as a 1w2, but they are wrong.
Type 3: There is an argument for GW being a Type 3. Of course the same people who call Washington a Type 3, also consider Joe Biden, Tiger Woods, and Tom Cruise to be Three’s, when in fact, they are an 8, 9, and 8, respectively. Any 3 would be tempted to be an emperor or king. Three’s like to toot their own horns. On the surface, since GW achieved much and seemed like he could do anything (map maker, diplomat, general, legislator, fighter, writer, etc) it is wrong to jump to the Three conclusion. Three’s love the spotlight, GW did not. GW was generally shy and had to be pushed for power. Washington was into spying and did practice “by any means necessary” at times, but it was based on principle not ego.
Yes, it’s true-Washington was a different person as a youth that the statesmen we all know. He writes of self-sufficient life- an absent father, and a mother whom he loved from afar. He had to grow up fast and was out in the wild at an early age, seeing primitive and wild America, and having many adventures with Indians and the environment. At age 20 he’s already with the Virginia militia. He learned from his mistakes, and there’s a reason why he was chosen to lead the American army in 1775- he was the best. However that doesn’t mean he was a Three. Any type can “be the best”. I tire of Enneagram novices attributing being “the best” at something as a Type Three trait. Of course, since a healthy 9 wing becomes a healthy 3, it is possible we were seeing an integrated version of him at some points.
Type 4: Was George Washington born a Type 4? Did he integrate into a Type 1? The young George Washington was full of a longing love and romance. Some called him brash. In later years, he talked about how one learns how to grow and suppress certain emotions for the greater good. The problem with Washington being a 4 as a youth is that it doesn’t correspond to being a 1w9. He would need to have been a 4w6 (which is not a wing) to become a 1w9. Type Ones (the healthy Ones) are known to “grow” and learn from their youthful mistakes. Ones can be wild early on. Yes, under stress or a bad day, I’m sure he was full of rage like a Four can get (1′s go down into 4′s).
Type 5: Yes, he was shy and felt that his teeth were flawed. Yes, he liked to be a surveyor. Those are weak points to prove he’s a 5. Ones have secret vanity as well and they like to map things out.
Type 6: Heck, I think you can find a type 6 in everyone if you look hard enough. But Washington didn’t seem to have issues with security or fear. Even the best of Sixes deal with the threat of cowardice when dealing with the loss of family. Sure, he was loyal to the cause, and believed in the system. But nothing points to the motivations and fears of a Six. Under severe stress, his 9 wing may have gone down to a paranoid, impatient or insecure unhealthy 6, but that seems rare based on the records.
Type 7: A healthy One becomes a Seven and healthy Nine becomes a Three. By all accounts Washington was a healthy human being. Did he integrate into a 7w3? Is this why we see him as the ultimate hero and leader- not only idealistic but also practical and hands on? The average 1w9 sits in his ivory tower and delegates. George Washington not only fought for what he believed in, but also lead troops against rebels as acting president. However, a healthy 1w9 would do the same thing if he believed in a principle. A 7w3 would be an invincible superhero and statesman. It is very possible that at times he was this. However, for the most of his career, I think it’s safe to say he was a 1w9. He certainly was not an average 7. No way. He was at least a healthy One because he was more practical and pragmatic than Average Ones, who are more into theory than reality.
Type 8: Pass.
Type 9: Washington was Mr. Neutral when it came to foreign affairs. In terms of politics, he had no party and didn’t believe in parties. When he retired, he was “done” with public life, and was content to stay with his family. He led by example. He believed in open communication. He allowed his team to debate and tried not to take sides. What made him happy was private time watching his wife’s children playing. He was a peacemaker through military reform, as opposed to being a pacifist. His peers looked up to him because he was balanced and objective. Many times he would stay in the background and let other people get into heated arguments before they turned to him to settle it.
Conclusion: George Washington’s Enneagram Type was a healthy 1w9. In many ways, his personality comes full circle from what we perceive him from the legends and lore of American myths. Even when I discussed his personality, I had a tendency to make him out to be more than human. But based on his peers and journals, almost everyone thought he was The Man, even though he was reserved. History buffs can surely find some dark or somewhat ugly decisions or stories he was involved in, but the bottom line is that he was a healthy 1w9 who lived a hard life and pulled off the impossible to set the standard what it is to be President of the United States.
He is the president that all other presidents tried to live up to. The foundation of the United States is not Corporate America Type 3 or Military Type 3, it is a country founded on principle, law, and enforced order.