Thomas Jefferson, Famous Pursuiter of Happiness

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

Thomas Jefferson was the imaginative and productive founding father responsible for the phrase “pursuit of happiness” in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence. He was an Epicurian (“I consider the genuine doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy of which Greece and Rome have left us.” – Letter to William Short, October 31, 1819.) I believe he was an Adventurer in the Enneagram system of personalities. Adventurers typically engage in many interests and activities:

According to Wikipedia, “Jefferson had a love for reading. By 1815, his library included 6,487 books, which he sold to the Library of Congress to replace the smaller collection destroyed in the War of 1812. He was an accomplished architect who helped popularize the Neo-Palladian style in the United States. He was interested in birds and wine, and was a noted gourmet. Jefferson was a prolific writer. He learned Gaelic to translate Ossian, and sent to James Macpherson for the originals. Jefferson invented many small practical devices and improved contemporary inventions. These include the design for a revolving book-stand to hold five volumes at once… Another was the “Great Clock,” powered by the Earth’s gravitational pull on Revolutionary War cannonballs. Jefferson invented a 15 cm long coded wooden cypher wheel, mounted on a metal spindle, to keep secure State Department messages while he was Secretary of State. The messages were scrambled and unscrambled by 26 alphabet letters on each circular segment of the wheel. He improved the moldboard plow and the polygraph, in collaboration with Charles Willson Peale. As Minister to France, Jefferson was impressed by France’s military standardization program known as the Système Gribeauval and later as President initiated a program at the Federal Armories to develop interchangeable parts for firearms.”

Stephen Greenblatt wrote The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, on how Lucretius’ epic poem, “On the Nature of Things” (first century BC), shaped the thought of Galileo, Freud, Darwin, and Einstein and influenced writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare. He says Jefferson owned five copies of the poem. Lucretius believed the Universe was made of units or atoms and was not created by a miracle. He believed in avoiding pain and tried to convince people not to have a fear of death. Presumably Jefferson agreed with him that neither the mind nor spirit can survive independent of the body. So fear of death is a projection of terrors experienced in life, a fear of pain that only a living mind can feel.

Lucretius also says  people who fear the prospect of eternal non-existence after death should think back to the eternity of non-existence before their birth, which they probably do not fear.  Adventurers should find this idea appealing because they look for ways to not be afraid. Certain other types would not be as attracted to such a carefree thought (leaving views handed down by their religion aside, that is).

Adventurers, including Thomas Jefferson, try to fill their lives with positive activities, thoughts, attitudes, and options. When something doesn’t go well for them, they usually get over it rather quickly.

For more Famous People, see my website:

and my Psychology Today blog:


“Adventurers” as Children (Type Seven)

The Adventurer, from "The Enneagram of Parenting" by E. Wagele

This cartoon shows an Adventurer child giving a sparkling performance, cheered on and supported. Adventurer children are usually curious, lively, charming, and have many interests. They often do best when they can pick and choose from a rich learning environment, since having many options appeals to them. Routine does not. Adventurers tend to be extraverted, sociable, and talkative, but there are exceptions. Freedom is good; boredom and restrictions are bad from their point of view. Adventurer Norris said he felt like a grasshopper in a world of ants when he was a child.

Adventurer children are usually positive, happy, optimistic, have many friends, and think well of themselves. They may sign themselves up to do too much, but they’re usually resourceful and learn fast. They like to be spontaneous.

Likely variations on this type are those who resemble the Observer type and are studious and focus well and those who resemble the Perfectionist and try to do things right. These two types are at the Adventurer’s “arrows,” the lines that radiate out from the 7th point in the Enneagram. The wings, the Questioner and the Asserter also frequently influence Adventurers, in the first case by adding a more light or jittery feeling to the personality and in the second by adding a heavier, more or definite feeling.

With this post, I will have covered all nine Enneagram styles as children in my WordPress blogs in the past six months. Often, I feature the same type as an adult the next week in my longer, alternating “Psychology Today” blog.

Reminder: Ingrid Stabb and I will give a presentation on our Wagele-Stabb Career Finder from “The Career Within You” on Saturday, July 31, at the International Enneagram Association conference in San Francisco.

We’re also hosting a party for our book at Maxfield’s in the Palace Hotel at 5:30 on the same day, to which all are welcome.

To buy “The Enneagram of Parenting”: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound