Fakhr-al-Din’s ambitions, popularity and unauthorized foreign contacts alarmed the Ottomans who authorized Hafiz Ahmed Pasha, Muhafiz of Damascus, to mount an attack on Lebanon in 1613 in order to reduce Fakhr-al-Din’s growing power. Professor Abu-Husayn has made the Ottoman archives relevant to the emir’s career available.
Faced with Hafiz’s army of 50,000 men, Fakhr-al-Din chose exile in Tuscany, leaving affairs in the hands of his brother Emir Yunis and his son Emir Ali Beg. They succeeded in maintaining most of the forts such as Banias (Subayba) and Niha which were a mainstay of Fakhr ad-Din’s power. Before leaving, Fakhr ad-Din paid his standing army of soqbans (mercenaries) two years wages in order to secure their loyalty.
Hosted in Tuscany by the Medici Family, Fakhr-al-Din was welcomed by the grand duke Cosimo II, who was his host and sponsor for the two years he spent at the court of the Medici. He spent a further three years as guest of the Spanish Viceroy of Sicily and then Naples, the Duke Osuna. Fakhr-al-Din had wished to enlist Tuscan or other European assistance in a “Crusade” to free his homeland from Ottoman domination, but was met with a refusal as Tuscany was unable to afford such an expedition. The prince eventually gave up the idea, realizing that Europe was more interested in trade with the Ottomans than in taking back the Holy Land. His stay nevertheless allowed him to witness Europe’s cultural revival in the 17th century, and bring back some Renaissance ideas and architectural features.
By 1618, political changes in the Ottoman sultanate had resulted in the removal of many of Fakhr-al-Din’s enemies from power, allowing Fahkr-al-Din’s return to Lebanon, whereupon he was able quickly to reunite all the lands of Lebanon beyond the boundaries of its mountains; and having revenge from Emir Yusuf Pasha ibn Siyfa, attacking his stronghold in Akkar, destroying his palaces and taking control of his lands, and regaining the territories he had to give up in 1613 in Sidon, Tripoli, Bekaa among others. Under his rule, printing presses were introduced and Jesuit priests and Catholic nuns encouraged to open schools throughout the land.
Fakhreddine castle in Palmyra
In 1623, the prince angered the Ottomans by refusing to allow an army on its way back from the Persian front to winter in the Bekaa. This (and instigation by the powerful Janissariy garrison in Damascus) led Mustafa Pasha, Governor of Damascus, to launch an attack against him, resulting in the battle at Majdel Anjar where Fakhr-al-Din’s forces although outnumbered managed to capture the Pasha and secure the Lebanese prince and his allies a much needed military victory. The best source (in Arabic) for Fakhr ad-Din’s career up to this point is a memoir signed by al-Khalidi as-Safadi, who was not with the Emir in Europe but had access to someone who was, possibly Fakhr ad-Din himself.
However, as time passed, the Ottomans grew increasingly uncomfortable with the prince’s increasing powers and extended relations with Europe. In 1632, Kuchuk Ahmed Pasha was named Muhafiz of Damascus, being a rival of Fakhr-al-Din and a friend of Sultan Murad IV, who ordered Kuchuk Ahmed Pasha and the sultanate’s navy to attack Lebanon and depose Fakhr-al-Din.
The Ma’ani cave fortress at Mount Arbel, near the Druze shrine of Nabi Shu’ayb, Palestine
This time, the prince had decided to remain in Lebanon and resist the offensive, but the death of his son Emir Ali Beik in Wadi el-Taym was the beginning of his defeat. He later took refuge in Niha’s grotto, closely followed by Kuchuk Ahmed Pasha. He surrendered to the Ottoman general Jaafar Pasha, whom he knew well, under circumstances that are not clear.
Fakhr-al-Din was taken to Istanbul and kept in the Yedikule (Seven Towers) prison for two years. He was then summoned before the sultan. Fakhr-al-Din, and one or two of his sons, were accused of treason and executed there on 13 April 1635. There are unsubstantiated rumors that the younger of the two boys was spared and raised in the harem, later becoming Ottoman ambassador to India.
After his death, his nephew Ahmed Maan ruled the Shouf heartland of Fakhr ad-Din’s former domains. On Ahmed’s death in 1697, the Shihab family succeeded the Maans as “Emirs of Mount Lebanon”.
