Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set ye free.@John 8:32
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Samuel F. Smith (1808-1895)

Samuel F. Smith, 1831. The hymn was first sung at an Independence Day celebration by the Boston Sabbath School Union, July 4, 1831, and first published in Choir, or Union Collection of Church Music, by Lowell Mason (Boston, Massachusetts: 1832).

America, Thesaurus Musicus, 1744 ( pdf nwc).

These words were born because Smith’s friend, Lowell Mason, could not read German. Mason had received several German hymnals, and sent them to Smith, who he knew understood German. In one of them, Smith ran across the tune now used for My Country ’Tis of Thee. Noting that the German words were patriotic in nature:

I instantly felt the impulse to write a patriotic hymn of my own, adapted to the tune. Picking up a scrap of waste paper which lay near me, I wrote at once, probably within half an hour, the hymn ‘America’ as it is now known everywhere. The whole hymn stands today as it stood on the bit of waste paper.


Dr. Smith visited the Board of Trade in Chicago [Illinois] in May of 1887. While sitting in the gallery he was pointed out to the some of the members. Soon he became the center of considerable notice. All at once the trading on the floor ceased, and from the wheat-pit came the familiar words, My country ’tis of thee. After two stanzas had been sung, Dr. Smith arose and bowed. A rousing cheer was given by the men on the floor, to which Dr. Smith was now escorted by the secretary of the Board. The members flocked around Dr. Smith and grasped his hand. Then they opened a passage through the crowd and led him to the wheat-pit, where they took off their hats and sang the rest of the hymn.

Sankey, p. 196

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.

No more shall tyrants here
With haughty steps appear,
And soldier bands;
No more shall tyrants tread
Above the patriot dead—
No more our blood be shed
By alien hands.

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.