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State Motto

Esse Quam Videri

Translation: "To be rather than to seem." 

The General Assembly of 1893 adopted the words "Esse Quam Videri" as the State's motto and directed that these words with the date "20 May, 1775," be placed with our Coat of Arms upon the Great Seal of the State (Session Laws 1893, c. 145).

The motto is a literal translation of a phrase from a sentence in Cicero's "On Friendship" (De Amicitia, chapter 26). The complete sentence in Latin is:

Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt (see below for translations).

Until the act of 1893, North Carolina had no motto, being one of the few states--and the only one of the original thirteen--without one.

Original essay and translations

De Amicitia (Entire essay in Latin)

"The fact is that fewer people are endowed with virtue than wish to be thought to be so." (Shuckburgh translation)
"...[N]ot nearly so many people want actually to be possessed of virtue as want to appear to be possessed of it." (from On Old Age and On Friendship, trans. by Frank Copley, Ann Arbor, U Mich. Press, 1967, p. 87).
"...[F]or the Numbers of the really virtuous are not so great, as they appear to be." (from M.T. Cicero, His Offices, trans. by William Guthrie, Esq., London, T. Waller, 1755, p. 317).

Session Laws, 1893, c. 145:

CHAPTER 145

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A STATE MOTTO

WHEREAS. Contrary to the usage of nearly all the states of the American Union the coat-of-arms and the great seal of this state bear no motto; and whereas, a suitable motto, expressive of some noble sentiment and indicative of some leading trait of our people, will be instructive as well as ornamental, and the state should also keep in perpetual remembrance the immortal declaration of independence made at Charlotte; now therefore,

The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact:

Section 1. That the words "esse quam videri" are hereby adopted as the motto of this state, and as such shall be engraved on the great seal of North Carolina and likewise at the foot of the coat-of-arms of the state as part thereof.

Sec. 2. That on the coat-of-arms, in addition to the motto at the bottom, there shall be inscribed at the top the words "May the 20th, 1775."

Sec. 3.That this act shall be in force from and after its ratification.

Ratified the 21st day of February, A.D. 1893.

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