Esse quam videri, per Machiavelli and the Great Impostor

Stephen Colbert isn’t alone in kissing off the noble concept of North Carolina’s state motto.

“It is not…necessary for a prince to have all the above-named qualities,” Niccolo Machiavelli advised in “The Prince” (1532), “but it is very necessary to seem to have them.”

And then there was Ferdinand Waldo Demara (1921-1982), who out of self-described “pure rascality” skillfully masqueraded as a monk, a surgeon, a civil engineer, a PhD psychologist and a prison warden.

In “The Great Impostor” (1959), biographer Robert Crichton noted that in one episode Demara “made sure to cover every one of his papers with a note written on small, expensive, discreet stationery….

“At the top of the [embossed seal] was his name, at the bottom his profession of psychologist and in the middle his motto: Esse Quam Videri… the most splendid joke of all.”

One thought on “Esse quam videri, per Machiavelli and the Great Impostor”

  1. Mr. Demara reminds me of “Catch me if you can”. So many different people he is playing and yet no one ever knows the truth. Those are the people that are the true geniuses. Not saying I think it is a good thing that he did those things but to be able to pull that off and not have anyone know about it is pretty amazing.

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