In this fascinating study, Carol Hakim presents a new and original narrative on the origins of the Lebanese national idea. Hakim’s study reconsiders conventional accounts that locate the origins of Lebanese nationalism in a distant legendary past and then trace its evolution in a linear and gradual manner. She argues that while some of the ideas and historical myths at the core of Lebanese nationalism appeared by the mid-nineteenth century, a coherent popular nationalist ideology and movement emerged only with the establishment of the Lebanese state in 1920. Hakim reconstructs the complex process that led to the appearance of fluid national ideals among members of the clerical and secular Lebanese elite, and follows the fluctuations and variations of these ideals up until the establishment of a Lebanese state. The book is an essential read for anyone interested in the evolution of nationalism in the Middle East and beyond.
The Origins of the Lebanese National Idea 1840–1920
THE EMERGENCE OF LEBANISM
THE LEBANESE SETTING
Periods of crisis are often associated with turmoil and disarray; at the same time, they represent fertile ground for reformation and innovation. It was during such a troubled period, stretching from 1840 to 1860 and marked by social, political, and communal strife in Mount Lebanon, that projects advocating the establishment in Mount Lebanon of a semi-independent entity, ruled by a indigenous Maronite governor, made their first appearance.
These projects, which marked the earliest signs of the emergence of Lebanism, came about as the result of a specific and intricate conjuncture when internal factors intersected with foreign influence and interference. Locally, they corresponded with deep social and political changes and dislocations that prompted the Maronite Church to engage in a bid to assert the dominance of its community in Mount Lebanon and to secure for it a certain political autonomy within its boundaries. At the same time, the aspirations of the Maronite clergy converged with the romantic fantasies of some French Catholic and liberal circles who envisioned the establishment of an independent Christian entity in the Levant under the aegis of France, with a view to regenerating the declining Orient, emancipating the Christians of the east from Muslim domination, and upholding French interests in Syria. The political aspirations of the Maronite clergy and those of these French circles became closely intertwined as both sides drew support and inspiration from each other.
This chapter and the next one reconstruct the intricate circumstances that spawned the first appearance of elementary nationalist ideas and schemes among some clerical Maronite circles. The present chapter focuses on the local setting, examining the various factors that underlay the emergence of the idea of establishing a Christian entity, the clerical forces that upheld it, and the confused reaction of the local population to this new ideal. Chapter 2 deals with the convergence and interaction of these local ideas with those of some official and unofficial French circles and the impact these foreign inferences had on the views of local groups and personalities.
Society and Politics in Mount Lebanon at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century
The social and political structure of Mount Lebanon in the nineteenth century has been depicted in detail and thoroughly analyzed by many historians. While not all of its characteristics are relevant to this study, some need to be mentioned.
The geographical entity known as Mount Lebanon, that is, the western range of mountains running parallel to the Mediterranean coast between the towns of Tripoli and Sayda, has not historically constituted a separate political entity with a lasting formal political system evolving within unchanging boundaries. Since the Ottoman conquest of Syria in 1516, Mount Lebanon enjoyed a limited de facto autonomy under the rule of local notables, a system referred to by Lebanese historians as the "Lebanese Emirate." The Emirate originated in the southern districts of Mount Lebanon-roughly to the south of the Beirut-Damascus road-known as Jabal al-Shuf or Jabal al-Duruz, where local Druze chiefs, who acted as tax farmers for the Ottoman government, first established a de facto autonomous social and political organization headed by a local leader, known as "Emir." By the end of the seventeenth century, the central districts of the Mountain, extending north of Jabal al-Shuf up to the Maʽmaltayn River, near Juniya, and known as Jabal Kisrawan, were included in the region farmed by the Druze Emirs. The governorship of the uppermost northern districts, called Jabal Lubnan or Bilad Jbay, was secured on a lasting basis by the governors of Lebanon around the middle of the eighteenth century. Only then was the whole Lebanese mountain range brought under the rule of one governor and began to be called in its entirety Jabal Lubnan, or Mount Lebanon.
The unification of Mount Lebanon under the rule of one Emir did not entail any change in the administrative status of the Lebanese province within the framework of the Ottoman Empire. Throughout this period, Mount Lebanon remained formally part of the Empire, and its administration conformed with that of some surrounding provinces, where the responsibility of tax collection was often attributed to local leaders who had managed to acquire some authority. Mount Lebanon was part of the administrative districts of the walis of Sayda and Tripoli, who allocated the tax farming, or iltizam, of this region to the local Emir on an annual basis. The farming of the southern and central districts, that is, Jabal al-Shufand Jabal Kisrawan, had to be obtained from the wali of Sayda, whereas that of the northern districts was leased from the wali of Tripoli.
The Emir was thus assigned the task of collecting a lump sum, known as miri, and was granted some administrative and judicial rights. In turn, the Emir reallocated some of his prerogatives to local chiefs, known as muqata‛jis-rulers of a fiscal district or muqata‛a. Traditionally, the governors of the Mountain were selected from one family, the Ma‛ans until 1697 and the Shihabs from 1697 to 1841. The formal investiture of the Emir by the Ottoman walis had to be renewed on an annual basis, and his tenure was never secure. He had to contend with the continual schemes of rival emirs and shifting coalitions of muqata‛jis who sought to curb his authority. If skilful, he could circumscribe the powers and ambitions of rival emirs and muqata‛jis by playing off one coalition against another or by himself leading one of the major coalitions.
The Emir was hence not an absolute leader in his domains. He had to secure the collaboration of the muqata‛jis who were the effective rulers of land and people. It was they who directly controlled the people in their district and who generally held most of the land. They were responsible for levying the taxes on their muqata‛as and generally took advantage of this prerogative to skim off part of the levy and to exempt themselves from their share of the land tax, which consequently had to be borne by the peasant. They leased their domains to tenants on a share-cropping basis, often leaving their tenants with barely enough to sustain themselves and their families. They also enjoyed some judicial prerogatives over their subjects, as well as customary privileges, including traditional gifts offered by the peasant to his lord on feast days and other special occasions. Each muqata‛a was held conjointly and generally on a hereditary basis by one family, which then subdivided the various areas of its district, or ‛uhdas, among its members.
