The popular motto “United we stand, divided we fall,” often shortened to “United We Stand” is commonly used to express unity and collaboration. The phrase is used to encourage and inspire, and sends the message that working together is easier, as there is strength in numbers, whereas doing things alone is harder and invites failure. Its core concept lies in the collectivist notion that if individual members of a certain group with binding ideals – such as a union, coalition, confederation or alliance – work on their own instead of as a team, they are each destined to fail and will all be defeated. This phrase has been used time and again throughout history to rally groups together and you will still hear it used today where the message remains the same.
Use in U.S. History
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!” Kentucky entered the Union on June 1, 1792. A little over six months later, on December 20, 1792, the first Kentucky General Assembly adopted the official seal of the Commonwealth, including the state motto, United We Stand, Divided We Fall.
United We Stand’ license plate designed by Troy Wingard for the South Carolina Department of Public Safety in 2002
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.
During his unsuccessful campaign (technically speaking) against Stephen Douglas in 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech centered on the House divided analogy to illustrate the need for a universal decision on slavery across all states.
Since 1942, this phrase has been the official non-Latin state motto of Kentucky. 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.
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.
- The Economist edition that appeared during Brexit was entitled “Divided we fall”.
- The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, used the motto in his letter of invitation to the heads of state and government of the EU, for their informal summit in Valletta, Malta, on February 3, 2017. Tusk addressed the motto to the leaders of the 27 member states of the future EU without the United Kingdom.
UNITED WE STAND CAMPAIGN
The United We Stand campaign has been in popular use since the time of the American Revolution. It originated in the fourth verse of a 1768 patriotic ballad, The Liberty Song, by John Dickinson.
During the Civil War, the phrase became a rallying cry for the Union cause. By the early 20th century, labor unions had taken up the slogan as a call for solidarity in the struggle for better working conditions.
In World War II, United We Stand invoked not just American patriotism but unity among the Allied nations, as expressed by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in her address to the U.S. Congress on August 5, 1942: “United we stand, and united we will achieve victory.”
Most recently, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the phrase United We Stand reemerged along with the flag as Americans confronted a new national crisis.
UNITED WE STAND FLAG COVER PUBLISHERS CAMPAIGN
DURING JULY 1942, seven months after the United States entered World War II, magazines nationwide featured the American flag on their covers. Adopting the slogan United We Stand, some five hundred publications waved the stars and stripes to promote national unity, rally support for the war, and celebrate Independence Day.
FOR MAGAZINE PUBLISHERS, displaying the flag was a way to prove their loyalty and value to the war effort. For the U.S. government, the campaign was an opportunity to sell bonds and boost morale. The magazines brought home a message of patriotism and ideals worth fighting for.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY presents this exhibition to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the United We Stand campaign. We hope you enjoy touring the virtual exhibit, and we also invite you to visit the Museum, where nearly one hundred original flag covers will be on view from March 22 to October 27, 2002.
TODAY, IN LIGHT OF THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, the flag and the slogan United We Stand have a renewed meaning for many Americans. As the home of the Star-Spangled Banner, the National Museum of American History is a place to explore the history of our national symbol and the ideals for which it stands.
- 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.
- Geraldo Pino used the phrase in the song “Shake Hands”.
- 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 being entitled “Brotherhood” also.
- Australian artist Kid Mac used the phrase in his song titled “My Brothers Keeper” on 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” and in The Strokes song “Someday”, “See, alone we stand, together we fall apart”.
- 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”. It was also included on their subsequent album Archangel.
- 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.”
- 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 by the “hacktivist” group Anonymous.
- S Club 7 said it in their TV shows Miami 7, L.A.7 and Viva S Club and when they did it they would get hurt by the lightning.
- “For together we stand, divided we fall” is mentioned in the opening line of the chorus for the Donna Cruz song “Yesterday’s Dream”.
- Asian Dub Foundation said in their song called “The Judgement”: “Present and the future we will never fall/Realize united we stand and divided we fall”
- The 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V features a variant of the phrase; ‘United We Stand, Together We Fall – Thanks for the bailout America’ in an in-game commercial for the car manufacturer Bravado.
