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“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”
by Samuel Francis Smith (1808-1895)
What a thrill it was for Samuel Francis Smith as he stood in Boston on July 4th, 1832, and heard a children’s choirat one of the city’s churches sing a song he had written.
Five months earlier, Smith, a twenty-four-year-old seminary student, had been sitting in his room on campus, not far from the church in which the lantern was hung during Paul Revere’s famous ride.  Lowell Mason, a music publisher, had given young Smith, who spoke several languages, a number of European music books, thinking that he might translate some of the songs for a new hymnal.  Smith’s eyes fell on a German song titled “God Bless Our Native Land” (The tune had already been used in England for more than a hundred years as “God Save the King”).
Instead of translating the original song, Samuel decided to write new words for the tune.  Just thirty minutes before sundown, he picked up a small piece of scrap paper and, as the sun was setting, wrote the last line of what was to become one of the most famous of our country’s songs. The emotionally powerful ideas that Smith expressed had an immediate response.  The hymn quickly became a national hit.  He later declared that he had not tried to write a patriotic song, but it became so popular that it almost became our national anthem.
Following his graduation from Harvard and the Andover Theological Seminary, Samuel became a Baptist preacher and went on to author several books, teach languages, wrote 150 hymns (the most famous of which is a missionary song, “The Morning Light Is Breaking”), and compiled the leading Baptist hymnal of his day.  He was also the editor of a missionary magazine through which he exerted a strong influence in promoting the cause of missions and eventually became the President of the Baptist Missionary Union.  He travelled extensively and was truly a distinctive representative of both his country and his God.
During his eighty-eighth year, Smith passed away at a train station as he was about to board.  He was a blessing and inspiration to multitudes of people.