The Lebanese political system broadly sketched here thus combined specific local social customs and an internal political organization with the broader practices and regulations of the Ottoman Empire. Within the general framework of iltizam, which mainly entailed tax-collecting duties, the Lebanese chiefs developed a locally organized and recognized authority. However, contrary to the idealized picture of the Emirate presented retrospectively by local historians by the mid-nineteenth century, the local system developed by the notables in the Mountain did not evolve into an orderly and stable formal dynastic principality. Furthermore, the semi-autonomous local organization of Mount Lebanon was not specific to the Mountain, since other regions of the Ottoman Empire equally developed peculiar social and political structures with parallels to the Lebanese system.
The local political system in Mount Lebanon was closely interwoven with a social structure organized according to kinship ties that supported it. Its basic element was a cluster of families grouped together into one family lineage, or jubb, claiming descent from "a more-or-less legendary ancestor ... thus allowing its members to feel a 'familial' solidarity with each other." The solidarity of the jubb was further strengthened by a tradition of living together and an endogamous tendency that reinforced its feeling of distinctiveness. The social structure of Mount Lebanon has often been described as resting on a tribal ‛asabiyya, or group solidarity, kinship, and alleged blood ties constituting then-and, to a certain extent, still doing so today-a basic and fundamental element of the social and political structure. While definitions of "tribe"and criteria for tribeness have varied to the point of rendering the use of such a term almost meaningless, it is within a broad definition of the term, as a group distinguishing itself from the Other by reference to an alleged, more-or-less legendary, common ancestor, that a useful category of analysis may be found for Mount Lebanon in the nineteenth century. Kinship ties, real or imagined, in this case underpinned the solidarity of the group and the loyalty of its members. At any rate, we can safely profess that a "tribal ethos," or a conception of the tribe viewed as "a state of mind, a construction of reality," and the pervasiveness of kinship and descent as principles of social and political organization prevailed in the Mountain, so much so that a contemporary author depicted Lebanon as "the greatest of the tribal lands."
The underlying organization of society in Mount Lebanon at the beginning of the nineteenth century, characterized by a strong emphasis on principles of kinship and descent, pervaded and molded the whole political system. Family lineages represented basic units of social, economic, and political organization. Ownership and exploitation of land, repartition of water rights, divisions of labor, and allocation of taxes due were apportioned among family lineages, which thus operated as homogeneous production units upholding the rights and responsibilities of their members. They also imprinted on each individual the primary elements of his identity, of his inherited culture and traditions, and represented his main sphere of socialization and support. Lebanese society by the turn of the nineteenth century can thus be represented as an association of family lineages rather than a conglomeration of individuals. Indeed, the latter could hardly defend and support their rights, as such, outside the scope of their own kinship groups, because it was the family lineage that claimed and defended the common rights of its members.
Family lineages also acted as political units. One family lineage would usually form one compact group inside the village vis-à-vis other such formations, living in a separate quarter or hara. Local politics and conflicts evolved around authority prerogatives, division of land and water rights, frequently leading to a marked division of the village into two distinct factions. Such divisions cut across a single family lineage, if the village contained no other, or, where more variety obtained, divided the village into two principal factions, each faction headed by one leading family. These village leading families formed the first level of a hierarchy of families covering the whole Mountain, based on the extent of land controlled and the number of their followers. Hence, above the village leading families were found the notable families, manasib or a‛yan, who controlled larger territorial units, including several villages at the time, or who could alternatively rally the support of followers from different villages. Notable families were not necessarily bound to their followers by kinship ties but were commonly linked to their followers in the regions under their control by economic and political ties. Finally, the notable chiefs themselves rallied to one of the major confederations of the Mountain, which acted as political factions supporting or opposing the governing Emir according to circumstances or engaged in other kinds of power struggles. Hence, family lineages, village coalitions, notables' client networks of peasants and followers, and confederations of notables formed the building blocks and dividing lines of political coalitions. The fluidity of family lineages and of political alliances among the notables tempered the apparent rigidity of the system, allowing for the appearance of new groupings within and among family lineages and for some changes in the hierarchy of local families.
The Ottomans traditionally acknowledged this hierarchy of families in Mount Lebanon and the authority of the notables over the local population that it entailed. They relied on such families for the collection of taxes and the maintenance of order and security. The relative isolation of the Mountain and its difficulty of access favored such an arrangement instead of more direct Ottoman control, which was deemed too costly or irrelevant. The Ottoman authorities could always intervene militarily if need be or use internal rivalries in order to constrain local power.
Until the turn of the nineteenth century, the segmentation of society and politics and sporadic communications between the various regions fostered a parochial and fragmented political identity among the commoners who identified primarily with their kinship groups and local and regional communities. The unity and cohesion of the political system lay at higher level, at that of muqata‛jis, manasib, and Emir, who, by forming regionwide coalitions established the basis of local politics. They thus became more aware of the existence of a local order and, to varying degrees, of a wider regional and Ottoman world.
The political organization of the Mountain also rested on cultural and social norms and customs, vindicated and condoned by dint of repeated practice, which gave added legitimacy to the system. Religion was part of this worldview, giving solace from a hostile and distressing external world and providing some meaning to and protection from the vagaries of life. Several religious communities-including most notably Druzes, Shi‛is, Sunnis, Maronites, Greek Orthodox, and Greek Catholics who had settled at different times in the Mountain-maintained a presence in the province by the beginning of the nineteenth century. Among these predominated the Druzes, by virtue of their historical political supremacy, and the Maronites, by virtue of their growing numbers and assertiveness. While it is difficult to ascertain with precision and certainty the meaning and prevalence of communal identities among the various religious groups in the Mountain by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the differing religious communities appeared to carry some sense of communal distinctiveness tempered by shared worldviews, customs, and interests that cut across sectarian divides. Hence, public and collective religious rituals and practices, as well as particular communal social and moral norms, contributed to impart some sense of communal identity to the members of the various communities. Communal identities and cohesion were furthermore fostered by a distinct historical evolution, a legacy of separateness, and common myths reinforced by kinship and group solidarity. At the same time, communal identities intertwined with shared social and political worldviews, customs, and interests among the local population, blurring the boundaries between the various communities of the Mountain. Such common outlook and interests underpinned the coexistence of the diverse communities in the Mountain, if not in total harmony, at least without apparent inconsistency, and accounted for the establishment of political alliances among notables and for regular contacts among commoners, which cut across communal divides.