The latter entrusted him with the mission to take stock of his maternal uncle’s property after his death in Hasbaya, the Shihabs’ family seat. Bashir completed his mission, married Shams the late emir’s widow and returned to Deir al-Qamar a very rich man. His presence at court did not escape the notice of Emir Yusuf’s enemies. The powerful Jumblatt clan that lead them approached him with a view to overturn his uncle but young Bashir chose to sit on the fence until the onset of troubles. The extortionate taxation imposed by the wali of Acre, Jazzar Pasha caused a general rebellion against the emir in place. Finding it impossible to govern, Emir Yusuf abdicated. The assembly of overlords held at Barouk in 1788 chose Bashir II. Jazzar Pasha confirmed their choice, no less intent on exploiting Mount Lebanon for all that.
The European powers encouraged autonomist movements by local sheikhs with a view to create stable alliances and thus pretexts to intervene. Conversely the Porte made every effort to repress such separatist proclivities and stamped out any sign of interference. Jazzar Pasha repelled a Russian attack on Beirut and so detached it from the emirate of Mount Lebanon. Having established himself in Acre, he was appointed wali of Sidon, then of Damascus. He succeeded in sealing off these regions, preventing any incursion and imposing a monopoly on trade. Bonaparte’s campaign in Egypt in 1798 had vast ambitions with, high on the list, flushing the British out of India, freeing the peoples, Ottomans included, through their adoption of the French Revolution’s ideals, finding economic markets and disseminating “science”. Approached by both sides, Bashir II stuck to a neutral position. Internal unity came first and he rooted out every intrigue liable to saw seeds of discord, particularly between Druze and Maronites. His loyalty towards the sultan got the better of his personal sympathies for the French. Between 1789 and 1805, he assisted the passage of Ottoman troops lead by Grand Vizier Yusuf Diya through his territories, taking good care of their supply line without forgetting to ply the Pasha with rich presents; he got the backing of Commodore Sidney Smith, who had the command of the British fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean. Vexed, Jazzar stirred up against him rival princes in his clan, in particular Emir Yusuf’s sons, he also arbitrarily dismissed him on five separate occasions (1791-1793, 1795, 1799, 1799-1801) but without any effect. Jazzar’s death in 1804, rid him of an adversary within the Ottoman administration.
Thereafter, Bashir II succeeded in forming a lasting friendship with Sulayman Pasha, the new wali of Acre thanks to whom his standing grew beyond the bounds of the region. At the behest of the Sultan, they fought side by side against the Wahhabi who attacked Damascus in 1810. Sulayman rewarded him by appointing him emir of Mount Lebanon. This period of stability enabled the Emir to deal with neighbouring pashas and to entrench a reformed and centralised power, free from Muqata’ji control and prerogatives. He rallied around his person all the parties and reclaimed for Mount Lebanon the Bekaa and the coastal towns from Tripoli to Sidon. On the Caravan route linking Damascus to Sidon, he had the Palace of Beit ed-Din built in 1806; an authentic seat of power, home to a court, a council, barracks, stables, it boasted a water supply system.
Palace of Beit ed-Din
The peace and tolerance enjoyed in Mount Lebanon attracted minorities persecuted in the Syrian realm. Many Christians, in particular, Melkite Greek Catholics fled the Wahabbi domination in Damascus and the rash of hostility towards the dhimmi set off by the Ottomans in a bid to unify the populace behind them outdoing the Wahabbi. in a bid to unify the populace behind them. Also the butt of this politico-religious zeal, some 400 Druze families came and settled in the Mountain with the financial support of both the Emir and Sheikh Bashir Jumblatt. However, on Bashir’s orders, Emir Yusuf’s sons, his direct rivals, along with their Baz guardians were the first victims of a merciless purge. He had the latter executed and rendered their wards harmless by placing them, blinded, with their tongues cut out and their property confiscated, under house arrest in the Keserwan. He deposed the Nakads ,muqata’ji of Deir al-Qamar and dispossessed them of their district to the benefit of Shihab family members. With his main rivals out of the way, the Emir implemented reforming policies aimed at turning his emirate into an embryonic state.
Law was standardised. Sharia law, understood here as a legal corpus bound in the Sunni tradition and familiar to the Maronites since the 18th century thanks to jurist bishop Abdallah Qara’li was put in force. The Holy See gave the opinion that its praxis was acceptable as long as it did not contradict the Catholic doctrine. Bashir set in place two tribunals, one in Deir al-Qamar and the other at Ghazir the first was presided over by a Druze judge, the other by a Maronite. Both judges were competent in all matters and had jurisdiction in all disputes regardless of the religion of the parties in court. The Emir commissioned every village chief as justice of the peace. The muqata’ji courts acted as courts of appeal who must refer to the supreme court in Bet ed-Din. The Emir was reputed an implacable and impartial judge who maintained order. A folk tale talks of travellers fancying they walked in the shadow of the Emir nick-named Abu Saada after his eldest daughter (according to the practice whereby the father adopts the name of his eldest child). The princely pursuit of hawking partridges annually in January or February gave the Emir the opportunity to keep a check on his territories.
