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 together, 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 Founding Father John Dickinson in his pre-Revolutionary War song "The Liberty Song", first published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768. In the song Dickinson 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:

  • This statement was also a common phrase used in India to garner political support during struggle for independence from the British Empire.
  • The motto is also used by Ulster loyalists, and can be seen in some loyalist Northern Irish murals.
  • On October 23, 2012 in the second year of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's conservative legislature, former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai called for an anti-Orbán coalition so as to form a supermajority in the Parliament with the help of which the changes done by Orbán's ruling party Fidesz could be undone. In his speech, Gordon Bajnai, repeatedly used a variant of the term ("We may fail on our own, but together, we shall prove victorious!"[4]), when he proclaimed his support for such a "cooperation between hopeful left-wingers, disappointed rightwingers, politically abandoned free-thinkers and committed Greens" that his organization along with two other civilian body named Together 2014 as a reference to the date of the next general elections in Hungary.[5] Since then the Hungarian rendering of this motto has been repeatedly used by Gordon's Together 2014 Movement – for example on their Facebook page.[6]

Popular culture[edit]

Examples in popular culture include the following:

  • The lyrics "United we stand, divided we fall" are featured in the song "United We Stand" performed by The Brotherhood of Man (written by Tony Hiller and Peter Simons). This song was also performed by Sonny and Cher and Elton John.
  • In the song "Hey You" performed and written by the band Pink Floyd, a similar term with the same meaning, "Together we stand, divided we fall", is used.
  • Tupac Shakur used the line "united we stand, divided we fall.." in the song Last Wordz of his second album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. featuring Ice Cube and Ice-T.
  • Wilbert Harrison used the similar "Together we'll stand, Divided we'll fall" in his song "Let's Work Together".
  • In the Sum 41 song "Confusion And Frustration In Modern Times", the phrase "Divided we stand, Together we fall" is used. New York Hardcore punk band Agnostic Front use the lyrics "United we stand, divided we fall, Gotta gotta go" in their song "Gotta Go", which was featured on Punk-O-Rama Vol. 3. Punk band Smoke or Fire also used the reverse lyric "United we stand, divided we'll fall" in their song "What Separates Us All", from their 2007 album This Sinking Ship.
  • The Dutch band "Heideroosjes" use the lyrics in their song "Time is Ticking Away". It is also used in The Dropkick Murphys' "Boy's on the Docks". The 3rd Mission in Operation flashpoint Dragon rising is called "United we stand". A slightly different version is mentioned by the heavy metal band Judas Priest in his song "United" ("united we stand, united we never shall fall"). 3T also used the exact words on their debut album Brotherhood, the song entitled "Brotherhood" too.
  • Australian artist Kid Mac used the phrase in his song titled "My Brothers Keeper" of his album titled "No Man's Land".
  • The reverse was also used by Def Leppard in the song "When Love & Hate Collide", "..divided we stand, baby, united we fall".
  • It also appears in the song "United", by the Finnish power metal group Stratovarius.
  • In the album Nero from Two Steps from Hell, one of the tracks is titled "United We Stand, Divided We Fall".
  • The phrase "United stand! Divided fall!" appears in the Norwegian folk metal/viking metal group Glittertinds song "Longships and Mead".
  • "Together we stand, divided we fall" is repeated various times in the song "Killing ground" by longtime English metal band Saxon.
  • Divided We Fall and United We Stand are events in the Marvel Comics series Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates.
  • The phrase also appeared in the "United We Stand" episode of Power Rangers Megaforce.
  • United We Stand and Divided We Fall are sequential songs in the Thomas Was Alone soundtrack.
  • Deathcore band Bring Me The Horizon uses the phrase "United we fail, divided we fall." in their song "Anti-vist."
  • J.K. Rowling in her book Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire says "We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided."[7]
  • In the C.G.I. Transformers show-Transformers Prime, this phrase is played upon. As Megatron succeeds in destroying the Autobot base and chasing out the Autobots after an intense war, he and Starscream visit the ruins with Starscream commenting. "United we stand, divided they fall." Rather than attributing both values to one party, each is shown to have a respective value at that time, especially given Starscream has recently rejoined the Decepticons.
  • The statement is used in videos released in 2012[8] by the "hacktivist" group Anonymous.


External links[edit]