Several social and political changes accounted for the crystallization and politicization of communal identities and loyalties by the beginning of the nineteenth century. These included social dislocations and transformations following the integration of the Ottoman Empire in the world economy, which intensified tensions between notables and commoners and disrupted the political balance between the various communities. At the same time, the reformation of the Ottoman Empire according to principles mixing old and new concepts of governance, and the emergence of foreign Western powers as new and influential protagonists on the local scene, exacerbated local tensions and contributed to the outbreak of local conflicts that hardened communal divisions.
Before moving on to these developments, one last actor, namely the Maronite Church, which played a central role in mid-century events, needs to be introduced. Until the eighteenth century, the Maronite Church had remained dependent on, and subordinate to, Maronite notables for protection and the means of subsistence. Its parochial organizational structure, scarce resources, and dependence on Maronite secular authority limited its influence and its ability to meet the spiritual needs of its community. These constraints had become all the more apparent after the Maronites, who had formed a small and secluded community in the northern sectors of the Bsharri, started to spread out throughout the Mountain after the sixteenth century. Eventually, the influence of the Roman See, as well as changing circumstances within the Church and the wider community, converged in the eighteenth century to generate momentum in favor of the reformation of the Maronite Church. Hence, after the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century, the Vatican sought to strengthen its authority over the Oriental Christian communities and to amend dogmatic and ritual divergences, initiating a policy of gradual rapprochement with and tighter oversight of the Maronite Church. At the same time, certain factions within the clergy, including disaffected bishops and members of the new and dynamic Lebanese Order of monks, led a movement within the Church for a more effective structure to serve the needs of a more diversified and dispersed community. As a result, the Maronite Church held a series of councils, starting with the Council of Luwayza (1736), and it adopted several measures to rationalize the internal structure of the Church and improve its performance while shielding this institution from interference by the local notables.
The implementation of these measures was slow and difficult but eventually led to a thorough reform in the Church and the gradual emancipation of the Maronite clergy from the tutelage of notable Maronite families. The new regulations, encompassing most significantly the acquisition by the Church of the means of its administration, such as Church lands, monasteries, and regular income as well as a more independent and formal organization, provided it with the financial and organizational basis of its independence. At the same time, they generated a certain tension between clergy and traditional notables, who resented the loss of their patronage of the clergy as well as their own gradual impoverishment and loss of land to the Church, which gradually emerged as one of the richest institutions of Mount Lebanon. The reformation of the Church also improved its performance among its flock and consolidated its position and influence within the Maronite community. The increased influence of the Church within its community manifested itself in the regular presence of the clergy in villages, its supervision of various schools in the Mountain, and the foundation of religious societies for the lay population, all of which allowed the Church to stimulate religious life among its flock, promote stricter norms and morals, and to enhance communal awareness among members of the community.
The reformation of the Church finally enhanced its role on the Lebanese scene and altered its parochial outlook. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the scholastic works of the Church remained remote from the concerns of commoners and notables. Like most Eastern Christian sects, the Maronite clergy was very jealous of its denominational specificity. This concern of the Maronite clergy with its own image, its past, and that of its community developed after the renewal of its contacts with Rome, in the face of rivalry with the other Christian sects before whom the Maronites portrayed themselves as faithful upholders of the Orthodox Christian faith. "Maronite historians wrote in defence of their community, stressing its importance, and refuting real or imagined disparagement. In most cases, their aim was not so much to establish its history as to vindicate its claims."
This traditional ecclesiastical historiography of the Maronites, where historical accuracy was often sacrificed for the sake of alleged dogmatic coherence, has mainly concentrated on the defense of the perpetual orthodoxy of the Maronites. The motivation of the Church in defending this view varied according to circumstances and ranged from Ibn Qila‛i's attempt to bring Maronite dissidents to support union with Rome, at a time when the community was seriously divided over the issue, to Patriarch Istfan Duwayhi's proclaimed intention in the seventeenth century, when the union of the Maronites with the Catholic Church was already a foregone affair, to "silence the charges against it by Western and Eastern Christian writers." The insistence of Maronite clerics on the perpetual orthodoxy of their community aimed mostly at demarcating advantageously the Maronites from rival communities. More specifically, it aimed at improving and amending the image of the Maronites in the Christian world, and especially in Rome. Since many leading Maronite historians were graduates of the College of Rome, they were influenced by the derogatory perception of all heresies and schisms in the Roman See. They therefore endeavored to correct their previous image by wiping out any evidence of dogmatic deviation among the Maronites and elaborated a new historical myth matching their revived Catholic inclinations. The image of the Maronites living in a "hostile" Muslim environment also reflected similar views held in the Western world at the time.
The traditional writings of the Maronite clerical scholars hence reflected particular communal concerns emanating from prevailing ecclesiastical controversies and rivalries between Christian communities. It was only in the nineteenth century, in the midst of profound instability, that some of the elements of this traditional lore were then reused and revised while being integrated into a political communal ideology. The elaboration and propagation of these idealized mythological views of the past, with increasing emphasis by the middle of the nineteenth century, aimed at legitimizing certain specific political projects of the Church during the troubled period of 1840-60. They also catered to a need for foreign protection and support.
