Behind the Hymn: My Country Tis of Thee
In honor of the 4th of July yesterday, I wanted to share the story behind one of our beloved Patriotic hymns.
Samuel Francis Smith wanted to write a song to bring the nation of the United States to God. In 1831, he was a twenty-four year old theological student. His friend, Lowell Mason, had asked him to translate some German school songbooks or to write some new lyrics. Muzio Clementi’s Symphony No. 3 caught his attention. Smith decided to write his own American patriotic hymn. He sat down and wrote the words to My Country Tis of Thee in thirty minutes. His words were later added to the British tune, “God Save the King/Queen.”
The song was originally titled “America”. Smith’s friend, William Jenks, took the new Patriotic anthem to the pastor of the Park Street Church in Boston. The first performance of the song was on July 4, 1831. The song was performed by the Juvenile Choir at a Sunday School Rally. “America” was published for the first time in 1832.
Samuel Francis Smith would go on to write 150 hymns in his eighty-seven years. He later became editor of a missionary magazine and Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Union. He died at the Boston train station in 1895, on his way to preach in the Boston neighborhood of Readville.
In this day and age of uncertainty with our country, what lyrics would write to bring the nation of the United States back to God?