My Country, 'Tis of Thee - Samuel F. Smith
Samuel Francis Smith, D.D. was born in Boston, MA, in 1808. He was educated at Harvard University and was a classmate of Oliver Wendell Holmes. After graduation from Harvard and later theological school, he became a Baptist preacher and pastored a handful of churches in the northern United States. He continued as pastor for several years before resigning from ministry to settle into a life of writing and editing for various works and publications. Though he did not intend to bring fame upon himself, his authorship of the American National song "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" brought the man prestige and fame throughout his long life. In answer to some inquiries concerning the composition of the hymn, he says:
"One day, I think in the month of February, 1831 or '32, in turning over the leaves of music books, I fell in with the tune 'God Save the King,' though I did not know it at that time to be the English national air. I at once wrote a patriotic hymn in the same measure and spirit, and soon after gave it to Mr. Lowell Mason, together with other pieces, and thought no more of it. On the next 4th of July, I found that the piece was brought out for the first time at a children's celebration of the day in Park Street Church, Boston. This was the beginning of its course. It gradually found its way into music books for children, and into public schools in various places; and thus I cannot but think, may have had an influence in infusion into many childish hearts a love of country, which prepared them to battle for the right, the true and the good, when the time of peril to our institutions and our country came.
"I have often remarked that if I had supposed the piece would have been so popular, I should have taken more pains to perfect it. 'Yes', says someone, 'and thus, perhaps, you would have spoiled it.'
It has won its way, most unexpectedly to myself, into the hearts of the people. I have heard most gratifying narratives of the places where the circumstances under which it has served as the expression of heart-felt love of country – in schools, in huts, on Western prairies, in churches, on the eve of battle, and in soldier's hospitals. I never designed it for a national hymn –I never supposed I was writing one."