Bashir II's Rule and His Legacy
By the turn of the nineteenth century, Mount Lebanon came under the rule of Emir Bashir II al-Shihabi (1788-1840). The first years of his long rule did not differ much from the customary trend of events in the Mountain, except that this time the new Emir was an ambitious, ruthless, and a practiced schemer who maneuvered with dexterity the ambitions of Ottoman walis-among whom figured the notorious al-Jazzar, wali of Acre-the intrigues of other Shihabi emirs, and the incessant schemes of competing coalitions of muqata‛jis. At the same time, Bashir II benefited from ongoing fights among local muqata‛jis and various socioeconomic changes in the Mountain to consolidate his power more firmly and to extend his direct authority over various fiscal districts. His schemes culminated in 1825 with the elimination of his main rival-and old ally-the paramount Druze leader, Bashir Jumblatt, and the subsequent subordination or exile of many Druze muqata‛jis and some of their Maronite allies, as well as the sequestration of their lands. Most of the Druze positions and lands that were thus seized were allotted to Christian relatives and adherents of the Emir or to recently enriched Christian merchants and peasants. The local political system was hence notably modified. The nature of the authority of the Emir evolved from a sort of paramount arbitrator and manager of local affairs who held barely more power than the muqata‛jis over whom he was supposed to preside toward that of a ruthless despot. Bashir II managed to eliminate or neutralize potential challengers and opponents as well as intermediate powers and other checks on his authority. However, the basic social structure of family lineages was not dislocated. Bashir II removed only the upper link in the hierarchy of family lineages, temporarily associating most of the client networks more closely to his person.
The removal or subordination of some of the most prominent muqata‛ji families by Bashir II had another significant consequence. It unsettled the old balance of power between the religious communities in the Mountain in favor of the Maronite community. The Druze community, who had perceived itself as a ruling and fighting caste, suddenly found itself leaderless, humbled, and disorganized. Its political supremacy in the Mountain had been severely curtailed, and many of its members had taken the way of exile. Those who remained did not enjoy a more enviable lot. After the occupation of Syria in 1831 by Egyptian forces under the command of Ibrahim Pasha, son of the governor of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, several attempts at conscripting them led to their rebellion in the Shuf, in the Hasbaya-Rashaya districts, and especially in their stronghold in the Hawran. They were finally subdued by Ibrahim Pasha with the assistance of Maronite contingents armed by Bashir II. The resentment of the Druzes against Bashir II, already perceived as a personal enemy of their community, was henceforth enhanced, and an element of discord between the Druze and Maronite communities was thus introduced.
In comparison, the political and social status of the Maronites improved during the same period. The removal of Druze muqata‛jis by Bashir II led him to rely more on the Maronite community to establish his authority. His Christian relatives and followers were entrusted with the administration of some the most important districts, including Druze ones. For the first time in the history of the Emirate, Christian officials nearly monopolized the highest political positions. This general promotion of the Maronites inside the Emirate was consecrated by the unprecedented close relations established between the Emir and the Maronite Patriarch, Mgr Yusuf Hubaysh (1823-45). In need of some alternative power to that of the muqata‛jis, Bashir II strove to enhance the position of the Patriarch in his own community by bestowing on him arbitration prerogatives and assigning him other diverse political tasks. This policy was welcomed by the Patriarch, who was looking forward to some political role after the reformation of the Maronite Church and the weakening of the muqata‛jis. A relationship of "mutual support" thus ensued between the two men, and the Patriarch tried as hard as he could to rally the Maronites behind Bashir II.
These political developments coincided with demographic and economic changes that magnified their importance. For more than a century the Maronites had witnessed a remarkable increase in their numbers, due to improved security and health conditions, new economic opportunities, exemption from conscription, and the salubrity of the mountain climate, which protected them from the recurrent waves of epidemics that periodically decimated the population of the towns and plains. They thus came to constitute, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, a sizeable majority of the Mountain's population and a relative majority in nearly all districts. This situation was all the more critical since the demographic dynamism of the Maronites was not matched by a similar process among the Druzes. The latter had seen their numbers dwindle over the years due to continual infighting and periodic waves of emigration to the Hawran. Their numerical importance was further curtailed under Egyptian rule due to harsh conscription measures and a new wave of emigration to Hawran. The imbalance between both communities during the last years of Bashir II's rule was thus further accentuated.
These demographic changes also corresponded to economic alterations triggered by the intensification of Western trade in the Mediterranean. This process altered the old social and economic structures of the Syrian provinces and diversely affected the local population. Overall, the balance of trade between the Syrian provinces and the West favored the latter: an influx of cheap manufactured Western goods drained away local gold and silver reserves. It also undermined local textile production and manufacturing and marginalized the old regional merchant networks of the main cities of the interior, thus impoverishing the urban population. At the same time, the Ottoman treasury, in continual need of money, resorted to periodic depreciations of the Ottoman currency and increased tax demands. Tax rates thus began to rise, intensifying the pressure on the local population. However, the Syrian population was not altogether negatively affected by this process. Some groups benefited from it, particularly local Christian merchants of the coast with links to foreign trade.
The economy of the Mountain was also affected by these economic changes, albeit in its own way. Lebanon had traditionally cultivated silk, which was sold mainly to the interior Syrian markets. Small quantities also reached Italy and France. With the rise of Western demand and the relative decline of textile manufacturing in the interior Syrian towns, sales of Lebanese silk were redirected toward the Egyptian and European, and more particularly the French, markets, providing the Lebanese with an exportable cash crop. Commercial exchanges between the Lebanese Mountain and the West were thus slightly balanced. The Mountain paid the price in another form: its integration in the international silk market laid it prey to fluctuations over which it had no control whatsoever. Moreover, if this orientation toward foreign markets and the consequent support it gave to the local silk industry temporarily sustained the demographic dynamism of the Maronites, providing guaranteed markets for the peasants in addition to jobs and money, the limits of the absorptive capacity of this productive sector were quickly reached. By the end of the nineteenth century, the lack of lands and work opportunities in the Mountain prompted the Lebanese to emigrate by the thousands. By this time, silk had become a monoculture, and close to "80 percent of the cultivable land of Mount Lebanon was covered with mulberry trees." The economy of the Mountain was dramatically altered, shifting from a partial subsistence economyto the intensive cultivation of silk for export.
