E Pluribus Unum – The Love of One, the Preservation of the Other


1796

“While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionally greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter.

Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.”

The 50 Countries of North America

Can you imagine what the world would be like if America had not become the 50 United States of America, and instead was 50 individual countries of North America? World history over the last 200 years would have a vastly different look to it.

America’s successful united revolution against a tyrannical king sparked similar sentiments all across the world. Some of the greatest wars in modern history hinged on America’s involvement. The National Socialists under Hitler in Germany may have been successful if not for a united America. The red flag of communism would no doubt have spread further and wrought even more damage if not for America’s unity.

It does not take much imagination to see that 50 individual countries, operating with 50 individual interests, could not and would not have been able to attain such achievements.

Industry, agriculture, art, and technology have all seen incredible strides since this united country came on the scene. 50 individual countries vying for the same resources could not have accomplished this.

If you wonder if these statements are indeed true, you just have to look at America’s Civil War. Nothing could illustrate this point better. Washington’s hope for American unity has been largely fulfilled. The largest exception by far was the Civil War.

And what were the consequences? The largest loss of life in any war in which America had involvement. Years of bitter hatred. Broken families, broken lives. Now image the painful results of the Civil War and multiply it by 50. America as 2 separate countries was bad enough. America as 50 independent countries would be bad beyond belief.

E Pluribus Unum

Out of many, one. This is our country’s motto. It is stamped on our currency. For every true patriot, the sentiment runs through our veins, calling us to something different and higher than most any other country has ever aspired to.

If Washington’s vision for America’s unity could be summed up in one statement, this would be it. He believed that a nation living out E Pluribus Unum would see greater strength, greater resource, and proportionally greater security from external danger, more peace both at home and abroad.

The question we should ask with E Pluribus Unum is – out of many what, one what? In other words, what are the many, and what is the one that we are striving for?

A motto like E Pluribus Unum is broad and many would see it as generally open to interpretation. The problem comes when you start actually plugging those interpretations into the motto.

For instance, some might try to plug in “political beliefs” – Out of many political beliefs, one political belief. Or “religion” – Out of many religions, one religion. Or any other brand of “let’s get together-ness” you want to throw out there.

It’s pretty obvious that none of those interpretations work. America does not have one religion or one political belief. We do not see a cohesion in that regard that would warrant such a motto.

I believe the motto speaks to Washington’s belief that with slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”

We are all different. As a people and as individuals. However, we unite on liberty, freedom, these foundational American principles.

Today

If you asked George Washington in 1796, what is the best way to preserve freedom? No doubt he would have more than one suggestion, but one of those suggestions would no doubt be – “your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty.”

As an American, a patriot who loves freedom and wants to see it expand, we have a duty to promote unity wherever and whenever we can. By doing so, we are promoting liberty at the same time.

Washington says that the love of freedom and liberty ought to spur us on to the preservation of our unity.

The theme of union is a common one in outgoing presidents. Yet another precedent set by the Father of our County. But I think it goes deeper than that. I believe that those who truly want what is best for America realize the necessity of unity. They realize what will happen if America is divided. The leaders at the very top, those who achieve the rank of president, probably see it even more clearly than most other people can.

Therefore, listening to their words of wisdom is the smart thing to do. How can you be promoting unity today?

Jonathan Paine
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