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Why do we say "United we stand, divided we fall"?

Well-Known Expressions

United we stand, divided we fall

Meaning:

If we don't stand together, we will not succeed.

Background:

This saying is generally attributed to one of Aesop's fables, The Four Oxen and the Lion:

A lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen lived. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to warn each other, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. But then the oxen quarreled and each went to their own corner of the field. The lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four. United we stand, divided we fall.

And indirectly to another, 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 them to bring in a bundle of sticks, and asked each of them to try and break it. None were able to. Then he told them to untie the bundle and each take a stick. Then they were able to break them easily.

We'll never know for sure whether these fables actually were first told by Aesop himself (who is said to have lived in Greece around 600 BC), or even if Aesop existed as a person, but they do appear to have been part of the oral tradition of ancient Greece.

A similar sentiment appears at least twice in the New Testament (Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17).

Founding Father John Dickinson incorporated the phrase into The Liberty Song, first published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768. The Liberty Song is set to the music of Heart of Oak, which is the official march of the Navies of the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. It was originally written for a pantomime, Harlequin's Invasion which opened at the Theatre Royal, in London's Drury Lane in 1760.

Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America's name.

Chorus:
In Freedom we're born and in Freedom we'll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we'll give.

Our worthy forefathers, let's give them a cheer,
To climates unknown did courageously steer;
Thro' oceans to deserts for Freedom they came,
And dying, bequeath'd us their freedom and fame.

Chorus

Their generous bosoms all dangers despis'd,
So highly, so wisely, their Birthrights they priz'd;
We'll keep what they gave, we will piously keep,
Nor frustrate their toils on the land and the deep.

Chorus

The tree their own hands had to Liberty rear'd;
They lived to behold growing strong and revered;
With transport they cried, "Now our wishes we gain,
For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain."

Chorus

Swarms of placemen and pensioners soon will appear
Like locusts deforming the charms of the year;
Suns vainly will rise, showers vainly descend,
If we are to drudge for what others shall defend.

Chorus

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

Chorus

All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,
Of the courage we'll show in support of our Laws;
To die we can bear, but to serve we disdain.
For shame is to Freedom more dreadful than pain.

Chorus

This bumper I crown for our Sovereign's health,
And this for Britannia's glory and wealth;
That wealth and that glory immortal may be,
If She is but Just, and if we are but Free.

Chorus

Alphabetical list of expressions

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