These economic changes had significant social and political consequences. They further weakened the muqata‛ji class and again accentuated the interior imbalance between the Druze and Maronite communities since control over the production and sale of silk lay largely in Christian hands. The muqata‛ji class, who remained tied to the land, becoming dependent upon Beirut merchants and the agents of the manufacturers in the Mountain, suffered a relative collective impoverishment. This phenomenon, compounded with egalitarian inheritance laws inside the notable families, which favored the continual division of their properties, led increasing numbers of impoverished muqata‛ji families to sell their lands to merchants and entrepreneurs or to their old tenants. Their prestige and standing, already undermined by Bashir II's policies, was thus negatively affected, and their traditional exactions and haughty demeanor became all the more unjustified and unbearable to the peasants. Simultaneously, a new class of merchants emerged in the Mountain, one whose recently acquired wealth and rising self-confidence and expectations contributed to undermine further the local political and social order based on the supremacy of the muqata‛ji families in the hierarchy of family lineages. Finally, the new economic situation allowed a measured emancipation of the peasants from their muqata‛jis and landlords, as silk merchants, or the agents of the French manufacturers, became a source of loans and payments, in cash or kind. These changes led to peasant and commoner restlessness against the exactions of the muqata‛jis and the ever-rising level of taxes under Bashir's government and initiated a series of peasant uprisings, starting in 1820 and stretching until 1860.
All of these overlapping economic, social, political, and communal changes and contradictions led to a period of protracted instability and conflict, lasting some two decades after the demise of Bashir II in 1840, when socioeconomic factors intermingled with political and communal issues.
No attempt is made here to retrace the chronology of this period. Instead, this study concentrates on selected events, their impact on some of the main actors, and the emergence of new Lebanist ideas that arose concurrently.
The 1840 Revolt
In May 1840, a popular uprising erupted in Mount Lebanon against Bashir II and his ally and overlord, the governor of Egypt Muhammad Ali, who, in a gesture of open defiance of the Ottoman Sultan, occupied Syria and Lebanon in 1831, sparking off an international crisis that consumed Ottoman and European diplomats for nearly a decade. The rebellion was triggered by an Egyptian demand for a general disarmament of the Mountain and a local fear of ensuing conscription. The Maronites, who were primarily affected by this measure, which had already been applied to the Druzes, accordingly initiated an insurrection on hearing of this resolution.
The rebellion started in Dayr-al-Qamar, where the inhabitants refused outright to surrender their arms and incited the remaining population of the district to follow suit. Soon the rebellion spread to the central districts of Matn and Kisrawan. Two foci of insurrection subsequently formed: one in the neighborhood of Sayda, gathering insurgents from the Shuf; and another in Hursh, not far from Beirut, for the rebels of the northern Christian districts. Some Shihabi and Abillama emirs, as well as few Christian and Druze shaykhs, joined the rebel camps or secretly encouraged them. No real coordination seemed to exist between the two camps, although exchanges between both sides took place. Before long, the rebels of the Shuf were wooed by Bashir II's promises and surrendered, abandoning their allies in the north. The latter, amounting to "some few thousand individuals," held out for nearly two months in the outskirts of Beirut, flouting Egyptian authorities there. At the same time, their claims multiplied as all the other grounds for resentment against Bashir II's rule and Egyptian occupation came to the fore to sustain their determination. Over and above their initial demand for the revocation of the disarmament measure, they raised claims for a fairer rate of taxation, exemption from anticipated conscription, the abolition of forced labor, and the institution of adiwan, or council, to assist the ruling Emir. At this point, Bashir II and his Egyptian overlord decided that only force could bring them to yield, and the rebels rapidly disbanded when an Egyptian campaign against them was undertaken at the beginning of July, followed by the arrest of the leaders and the heavy-handed disarmament of the mountaineers. However, the insurgents were barely disarmed when a joint Ottoman-British fleet appeared near the coast of Beirut, sparking the revolt anew.
The rebels now joined forces with the Ottoman and Allied British and Austrian forces in an offensive to expel the Egyptian army from Syria. They obtained a swift and startling victory over Ibrahim Pasha, compelling him to retreat with his army from all of Syria. Bashir II, who had linked his fate to that of the losing side, surrendered to the British forces in Beirut and was hence exiled first to Malta, and later to Istanbul, where he died some years later. However, his name was not easily forgotten, and his shadow continued to hover over Lebanon for a long time. Soon enough, the Church began to bitterly regret the loss of the advantageous position the Maronites had won for themselves under his rule and militated for his restoration. However, Bashir II had left an intricate legacy: the old order that he had tried to bend to his own advantage, and the structures and hierarchies that he had displaced to secure his own rule, could not be restored with impunity after such a long time, and the situation that obtained by the end of his rule could not endure. Attempts to institute a new order amid the intertwined conflicts and contradictions that had emerged under his long rule plagued the Mountain in the years following his removal. His successor, the Ottoman appointee, Emir Bashir Kasim, a distant cousin of Bashir II also known as Bashir III, failed to assert his authority and was in turn quickly demoted, bringing to an end the Shihabi Emirate.
Some details of these dramatic events, relevant to this study, such as the aims and claims of the rebels, some foreign activity and influence, and their impact on local forces, need to be examined.
The insurgents did not raise explicit claims for the independence of Mount Lebanon or for the granting of privileged status to the Mountain within the framework of a larger Empire during the 1840 rebellion. Their demands focused on some local and specific grievances, especially the high level of taxation, which had risen manifold during Bashir II's reign and was further increased by Ibrahim Pasha, as well as other exactions such as forced labor imposed during the Egyptian occupation, and no claims regarding the overall status of the Mountain as such were made by the population of Lebanon. In one of their clearest and longest statements, the rebels, after repeating their usual complaints, asserted, "We have lost our children, lost our liberty and we no longer possess anything; in short we are living in appalling degradation. We have thus decided to rise to abolish [this] injustice and seek our tranquility and liberty. If the authorities take this [fact] into consideration and eliminate injustice we are ready to obey its orders, because our revolt does not aim at taking over the government but at eliminating this untenable injustice"[my italics]. When the rebels failed to obtain satisfaction from the Egyptian authorities, they readily accepted the helping hand of the Ottomans and their European allies who promised to alleviate their grievances under a restored Ottoman administration. This reversal of allegiances came about all the more easily since the Ottoman Sultan had by then issued a firman-the Hatt-i Sherif of Gulhané of 1839-"enjoining the end of injustices and the curbing of every oppressor" and promising fairer assessment and collection of taxes. Hence the rebels came to ask "to be allowed to return under the protection of our legitimate sovereign, whom we have not ceased to obey for the last four hundred years. We only ask to partake of the privileges and the rights of the Hatt-i-sherif, which our gracious emperor had granted to all his subjects without exception, without distinction."
