Something that looks like virtue Print
By Niccolò Machiavelli   
Wednesday, 01 May 2013

Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know
how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.
Therefore, putting on one side imaginary things concerning a prince, and
discussing those which are real, I say that all men when they are spoken
of, and chiefly princes for being more highly placed, are remarkable
for some of those qualities which bring them either blame or praise; and
thus it is that one is reputed liberal, another miserly, using a Tuscan
term (because an avaricious person in our language is still he who
desires to possess by robbery, whilst we call one miserly who deprives
himself too much of the use of his own); one is reputed generous,
one rapacious; one cruel, one compassionate; one faithless, another
faithful; one effeminate and cowardly, another bold and brave; one
affable, another haughty; one lascivious, another chaste; one sincere,
another cunning; one hard, another easy; one grave, another frivolous;
one religious, another unbelieving, and the like. And I know that every
one will confess that it would be most praiseworthy in a prince to
exhibit all the above qualities that are considered good; but because
they can neither be entirely possessed nor observed, for human
conditions do not permit it, it is necessary for him to be sufficiently
prudent that he may know how to avoid the reproach of those vices which
would lose him his state; and also to keep himself, if it be possible,
from those which would not lose him it; but this not being possible, he
may with less hesitation abandon himself to them. And again, he need
not make himself uneasy at incurring a reproach for those vices without
which the state can only be saved with difficulty, for if everything is
considered carefully, it will be found that something which looks like
virtue, if followed, would be his ruin; whilst something else, which
looks like vice, yet followed brings him security and prosperity.