The Life and Times of the Star-Spangled Banner


Unlike many of the other songs in this site, there is no controversy over when and by whom America was written. The author's name is Reverend Samuel Smith. He wrote the song in February, 1832. He wrote it in one sitting on an afternoon. It was not performed publicly until July 4 of that year.

Rev. Smith used the tune God Save the King, which was already the national anthem of Great Britain. This was a problem when it was considered as a candidate for the American national anthem. On the one hand, God Save the King long predates the American Revolution. It therefore belongs to the common heritage of Anglo-American culture. This is a convincing argument for most tunes that were written before the American Revolution. After all, Anacreon is an English tune. God Save the King is not just any song, however. It is the tune for the British national anthem. When dignitaries make an official visit, it is common as a courtesy to play the national anthem of the visiting country. If the prime minister of Britain were to visit the United States, it would be somewhat rude to play a tune that could be interpreted as the American anthem. Of course, this problem goes away if the words are sung. Nevertheless, this issue counted against America when it was time to select an anthem for the United States.

First ringing of the Liberty Bell

Let Freedom Ring



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 mountain side

Let freedom ring.

My native county, — thee,

Land of the noble free

Thy name I love;

I love thy — rocks & rills.

Thy woods & tempted hills

My heart with rapture thrills

Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze

And ring from all the trees

Sweet freedom's song.

Let all that breathes partake

Let mortal tongues awake

Let rocks their silence break

The sound prolong.

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

Our God and King.

Reverend Smith wrote one more verse in his first draft, which he then crossed out. America is the only song candidate for the national anthem of the 4 proposed in 1908 which is not warlike. Rev Smith decided to leave out the only warlike verse.

No more shall tyrants here

With haughty steps appear

And soldier bands.

No more shall tyrants tread

Above the patriot dead

No more our blood be shed

By alien hands.