However, it seems that ideas of independence and emancipation were promoted among the Lebanese during this period. These ideas and concepts were propagated at that time by some members of the foreign community in Beirut who supported and incited the rebels to stand firm. It is difficult to gauge the real impact of these foreign exhortations on the population or their elementary importance in the appearance of emancipative inclinations among some Lebanese circles. However, since they concurred with the articulation of such claims and concerns in Mount Lebanon, they are reported here, leaving some margin of uncertainty about their immediate impact and essential significance.
In his report to the French minister of foreign affairs on the 1840 rebellion, the French consul in Beirut, Prosper Bourrée, mentioned that the Greek consul in Beirut, "a young man of 19 years, who had turned [his consulate] into a branch of the Russian consulate," as well as the British consul Moore, were inciting the Lebanese to rebel, extolling the virtues of "liberty, glory, religion" and quoting the example of the Greek people who had managed few years earlier to liberate themselves from Turkish domination by force of arms. These exhortations were apparently not totally ignored by the Lebanese rebels. At about the same time, vague mention of the Greek revolt appeared in the proclamations of the insurgents who enjoined the population of Lebanon to follow the example of the Greek insurgents who "have preceded you and already rebelled, and obtained full liberty." In the same context, Bourrée and his successor often insisted on the role of a Jesuit priest, Father Ryllo, a Lithuanian who had joined the Polish revolt against Russian rule in 1830 and who was favorable to the establishment of a "Christian homeland" in Mount Lebanon. During the revolt, he encouraged the insurgents to take arms and helped them to organize, earning for himself the reputation of being "one of the motors of the ... insurrection." Egyptian authorities in Beirut at the time corroborated these contacts between the rebels and some members of the foreign community in this town, reporting continual movement between Beirut and the rebel camp by foreign nationals. Driven by a romantic enthusiasm, the European community in Beirut seemed animated by a deep sympathy for the cause of the rebels, prompting the then-French prime minister, Adolph Thiers, to comment wryly about "the coterie of young French and foreign men, who consider the insurgents very interesting, and who perhaps, in this perspective, want to encourage and support them."
At the same time, Ottoman and British agents greatly contributed to the fanning of local expectations and to substantiating ulterior claims. Among these figured Richard Wood, a special envoy of the British ambassador to Istanbul, Lord Ponsonsby, who accompanied the Ottoman forces in order to support and organize the revolt against the Egyptian presence in Syria and who, "in the anxiety and eagerness of the contest going on ... , made frequent and extensive promises [my italics] ... to the Maronites to induce them to rise" on behalf of the Ottoman government. British and Ottoman pledges for assistance included the preservation of the "ancient rights and privileges enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Mountain" and an exemption from illegal taxes.
Reappraising in 1842 the role of foreign parties in sowing ideas of independence in Lebanon, Bourrée judiciously affirmed, "Until last year, the idea of independence did not exist among the Arabs. The allied expedition has brought the seed, but for a number of reasons, its development will be very slow."
When he wrote these lines, Bourrée may also have had in mind his own role during the events of 1840. Trying hard to conciliate the contradictory terms of French policy in the Levant, at the time divided between its traditional protectorate over the Catholics, which he deemed greatly endangered by a French stand opposed to the Maronite rebellion against Egyptian rule, and the French government's decision to safeguard the Egyptian hold over Syria, Bourrée came up with a proposal that he conveyed to Paris. The importance of this "plan," as he called it, lay in the fact that the idea of establishing an independent Catholic principality in Mount Lebanon, under the protection of France, apparently then made its first and explicit appearance on the local scene. "These dangers," he wrote, "would all vanish with the recognized independence of the Prince of Lebanon, with the creation, finally, of a Catholic principality that would be independent or merely required to perform a few acts of vassalage." Such an entity, he added, would allow France "without convention or treaty or title but by the very necessity of things, to become the natural protector of the Christian Catholic emir."
Bourrée then expounded personally, and on his own initiative, this idea to Emir Bashir II, who, quite practically, objected to his exalted interlocutor that Mount Lebanon could not become independent without the adjunction of a port and the Bekaa Valley for its supply of grain. Bourrée did not mention whether he ever communicated his "plan" to any representative of the Maronite clergy or to other Lebanese parties. Given his enthusiasm for the cause of the Maronite rebels, it is quite probable that this project was conveyed to other Lebanese parties directly by him or by Father Ryllo, who, according to Bourrée, attended the meeting between Bashir II and the French consul at which this idea was advanced. At any rate Bourrée was firmly disavowed by his government, Thiers qualifying his project as "chimeras ... which are insignificant next to the interest that we have in seeing Syria subdued and brought back under the authority of Mohammad Ali."
Bourrée was immediately recalled to Paris. But the idea of creating a semi-independent Emirate, or at the very least securing a "privileged status" for Mount Lebanon to accommodate its largely Christian population, had made its first appearance, and it was to have many later ulterior consequences.
