My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee

Author – Samuel Frances Smith, 1808- 1895
Music – Source Unknown. From Thesaurus Musicus, 1744

Psalm 33:12 – Blessed is the nation whose God is the lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.

Samuel Francis Smith was a Baptist preacher and patriot of the past century. He graduated from Harvard in 1829 and then studied for ministry at Andover Theological Seminary, finishing in the same year that he wrote this hymn. He served with distinction several large Baptist churches throughout the East. He composed 150 hymns during his lifetime.

One day the noted American music educator, Lowell Mason, gave to Smith for his perusal and interest a copy of a German patriotic poem, which was translated as “God Bless our Native Land.” Samuel, then only twenty-four years of age, was so moved by the thought that our young nation needed a similar stirring bit of verse that under an inspirational impulse he began writing this text on a scrap of waste paper. Within half an hour he finished what is generally considered to be our best-loved patriotic hymn. The present four stanzas have remained intact exactly as they were written on that original piece of paper.

Though the text of the hymn is distinctively America, the tune is an international one. It is the official or semi-official national melody of about twenty nations, notably that of England where “God Save the King/Queen” has been sung for more than 200 years.