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Back Story of “My Country ’tis of Thee”

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“My Country ‘Tis of Thee” was written by Samuel F. Smith in 1832 when he was 24. He was a student at Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts. The melody had traveled around Europe in several variations, including “God Save the King.” Even Beethoven and Haydn had used the music in some of their own compositions.

He wanted to create a national hymn for the United States. In about 30 minutes on a rainy day, he wrote the now classic anthem. The first three verses encourage national pride, while the last verse was specifically reserved as a petition to God for His continued favor and protection of the United States of America.

“My Country ‘Tis of Thee”
(The following are Samuel Smith’s original lyrics for “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (“America’)

” My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.”

It was first performed on July 4, 1832 at the Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts. About 500 Sunday school children premiered the piece at a memorable Independence Day celebration.

Samuel F. Smith was a Baptist minister, author, and journalist. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1801. He was later a student at Harvard and served as a translator for various foreign languages. He received his theological training at Andover Theological Seminary starting in 1830. He later married Mary White Smith and they had six children.

In addition to writing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” Smith wrote over 150 other hymns. These hymns were compiled into a Baptist hymnal, The Psalmist.

What a wonderful legacy he left in music that we still enjoy singing today.

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