The Emergence of the Lebanist Ideal
One of first to capitalize on these kind of ideas was the Maronite Patriarch himself, Mgr Yusuf Hubaysh, who soon after the demise of Emir Bashir communicated to the Ottoman government a petition followed by a full-fledged plan for a Maronite Emirate on behalf of the Maronite community. In these texts, the head of the Maronite clergy insisted that "the Hakim of Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon should always remain, in accordance with ancient custom, a Maronite [sic] of the noble Shihabi family." The Patriarch thus strove to twist matters to the advantage of his community by misrepresenting a historical reality. He obscured the fact that the Shihabi ruler had always been a Muslim Sunnite, that Bashir II had been the first Maronite Shihabi governor, and that he had never openly flaunted his religious affiliation. Nonetheless, the unusual situation that obtained during the final years of the reign of Bashir II was adopted as a model, projected onto a mythical past, and adhered to as a norm for the future. The favored status enjoyed by the Maronites during the last years of Bashir II's rule, as well as the relationship of the Maronite Patriarchate with this Emir, came to be viewed by the Maronite Church as an ideal situation that should be at all costs preserved. For the first time in the history of the Mountain, the ruling Emir had been a Maronite Christian, albeit ambiguously so. The Maronites, who had up until then constituted a second-rank community in the Emirate, witnessed an unexpected improvement of their condition. The Patriarch hence engaged in a bid to consolidate and perpetuate the recently established Maronite ascendancy in the Mountain by securing the confirmation of the rule of a Christian Emir. The Patriarch seemed nevertheless to have appreciated that his claims did not stand on very firm ground and so deemed it necessary, in order to strengthen his position, to add another point to his argument, mentioning that the Emir should be Maronite in view of the fact that "the Maronites inhabitants of Lebanon ... are larger [in number] than all the rest."
These two petitions from the Patriarch, the first of which was written as early as October 1840, marked the first expression of a Lebanist ideal that developed out of one basic claim: the establishment in the Mountain of a self-ruled entity whose links with the central government in Istanbul should be virtually nominal. They also represented the first appearance of the founding myth of this Lebanist ideology: an idealized portrayal of the history of the Mountain. The exceptional situation that obtained in the Mountain during the last years of the reign of Bashir II, projected into an ideal past, came to be viewed and presented as a set of established "rights" and inviolable "privileges and traditions." This constructed tradition would become typical of most Maronite, and later secular, Lebanist literature promoting the establishment of an autonomous or semi-independent entity in Mount Lebanon. With a view to basing their claim on legitimate historical grounds, many Maronite and Lebanist writers reproduced and elaborated on the theme of an idealized traditional Emirate. A process of rewriting history, involving the obscuring of certain historical facts in order to convey an ideal picture or the misrepresentation of certain historical situations, was hence initiated.
These idealized historical constructions were meant to support specific political plans and programs. They thus reflected the different claims and the specific contingencies to which they corresponded, varying, as will be shown, according to circumstances and to the audience they were meant to reach. Hence, the nature of the relationship between the projected-and allegedly historical-Lebanese entity and the central government in Istanbul fluctuated between virtual independence, when prospects seemed promising, or when the targeted audience appeared receptive, to integration into the Ottoman Empire accompanied by some degree of autonomy, when the outlook for such plans seemed less assured or the targeted audience more discerning.
The Maronite Patriarch was induced to formulate his demands for the confirmation of Shihabi rule in Lebanon by the planned Ottoman reorganization of the recovered Syrian lands. The political void prevailing in the Mountain after the demise of Bashir II encouraged Mgr Hubaysh to raise crucial political issues directly with the Porte. He was hence challenging the prerogatives of the old political class and introducing himself as a major political figure, since he claimed to represent the majority of the population of the Mountain. His claim, moreover, could not be separated from his bid to preserve the status quo ante, the legal confirmation of which would have constituted a victory for the Maronites, sanctioning the ascendancy they had managed to gain during the last years of Bashir II's reign. As already mentioned, this situation had obtained under specific circumstances, and the head of the Maronite Church seemed to have realized that it was greatly endangered by the demise of Bashir II, the return of the exiled Druze muqataʽjis who aspired to restore their former rights and powers, and by the plans for Ottoman reorganization. The Maronite prelate was also availing himself of promises advanced to the insurgents by British and Ottoman officials on the ground during the 1840 rebellion, guaranteeing the preservation of the "ancient rights and privileges of the Mountain." In this context, mention is made of the exhortations of the foreign consuls and nationals mentioned previously, as well as Bourrée's plan, which might well have influenced the program advanced by the Patriarch.
Three obstacles, however, hindered the Patriarch's project. (1) The Ottoman government had conflicting aspirations for a general centralization of the Syrian provinces, aiming at the abolition of local centers of power. Mgr Hubaysh tried to counter this policy in Lebanon by regularly addressing to the Porte petitions similar to the one mentioned, or others countersigned by as many Maronites as he could mobilize, in an attempt to convey the impression that his aspirations genuinely represented those of the Maronites. He also sent a special political envoy to Istanbul, Abbot Nicolas Murad, and relied extensively on French diplomatic support in the Ottoman capital. (2) At the same time, the return of the Druze muqataʽjis claiming their old rights in the Mountain and the confirmation of their previous political supremacy directly threatened Mgr Hubaysh's plans. To thwart their ambitions, he struck at the root of their power by challenging their political and judicial rights over their Christian tenants. (3) Finally, and more important, the Patriarch had to grapple with the disunity of the Maronites who, in spite of his assurances to the contrary, still needed to be constituted into, and directed toward, a political community claiming its rights.
