"...Great God Our King!"

The history of this great patriotic hymn is unique. The words were written in 1832 by Samuel Francis Smith, a Baptist theological student. The following interesting anecdote comes at a time when America was still under the English throne.

"America" is sung to the same tune used in "God Save the King", a popular song in England around 1774. The words to the British anthem originally began "God save our lord the King", and with a revolutionary spirit spreading rampantly in North America, it was decided that "God Save the King" must be sung at all gatherings, such as church meetings.

God save our Lord the King!/Long live our gracious King!/God save the King!
Send him victorious,/Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,/God save our King.

Thy choicest gifts in store,/On him be pleased to pour,/Long may he reign!
May he defend our laws,/And ever give us cause,
To sing, with heart and voice,/God save the King!

Baptists were appalled that they be required to sing a hymn to a man, rather than to God at a worship service. Redcoat soldiers would spy out church services in the colonies to be sure the letter of the law was carried out. However, colonists would sing the verses, ending them with the words "Great God, our King!" rather than "God save the King" (referring to King George), thus changing the entire focus of the song. Samuel Smith later used these adapted words to close out his famous song, "America" (also titled "My Country 'Tis of Thee"). What better song to symbolize what the July 4th celebration is all about? It served as our unofficial anthem until "The Star-Spangled Banner" was officially adopted in 1931.

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.

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.

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