Taking his leaf from the Ottoman sultan or Egypt’s viceroy, Bashir II took steps to improve sanitation and fight epidemics; he also encouraged graduates to go and study medicine in Egypt. He developed the road network, had bridges built and encouraged trade, among other things with the construction of covered markets in Deir el-Qamar, Zahlé and Zouk. Palaces were erected for his sons near his own in Beit ed-Din. Men of letters made up the Emir’s council, dispensing their recommendations; they would on occasion be entrusted with some mission. To those who would rank him among the “« enlightened despots »” Bashir II was a liberal patron of the arts. The best known are Nasif al-Yaziji, Nicolas al-Turk, Butros Karame, Elias Edde, Haidar Chehab … This areopagus was an early portent of the renaissance of Arab letters to come.
Mount Lebanon did not have a set budget; it had to pay the miri which the emir paid to the Porte via the pasha of Sidon. Caught up in sale of office practices but mindful of the Mountain’s stability, he sought to keep to a fixed rate of taxation in the face of wali cupidity and he opposed their claims to change the tax base and modalities of collection. The overall sum to be collected was broken down between the muqata’ji, pro-rated to their supposed wealth; hawalis would swing into action to punish the dodgers, gather the monies owed and keep the pashas’ at bay. The Emir set in place the nucleus of a standing army counting one thousand men, half cavalry and half infantry and lead by his sons or by himself. When calling on the troops maintained by the muquata’jis, he was able to muster 20 000 men. He gradually curbed the power of aristocratic families clinging to their age-old privileges, to wit the Baz or the Arslans but he had to reach an understanding with the Jumblatts who held on to the control of their own districts.
Bashir made sure he would not provide the Porte with any opportunity to insinuate itself in Mountain affairs however the burden of taxations caused popular revolts. He faced three uprisings in 1820, 1821 and 1840. The violence of the latter and its international implications caused his fall. These popular risings, organised around social grievances became known as ammiya, this was a novelty in the Ottoman Empire. In the early 1820’s, in the context of the Greek uprising and a war with Russia, the Porte signalled its intention to raise taxation via the wali of Acre Abdullah Pasha. Bashir implemented the decision in the Mountain but the Christian peasant farmers refused to pay the increase to the miri. After two momentous meetings in Antelias and Lehfed they concluded a pact engaging their mutual solidarity, the defence of the common good and the election of wakils to protect their interests. This opened a democratisation process translating into a number of demands, notably for decentralisation.
This was a point of no return. With the help of Bashir Jumblatt, Bashir II crushed the peasantry, collected extortionate levies, penalized the overlords and had the Keserwan placed under a system of land title registry for the purpose of land taxation that did not spare even church property. No sooner was the country pacified than Bashir compromised his relation with the sultan by his alliance with Abdullah Pasha who wanted to enlarge his territories at the expenses of his neighbours. The coalition of the pashas of Damascus and Aleppo, supported by the Porte and reinforced by the defection of his most powerful ally, Bashir Jumblatt forced the Emir to stand down and to take refuge in Egypt with Muhammad Ali. The latter pleaded the Emir’s cause before the sultan who reinstated him in 1822. Upon his return, however it became clear that “« the country was too small for two Bashirs »”. If the Emir’s legitimacy was comforted by endorsements from the neighbouring pashas of Acre and Damascus, the sheikh had force on his side. The struggle started in 1824 and first favoured the Sheikh’s troops. But when luck smiled on the Emir, Bashir Jumblatt and two sheikhs of the Imadclan, having left Mount Lebanon, were captured and executed by the walis of Damascus and Acre. The fall of Bashir Jumblatt would cast a long shadow on 19th century Lebanon.
By quelling his rich and powerful rival, Bashir meant to complete his centralisation work. His response belongs in a context of power struggle, not of religious conflict: For one thing, he was not acting as a Christian against a Druze for he made sure not to make any display of his faith, and furthermore a number of Christian overlords, Khazen, Hobeich and Dahdah fought against him in the Sheikh’s army. However the Druze did perceive the conflict and its outcome in a different way and they withdrew their cooperation waiting for a shift in the balance of power. Having weakened the muqata’jis and subdued the peasantry, Bashir rearranged the districts and ruled like a despot until the arrival of the Egyptians.