Up until then, , as has been seen, the Maronite feeling of identity had not carried political significance. It did not constitute in itself a rallying force or a recognized basis for effective political solidarity. While the process of growing communal antagonism that emerged during Bashir II's rule had exacerbated feelings of differentiation and competition between Maronites and Druzes, it did not constitute in itself a sufficient incentive and appropriate framework for the unification of the Maronite community. The Maronites had not, over previous centuries, acted as a united political community, and no regionwide channels for the mobilization of the whole community existed. In the segmented political system that had prevailed until then the Maronites of the northern, central, and southern districts had had different historical and political experiences and were included in separate client networks. Furthermore, the dislocations that had affected this community for more than a century had engendered new interests and lines of divisions within the community. Several forces in the community had divergent projects and ambitions: the Maronite muqataʽjis aspired to restore the "old order of things" and sympathized therefore with the Druze muqataʽjis, whereas the power of the latter was contested by the Maronite clergy and peasants. Finally, Maronites were divided on the more specific issue of restoring Bashir II. Some Maronites, like the clergy, the family and supporters of the Shihabi Emir, and some enriched merchants and peasants, had indeed benefited from the rule of Bashir II and developed vested interests in the system that then obtained. However, other Maronite parties, like the muqataʽjis who had lost their estates and the Maronite peasants, overburdened with heavy taxes and afflicted by other forms of extortion, were more preoccupied with their own problems and interests than with a unification of the community in order to confirm or restore the rule of the Shihabs-and, more specifically, Bashir II. The question of unifying and conciliating, as much as possible, these different regional, social, and political interests remained therefore unaddressed. Clearly, a Maronite political community, identifying itself as such and collectively defending its threatened interests, as perceived by the Church, still needed to be forged. For that, a political program, based on a Maronite sense of identity, needed to be elaborated and a feeling of solidarity geared toward a recognized general interest developed.
The Patriarch hence undertook to present such a program and rally his community around it. On March 29, 1841, he assembled the main leaders of the community and had them sign a pact, promising that they would henceforth "form one body, act towards one sole aim and work as a single hand in all matters relating to our interests and to the general welfare." Toward this aim, the pact specifically tackled the issues dividing the Maronite community, providing for a more equitable distribution of taxes, respect for the authority and rank of notables and shaykhs in return for fairer treatment of commoners, and the selection of representatives, or wakils, for each district in order to facilitate contacts and coordination between all. The signatories finally swore that "their present union will last forever. [None] should seek to break it or alter it; ... nor time, nor the succession of the days, nor the great questions of the century, nor the misfortunes or the disasters. ..."
So much insistence on the henceforth everlasting unity of the Maronites and their unbreakable solidarity could only point to an attempt to conceal the divisions of the community and the deep concern and apprehensions of the Patriarch. By March 1841, the fate of the Shihabi Emirate was seriously compromised by the defiance of the Druze muqataʽjis who challenged the principle of the selection of a governor from the Shihabi family, hence contesting the legitimacy of the whole system, by the schemes of the Ottoman government that was trying to reimpose its direct rule over the Mountain, and by the weakness of the Emir Bashir III himself. Furthermore, the attempt to mobilize the Maronites prompted, in reaction, Druze commoners to rally around their traditional leaders, thus forming an internal front lobbying against the Patriarch's plans and an internal danger to his community. In comparison, the Maronites lacked leadership and cohesion. By summoning all the Maronite notables and having them sign this convention under his supervision, the Patriarch was responding to these developments by presenting compromise solutions to the issues dividing the Maronites and striving to impart on them a higher sense of solidarity and responsibility in defense of the general interest. To bolster this projected Maronite unity, Mgr Hubaysh made public the text of the convention through the clergy in the villages and mobilized the Church apparatus to mobilize Maronite commoners and awaken their awareness to the ongoing conflict with the Druzes and the need to identify and rally with their coreligionists against them.
The principle of such a pact between all the Maronites was in itself quite new. It rested on principles alien to the organization of the Mountain, aiming to supplant old parochial allegiances and clientele by a preeminent communal political identity and loyalty. More specifically, it challenged the organization of the Mountain by contesting the legitimacy of the authority of the Druze muqataʽjis over their Maronite tenants on the basis of communal differences. The Patriarch was thus acting to thwart all Druze attempts at reestablishing their old privileges by undermining the basis of their authority.
The End of the Emirate
Mgr Hubaysh's plans, however, came to none, and the plans faced, shortly thereafter, a first and capital setback in November 1841, when the Druze muqataʽjis, infuriated by the policy of the new Christian Shihabi Emir, Bashir III, besieged the town of Dayr-al-Qamar, seat of the governorate. The Patriarch immediately called upon the Maronite notables and commoners of the northern and central districts to gather an army to save "their" threatened Emir. He financed the campaign from Church funds, supplying the Maronite army with provisions, arms and ammunition, and used the Church apparatus to mobilize his flock. However, in spite of all the efforts and authority of the Patriarch and the clergy, which often reached the point of threats of excommunication, the Maronite army did not go to the rescue of the Emir at Dayr-al-Qamar. Instead, it dallied at Baabda arguing over leadership and organizational issues and finally attacked the neighboring Druze village of Shuwayfat before disbanding.
The Maronite army lacked cohesion and purpose. The leadership of the campaign had been assigned to a Shihabi Emir whose orders and directives were never heeded. Furthermore, the Maronite muqataʽjis were more inclined to support their Druze counterparts than the Maronite Emir since they felt equally threatened by the insubordination of the commoners, while the commoners were more preoccupied with asserting their power against that of their muqataʽjis than with rushing and saving "their" threatened Emir and coreligionists in the town of Dayr-al-Qamar. Finally, the Maronite army, composed of separate parochial groups, made any coordination between these separate bands and cliques impossible. This lack of coordination and mutual support among the diverse groups underscored the absence of any effective networks for the mobilization of the whole community as such and the originality of such an initiative.
The division of the Maronites seemed also connected to an apparent lack of motivation and concern for the issue at stake. The narrative of Tannus Shidyaq is replete with accusations of "treachery" by several groups and notables, underlining the lack of motivation and solidarity as well as the conflicting interests of the Christians as a group. Thus, all the pledges of "everlasting union and solidarity" between the Maronites failed to materialize at this critical time and on this critical issue. Their performance discredited the Patriarch's attempt to establish a firm Maronite political front backing his political program. It led him thereafter to pursue a more elitist policy, relying more on behind-the-scene diplomatic and political channels to reach his aims than trusting the aptitude of his community.
In the meantime, Bashir III, abandoned to his fate, was expelled under humiliating conditions from Dayr-al-Qamar to Beirut, where an Ottoman special envoy dismissed him and sent him to Istanbul. The Shihabi Emirate thus ended ingloriously, and an Ottoman governor was appointed to rule Lebanon directly.