United we stand, divided we fall

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World War II propaganda poster, United States

"United we stand, divided we fall" is a phrase that has been used in mottos, from nations and states to songs. The basic concept is that unless the people are united, they will be defeated. It is often used in the abbreviated form United we stand.

Historical origin[edit]

United States propaganda poster, World War II.

The phrase has been attributed to the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop, both directly in his fable The Four Oxen and the Lion[1] and indirectly in The Bundle of Sticks.[2]

A similar phrase also appears in the biblical New Testament – translated into English from the historic Greek in Mark 3:25 as "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand". Similar verses of the New Testament include Matthew 12:25 ("And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand") and Luke 11:17 ("But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.").

Use in U.S. history[edit]

The first attributed use in modern times is to John Dickinson in his revolutionary war song "The Liberty Song". In the song, first published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768, he wrote: "Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!"

Patrick Henry used the phrase in his last public speech, given in March 1799, in which he denounced The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. Clasping his hands and swaying unsteadily, Henry declaimed, "Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs." At the end of his oration, Henry fell into the arms of bystanders and was carried almost lifeless into a nearby tavern. Two months afterward, he died.

Since 1942, this phrase has been the official non-Latin state motto of Kentucky.[3] The U.S. state of Kentucky's first governor, Isaac Shelby, was particularly fond of the stanza from "The Liberty Song".

On the Missouri flag, the phrase is also written around the center circle.

Modern political uses outside the U.S.[edit]

Examples of political uses outside the U.S. include the following:

Popular culture[edit]

Examples in popular culture include the following:

References[edit]

External links[edit]