Tag Archives: Thaddeus Stevens

Typing Abraham Lincoln

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Abe Lincoln is all the rage these days, and I’ve been going with the flow. I recently finished reading Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year. This extremely well-researched and well-written book by David Von Drehle covers the year 1862, Lincoln’s first full year in the office of President. On the first day of 1863, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Shortly after finishing the book, I saw the movie, Lincoln, which takes place in 1865, the year the 13th Amendment was passed by the House of Representatives.

Just about everyone in the Enneagram world seems convinced that Abraham Lincoln was a 9w1. Typing famous people, dead or alive, is common among Enneagram experts and amateurs alike. It serves a purpose in offering examples of types. But it runs counter to most teachers’ recommendations that people come to their own conclusion about which type they are. Many of the people who are held up as examples of type never heard of the Enneagram, let alone filled out a questionnaire or tried to identify themselves. And we can’t get inside their heads to understand where they were coming from or what motivated them. In a lot of cases, all we see is what’s on the outside. So we should take all of this typing of dead people with a grain of salt—or at least a caveat or two.

As far as Abe Lincoln goes, I will agree from what I’ve read that he was most likely a 9. Had he not had such a grasp of the big picture—keeping the Union together—our world would be inconceivably different today. But I’m not sure why everyone believes he had a 1 wing. Is it because of his nickname, “Honest Abe”? Or is it because only someone with a 1 wing (an Idealist) could possibly have been responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation and for bringing an end to slavery? If so, that’s the kind of stereotyping that should make us Enneagram experts squirm.

More 8 than 1

Lincoln was an ambitious man who wanted to make his mark, to have an impact on his world, to be remembered. He was also notoriously thick-skinned. Those are not signs of either 9s or 1s. Those are characteristics of 8s. 8s, too, are greatly concerned with justice, fairness, and equality and with defending and protecting the underdog, whoever they perceive the underdog to be. When 8s take up causes they will do whatever they feel is necessary to achieve their goals. If that includes making under-the-table deals with the “enemy”—as Lincoln did in order to get the votes he needed for the 13th Amendment—so be it. If that includes shading the truth—as he did about the existence of peace talks with the Confederacy in order to assure the House vote took place before the war ended—so be it. The ends very often justify the means for 8s.

As I was reading Von Drehle’s book, I came across many descriptions of Lincoln’s behavior, attitudes, and personal characteristics like these:

  • He had always been proud of his physique, and enjoyed challenging other men to contests of strength, which he inevitably won. He used his size subtly to intimidate, even as he used his humor to put people off guard.
  • …[F]or now Lincoln was still the virile figure of his campaign propaganda, the rail-splitter whose blend of brains and brawn reflected America’s favored image of itself: strong, bright, and independent.
  • Lincoln had a shambling animal force about him, which some found appealing and others found unsettling.

Which type does that remind you of?

When I brought up this typing issue with a friend who is a 1w9—and a history buff—he said he had never thought of Lincoln as an idealist. After seeing Lincoln, I suggested to him that Thaddeus Stevens might have been a 1. At least as portrayed in the movie, he was greatly pained when he reluctantly agreed to deny what he believed to be moral and true in order to achieve the short-term gain of passage of the 13th Amendment. Lincoln, on the other hand, did not seem to have those sorts of compunctions about the wheeling and dealing he undertook for what he saw as the greater good.

Lincoln was a politician. He never denied that. I think being a 9w8 made it possible for him to see what needed to be done in the broadest of terms and then to be able to do it, no matter how he had to bend either rules or people.

From time to time, even “Honest Abe” himself exaggerated or dissembled in pursuit of a great cause.

— Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer

I highly recommend both the book and the movie and plan to write about General George McClellan, who fairly jumps from the pages of Von Drehle’s book as a perfect example of a 5. Of course, McClellan is dead and I never met the man, but strictly as portrayed in Von Drehle’s book–my caveat–he’s a classic type 5.