Palace of Beit ed-Din
When Muḥammad ʿAlī occupied the Fertile Crescent (exclusive of Iraq) in the 1830s, Bashīr cooperated fully with the new regime in establishing order. In 1837 he armed 4,000 Christians to put down a rebellion that the Druzes had begun when threatened with conscription (hitherto Lebanese rulers had avoided direct clashes between the two groups). Two years later Bashīr tried to disarm the same Christians whom he had previously armed, clearly as a prelude to their conscription. The Christians were determined to resist, even if it meant cooperating with the Druzes. A Druze and Christian rebellion against Bashīr broke out in June 1840, supported by the British, who were intent on driving Muḥammad ʿAlī out of the Fertile Crescent. Bashīr could not reassert his authority, and in October he was forced into exile in Malta.
After an eleven-month stay in Malta, they departed again for Istanbul. Bashir remained in Istanbul until his death in 1850. He was buried in the Armenian Church in the Galata district of the city.
According to the agreements reached at San Remo, France had its control over what was termed Syria recognised, the French having taken Damascus in 1920. Like all formerly Ottoman areas, Syria was a Class A Mandate, deemed to “… have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.” The entire French mandate area was termed “Syria” at the time, including the administrative districts along the Mediterranean coast. Wanting to maximize the area under its direct control, contain an Arab Syria centered on Damascus, and insure a defensible border, France moved the Lebanon-Syrian border to the Anti-Lebanon mountains, east of the Beqaa Valley, territory which had historically belonged to the province of Damascus for hundreds of years, and was far more attached to Damascus than Beirut by culture and influence. This doubled the territory under the control of Beirut, at the expense of what would become the state of Syria.
On October 27, 1919, the Lebanese delegation led by Maronite Patriarch Elias Peter Hoayek presented the Lebanese aspirations in a memorandum to the Paris Peace Conference. This included a significant extension of the frontiers of the Lebanon Mutasarrifate, arguing that the additional areas constituted natural parts of Lebanon, despite the fact that the Christian community would not be a clear majority in such an enlarged state. The quest for the annexation of agricultural lands in the Bekaa and Akkar was fueled by existential fears following the death of nearly half of the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate population in the Great Famine; the Maronite church and the secular leaders sought a state that could better provide for its people. The areas to be added to the Mutasarrifate included the coastal towns of Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon and Tyre and their respective hinterlands, all of which belonged to the Beirut Vilayet, together with four Kazas of the Syria Vilayet (Baalbek, the Bekaa, Rashaya and Hasbaya).
Maronite Patriarch Elias Peter Hoayek
As a consequence of this also, the demographics of Lebanon were profoundly altered, as the added territory contained people who were predominantly Muslim or Druze: Lebanese Christians, of which the Maronites were the largest subgrouping, now constituted barely more than 50% of the population, while Sunni Muslims in Lebanon saw their numbers increase eightfold, and the Shi’ite Muslims fourfold. The Modern Lebanon’s constitution, drawn up in 1926, specified a balance of power between the various religious groups, but France designed it to guarantee the political dominance of its Christian allies. The president was required to be a Christian (in practice, a Maronite), the prime minister a Sunni Muslim. On the basis of the 1932 census, parliament seats were divided according to a six-to-five Christian/Muslim ratio. The constitution gave the president veto power over any legislation approved by parliament, virtually ensuring that the 6:5 ratio would not be revised in the event that the population distribution changed. By 1970, Muslims were thought to constitute a majority of the population, which contributed to Muslim unrest regarding the political system.
During World War II when the Vichy government assumed power over French territory in 1940, General Henri Fernand Dentz was appointed as high commissioner of Lebanon. This new turning point led to the resignation of Lebanese president Emile Edde on April 4, 1941. After 5 days, Dentz appointed Alfred Naccache for a presidency period that lasted only 3 months. The Vichy authorities allowed Nazi Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. Britain, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.
After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government.
Flag as drawn and approved by the members of the Lebanese parliament during the declaration of independence in 1943
Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon.
Independence and following years
The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946.
Lebanon’s history from independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut’s position as a freely trading regional center for finance and trade. Beirut became a prime location for institutions of international commerce and finance, as well as wealthy tourists, and enjoyed a reputation as the “Switzerland of the East” during the 1960s, and its capital, Beirut, attracted so many tourists that it was known as “the Paris of the Middle East”. At the end of the Civil War (1975-1992), there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure. In spite of these troubles, Lebanon has the highest Human Development Index and GDP per capita in the Arab world, to the exclusion of the oil-rich economies of the Persian Gulf.