Scripture Verse

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set ye free. John 8:32


Samuel F. Smith (1808–1895)

Words: 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).

Music: 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.