Suggestive programs for special day exercises/Our Nations Birthday/How America came to be written

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(From the autobiography of S. F. Smith.)

The hymn “America” was the fruit of examining a number of music books and songs for German public schools, placed in my hand by Lowell Mason, Esq.

Falling in with the tune of one of them, now called “America,” and being pleased with its simple and easy movement, I glanced at the German words and, seeing that they were patriotic, instantly felt the impulse to write a patriotic hymn of my own to the same tune. Seizing a scrap of waste paper, I put upon it within half an hour the verses substantially the same as they stand today.

I did not propose to write a national hymn. I did not know that I had done so. The whole matter passed out of my mind. A few weeks afterwards I sent to Mr. Mason some translations and other poems; this must have chanced to be among them. This occurred in February, 1832. To my surprise I found later that he had incorporated it into the programme for the celebration of the 4th of July, 1832, in Park Street Church, Boston. I have since heard it sung in many languages, more than half-way round the world, the latest translation of it which I have seen being into the Hebrew. When it was composed, I was profoundly impressed with the necessary relation between love of God and love of country; and I rejoice if the expression of my own sentiments and convictions still finds an answering chord in the hearts of my countrymen.