According to Maslow self-actualized people exibit the same fifteen characteristics. The book, The Inner Jefferson, by Andew Burnstein, expressed the views and feelings of Thomas Jefferson. Using these as a guideline to his life, it is obvious, that Thomas Jefferson was a self-actualized individual.
One of the characteristics portrayed, is the ability to feel emotions more deeply than the average person. Jefferson placed himself and his family in a small circle of friends. That core of friends embodied the highest degree of love and responsibility. To Jefferson, qualitative circles of affection could be constructed; their associated "connections" comprised an individuals life. "The Circle of our nearest connections is the only one in which a faithful and lasting affection can be found, one which will adhere to us under all changes and chances," said Jefferson to his daugther after she was married for a year. (5)
Self-actualized individuals also have a renewed appreciation for the basic goods of life. "His artistry lay in the means by which he nourished his mind. Books and the pleasing society of compatible souls were life-giving. To James Madison and John Adams he often shared the stimulating thoughts that the newly digested readings provoked in him. No less, he found satisfaction in the reproducible pleasure of gardening, writing to Charles Willson Peale, "No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden."" (9)
Maslow also states that those who are self-actualized enjoy privacy and solitude to a greater extent than average. Jefferson had a second estate, called Poplar Forest. Where he “did not withdraw entirely to hermitage, but generously entertained old friends...Poplar Forest would become... a rustic escape from the busier and more cluttered Monticello. Jefferson journeyed here two to three times each year. He indulged easily in nostalgic thought, and the tranquility of retirement." (254)
Self-actualized individuals also have a genuine desire to help the human race. "He was the nation's first 'man of the people,' fighting privalege, embracing the rights of and placing trust in the ordinary citizen. (4) Jefferson also drafted the Declaration of Independence, along with other important political documents. This also shows his strong etical feelings. Another characteristic set by Maslow about self-actualized people.
Self-actualized individuals have an unuual ability to detect the spurios, the fake, and the dishonest in people. After reading a letter from George Rogers Clark, shortly after his wife died, he replied, “I perceive by your letter you are not unapprised that your services to your country have not made due impression on every mind. That you have enemies you must not doubt, when you reflect that you have made yourself eminent. If you meant to escape malice you should have confined yourself within the sleepy line of regular duty. When you transgressed this and enterprized deeds which will hand down your name with honour to future times, you made yourself a mark for malice and envy to shoot at. Of these there is enough both in and out of office.” (199) He had written to Jefferson of his disillusionment with the unnamed people who disapproved of his “Quixotic Schemes.” (199)
Maslow believed that self-acutalized people could learn from anyone who had something to teach. Jefferson felt that “whatever he built was a site for learning and repose…that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, that knowledge is happiness.” (254-255)
Jefferson had mission after mission in his life. “His first and persitent focus was the fate of Virginia, “my homecountry,” as he called it. He sought to rewrite Virginia’s criminal code, structure a system of public education, and ensure religious freedom.” (4) Then he dedicated himself completely to the move for Independence, as mentioned before with the Declaration of Independence, and his prominent role in politics. He constantly sought knowledge, and had an immense collection of rare works at his house in Monticello.
He wasn’t bogged down by guilt or fear, rather he was driven by his desire to help his fellow people. “Moticello was the place Jefferson most associated with a sense of self, the perfect symbol of his inner life: the practical, well-ordered dreamworld…with the heart of an amicable philosophic man given to rational concerns.” (9)
Time and again, people referred to Jefferson’s “sympathetic wit.” (8) His sense of humor was that of the time in which he lived: philosophical. They were not prone to mockery or belittlement for humor, rather they found humor in musings, and ideas which required thought.
He was extrememly creative and original, another trait Maslow attributed to self-actualization. “Having devoted himself to Monticello and then to Poplar Forest, Jefferson energetically promoted and proceeded to design and oversee construction of one more architectural marval: the University of Virginia. He concerned himself with every detail, from the selection of professors and framing of the curriculum to note taking at board meetings.” (254)
“In retirement, as Jefferson reassessed his life, he gave much thought to the prospect of eternal rest. With seven decades and more to reflect upon, he had few pressing goals and little fear of death. He dwelled contentedly on ancient assessments of the human contition. With entertaining thoughts of mortality in his third decade, however, he had been a learner, filled with imagination of limitless horizons.” (255) Maslow stated that self-actualized people have feelings of unlimited horizons, that they feel that they can do anything.
In conclusion, Maslow himself believed that Thomas Jefferson was a self-actualized historical figured, as stated in his article. Jefferson exhibited the caracteristics described by Maslow, making him a good model for self-actualizining individuals today.
Burnstein, Andrew. The Inner Jefferson. Virginia: The University of Virginia Press, 1997