- Marvel Studios repeated the phrase, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” during their Super Bowl 50 ad for Captain America: Civil War.
- In Fallout 4 while gaining entrance to the armory room at the Castle, the password for the terminal is “United We Stand”. “United We Stand” is also the name of the perk the player gets for reaching the highest rank of character affinity with Preston Garvey, a key member of the Commonwealth Minutemen faction. The perk makes the player deal 20% more damage and provides +20 damage resistance when fighting against three or more enemies.
- Norwegian Black Metal band Darkthrone named one song on their album Hate Them “Divided We Stand”.
- The verse is used repetitively in British cabaret trio Fascinating Aïda’s Brexit reaction song.
United We Stand Biblical References
Sixth Century B.C. Aesop United We Stand Fables
The Four Oxen an the Lion
A LION used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.
|“UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL.”|
The Bundle of Sticks
AN OLD man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a faggot of sticks, and said to his eldest son: “Break it.” The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the Bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful. “Untie the faggots,” said the father, “and each of you take a stick.” When they had done so, he called out to them: “Now, break,” and each stick was easily broken. “You see my meaning,” said their father.
|“UNION GIVES STRENGTH.”|
Quotes About Unity
― J.K. Rowling,
― Stephen Chbosky,
― Gwendolyn Brooks
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peaceYou may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
― John Lennon,
― C. JoyBell C.
“The most dangerous people in the world are not the tiny minority instigating evil acts, but those who do the acts for them. For example, when the British invaded India, many Indians accepted to work for the British to kill off Indians who resisted their occupation. So in other words, many Indians were hired to kill other Indians on behalf of the enemy for a paycheck. Today, we have mercenaries in Africa, corporate armies from the western world, and unemployed men throughout the Middle East killing their own people – and people of other nations – for a paycheck. To act without a conscience, but for a paycheck, makes anyone a dangerous animal. The devil would be powerless if he couldn’t entice people to do his work. So as long as money continues to seduce the hungry, the hopeless, the broken, the greedy, and the needy, there will always be war between brothers.”
― Suzy Kassem
― Winston S. Churchill
― A.W. Tozer,
“When two brothers are busy fighting, an evil man can easily attack and rob their poor mother. Mankind should always stay united, standing shoulder to shoulder so evil can never cheat and divide them.”
― Suzy Kassem,
― Amit Ray,
“Love does not cost anything. Kind words and deeds do not cost anything. The real beauty of the world is equal for everyone to see. It was given by God equally to all, without restrictions.
Everyone, was given a beautiful vehicle in which to express love to others. Feelings are free to express and give to ourselves and each other through our willingness to give and care.
What is complicated about this… Why have we made others feel they have to climb mountains and swim oceans in order to make a difference.
All we need to understand my friends, is that human life was given equally to us all, not partially but in totality.
The sun was given to all. It does not shine on the few. So, just has nature is indifferent to our station or situation, we need to know that we are all equal. We need to focus on the things that are constant and not place our values on things that can be blown away with the next, great, wind.
Value life in what ever house it dwells. For when it comes time that we are all stripped to bare bones before the divine and facing eternity, we will understand that the only law we were meant to follow, was to love ourselves and each other. Nothing more…nothing less.”
― Carla Jo Masterson
― T.H. White,
― C. JoyBell C.
― Askhari Johnson Hodari,
― Hermann Hesse,
― Thomas Merton
“ONE BUT MANY
One God, many faces.
One family, many races.
One truth, many paths.
One heart, many complexions.
One light, many reflections.
One world, many imperfections.
