by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Prince Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I'll go so far as to say this: if he had those qualities and observed them all the time, he'd be putting himself at risk. It's seeming to be virtuous that helps; as, for example, seeming to be compassionate, loyal, humane, honest and religious. (18.5)
We imagine a virtuous ruler's conversations might go like this: "What were you planning this weekend?" "Oh I was planning on helping your people overthrow your oppressive regime…. Oops. Hey, why'd you get your sword out?" See why it's better to just seem?
What you have to understand is that a ruler, especially a ruler new to power, can't always behave in ways that would make people think a man good, because to stay in power he's frequently obliged to act against loyalty, against charity, against humanity and against religion. What matters is that he has the sort of character that can change tack as luck and circumstances demand, and, as I've already said, stick to the good if he can but know how to be bad when the occasion demands. (18.5)
Machiavelli talks about not being idealistic, but does he even think that a ruler with all of his rules exists? We're pretty sure you'd explode from the amount of virtù you'd need to control fortune in every single situation. Maybe virtù can conquer fortune because it keeps you nice and flexible.
In this regard it's worth noting that you can be hated just as much for the good you do as the bad, which is why, as I said before, a ruler who wants to stay in power is often forced not to be good. (19.12)
How are rulers "forced" not to be good? Who forces them? It's interesting that Machiavelli doesn't make it a choice, but rather something a ruler must do.