Even 214 years after the death of Alexander Hamilton, there’s still much we don’t know about the 10-dollar founding father. Was he really in love with Angelica Schuyler? Who was his real dad? Most importantly, what is his Enneagram type? While we can’t put Hamilton and his compatriots in front of an Enneagram test, we can type their characters from the hit musical Hamilton. Because the Enneagram is all about relationships, we’ll also look at some of the key players in Alexander’s life and see if we can’t explain their connection.
“How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive? How do you write like you need it to survive?”
Our hero is depicted in the eponymous musical as a relentless, driven perfectionist. He’s almost always the smartest person in the room, and there’s hardly a point in the play where his pen leaves his hand. Alexander spends the play fighting for what he believes is right, and is utterly engrossed in the perfection of the American experiment. In other words, Hamilton is a Type One: The Reformer.
The Enneagram Institute describes Ones as “crusaders and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake.” Sound familiar? At their best, Ones are “conscientious with strong personal convictions.” At their worst, they’re hyper-critical and punitive.
What piece of advice can we grab from the Enneagram creators that might have helped Hamilton escape death by murder? “Try to step back and see that your anger alienates people so they cannot hear many of the good things you have to say. Further, your own repressed anger may well be giving you an ulcer or high blood pressure and is a harbinger of worse things to come.”
Worse things, indeed.
“How can I keep leading when the people I lead keep retreating?”
When typing Hamilton’s mentor and idol, it’s important to keep in mind the good and the bad. On the plus side, Washington is tireless in his pursuit of a better world and willing to sacrifice anything for his fellow countrymen. Unfortunately, he’s plagued with doubt in himself and his closest allies, as we see in “Guns and Ships.”
If we look at Type Six: The Loyalist, we find a basic fear of being without support and a basic desire for security. It’s hard to imagine a closer fit for the man who enters the play searching for a capable right-hand man, and eventually leaves the highest office in the land to sit under his “own vine and fig tree.” Healthy Sixes are noted for eliciting “strong emotional responses from others” and characterized as sacrificial “community builders.”
The Enneagram Institute notes that Sixes and Ones share more than they don’t: They’re both honorable and diligent, with strong ideas about right and wrong. In a One-Six relationship, Ones often provide decisiveness and a “concern for order,” while Sixes bring Ones an awareness for others. It’s no small wonder, then, that Washington chooses Hamilton to help build America’s financial foundations.
“Can I show you what I’m proudest of?”
If there’s one consistently good character in Hamilton, it’s Eliza Schuyler. She’s a mother who loves her kid enough to beatbox for him. She’s a wife who finds the ability to forgive in impossible circumstances. She’s an accomplished advocate in her own right, with her legacy stamped across the first private orphanage in New York City and the nation’s tallest obelisk. Eliza is the definition of a Type 2: The Helper.
Not only is Eliza a helper, she’s also one of the psychologically healthiest people in the play. She’s unconditionally loving but not manipulative or people-pleasing. She’s caring without being obsessive and able to heal despite facing crisis after crisis. Unfortunately, her partner isn’t as self-actualized, and we see some traditional trouble spots emerge for the two of them.
In a crucial turning point for Hamilton, he chooses to work while Eliza leaves on vacation. Their emotional exhaustion and temporary separation leads Hamilton into an affair that doesn’t just change his life, it alters the course of American history.
As the Enneagram Institute puts it, “Work must always come before play.” Looking at the aftermath of that adultery, we have to wonder if Eliza matches up with EI’s take on classic One/Two conflict: “[Twos] can begin to be disappointed in the reality of One’s idealism, thinking that Ones may love humanity but have little real compassion for human people.” Looking at the wake of pain Hamilton always seems to leave behind him, it’d be hard to fault Eliza for agreeing with that.
“I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait.”
For most of the play, we’re in Aaron Burr’s head. We learn about a secretive and cerebral man, disconnected from emotion and detached from others. In other words, we see Type 5: The Investigator.
Burr swings between extremes of incredible achievement and utter despair. By the end of the play, he’s been so rocked that he becomes reclusive, angry and bitter. An unhealthy psychology isn’t all that he and Hamilton share, but it is what leads them to opposite sides of the dueling grounds.
Like other One/Five relationships, we can see more of Hamilton and Burr in each other than they may like to admit. The EI tells us “both see themselves as fact-oriented, although Fives are more purely mental while Ones like their ideas and philosophies to have practical ramifications.” Burr is willing to switch parties whenever he sees opportunity. When Hamilton has the chance to defend a governing document, he blows his collaborators out of the water with 51 impassioned arguments for the Constitution.
There’s the seed of One/Five conflict: the tension between the objective ideal the One celebrates and the Five’s inability to see an objective, ultimate truth. It’s exactly that conflict that sparks the duel. When Hamilton complains Burr has no consistent beliefs, Burr loses his election and blames the moralizing advocate who stood against him. With his political career dead in the water, Burr is pushing up against the Five’s basic fear of “being useless, helpless or incapable.” What advice does the Enneagram have for Burr? “It is important to remember that having conflicts with others is not unusual and that the healthy thing is to work them out rather than reject attachments with people by withdrawing into isolation.” Or presumably, by engaging in dueling.
The Enneagram isn’t Holy Scripture, and Hamilton isn’t a documentary. But both can help us understand more about the worlds within us and around us. Hamilton died over 200 years ago. Aaron Burr died alone and reviled, never securing the legacy he chased. Eliza helped and helped and helped, but never again found the same depth of love she had for her husband. Even Washington saw aspects of the country he built unravel in his lifetime.
The Enneagram can be used like a horoscope, delivering us vague platitudes that help us feel comfortable. But it’s also well-suited for teaching us about our weaknesses and how we relate to others. It’s a helpful way to generate insight into yourself—and maybe, just maybe, it could have been helpful as duel prevention.
Travis Roberts, a citizen of the Manitoba Métis Federation, is a writer and social worker living in Washington, DC. Follow him at his blog, or connect with him on twitter @TravisWMRoberts