We are all one,
― Suzy Kassem,
― Marcus Aurelius,
“Let us dedicate this new era to mothers around the world, and also to the mother of all mothers — Mother Earth. It is up to us to keep building bridges to bring the world closer together, and not destroy them to divide us further apart. We can pave new roads towards peace simply by understanding other cultures. This can be achieved through traveling, learning other languages, and interacting with others from outside our borders. Only then will one truly discover how we are more alike than different. Never allow language or cultural traditions to come between brothers and sisters. The same way one brother may not like his sister’s choice of fashion or hairstyle, he will never hate her for her personal style or music preference. If you judge a man, judge only his heart. And if you should do so, make sure you use the truth in your conscience when weighing one’s character. Do not measure anybody strictly based on the bad you see in them and ignore all the good.”
― Suzy Kassem,
Who Said “United We Stand Divided We Fall”?
While it seems like “United we stand, divided we fall” would be the war cry of a famous soldier, its actual first recorded use dates back to Aesop and his fables. This quote can be found as a direct statement in “The Four Oxen and the Lion.” It can also be found indirectly in “The Bundle of Sticks.” Popular biblical references Matthew 12:25 and Mark 3:25 convey the common message that a house divided against itself will not stand. This quote can also be associated with a variety of public figures throughout history as well as writers and musicians who have used it to make an impact on their audience.
Aesop Quote Examples
The phrase “United we stand, divided we fall” has been traced back to the Greek story teller Aesop, who lived during the 6th Century B.C. Most people know him for the fables that have been handed down through time in his name, although as storytelling was an oral tradition, the true authorship of all these fables cannot be confirmed. Aesop may have penned some of the fables, but others have just been told in his name.
The Four Oxen and the Lion
The fable reads as follows:
A lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to warn another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling [sic] among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in the separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.
United we stand, divided we fall.
The Bundle of Sticks
The phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall,” is not used directly in this fable. However, the moral of the story is the same.
This short fable tells of a man whose sons often quarrel among themselves. To show them the benefit of working together, he brings them a bundle of sticks. He asks them to break the bundle of sticks. As expected, the brothers cannot break the sticks when they are bundled together. However, they can easily be broken individually. The moral of this story is written:
“My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”
Although his sentiment can be found in two of his fables, Aesop was certainly not the last one to use this quote. It has endured for thousands of years and remains an important life lesson to learn.
You can find more quotes form Aesop’s fables here.
There are many examples and variations of the phrase “united we stand, divided we fall” used throughout history. Some of these examples include:
- “The Liberty Song” by John Dickinson, written in 1768. One line in the song is: “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”
- “The Flag of Our Union” written by poet and journalist George Pope Morris in 1853. It uses the phrase in this verse: “A song for our banner! The watchword recall which gave the Republic her station: ‘United we stand, divided we fall!’ It made and preserves us a nation!”
- Patrick Henry used the phrase in his last public speech, given in March 1799, where he said, “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.”
- This phrase is Kentucky’s state motto and can also be found on the Missouri state flag. The flag displays two grizzly bears around a shield which has “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” written around it.
Examples in Modern Culture
There are also many references to the phrase “United we stand, divided we fall” in modern culture. While the phrase may vary in wording, the meaning remains the same. Some examples include:
- J.K. Rowling uses a variation of the phrase in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Albus Dumbledore says, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
- Pink Floyd’s song “Hey You” contains the following lyric: “Hey you, don’t tell me there’s no hope at all, Together we stand, divided we fall.”
- Def Leppard‘s song “When Love & Hate Collide” switches up the phrase in the following lyric: “I got your number on my wall, but I ain’t gonna make that call, When divided we stand baby, united we fall.”
- Brotherhood of Man uses the phrase in their song “United We Stand” as seen in these lyrics: “For united we stand, divided we fall, And if our backs should ever be against the wall, We’ll be together, together, you and I.”
- During Super Bowl 50, the phrase was used as part of Marvel Studio’s ad campaign for Captain America: Civil War. This phrase was a theme in the movie as well.
United We Stand… Meaning
The popular motto “united we stand, divided we fall,” often shortened to “united we stand,” is commonly used to express unity and collaboration. The phrase is used to encourage and inspire, and sends the message that working together is easier, as there is strength in numbers, whereas doing things alone is harder and invites failure. This phrase has been used time and again throughout history to rally groups together and you will still hear it used today where the message remains the same.