Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIX TWO DECADES OF CIVIL DISTURBANCE: 1840 TO 1860

THE mid- nineteenth century found Lebanon wading to its neck in a slough of trouble and strife, one of the unhappiest experiences in its long and checkered annals. Communal conflict bordering on anarchy was climaxed by three wars between Druzes and Christians, those of 1841, 1845 and 1860. The period marked the end of Lebanon's rule by indigenous amīrs and the beginning of the mutaṣarrifīyah, rule by an Ottoman governor (mutaṣarrif) under a concert of five European powers.

The explosive elements had been in the making for years: Druze resentment against Bashir's efforts to undermine the authority of their feudal chiefs and against his son Khalīl, whose Maronite troops helped crush the uprising of their co-religionists in Ḥawran;1 numerical increase and heightened prestige of Christians in the Druze sector; the intrusion of Great Britain seeking a sphere of influence and the fomenting of trouble by Western agents among the two preponderant elements of the population; the new policy of direct rule and imperial centralization launched by Maḥmūd II2 which took advantage of the muddled situation and pitted one element against the other. The great powers' rivalry threw tiny, helpless Lebanon into the cockpit of international politics, leaving its simple people at the mercy of imperial forces.

Until the 1840s warfare in the mountain had been of the intermittent intestine variety, with Druze fighting against Druze, and Christian against Christian, depending upon whether one was a Qaysi or Yamani, Yazbaki or Janbalāṭi.3 The alignment was feudal and partisan rather than religious and denominational. Travellers and observers uniformly commented on the spirit of amity that characterized Druze-Christian relations.4

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4
See above, pp. 377, 390; Abbé de Binos, Voyage au Mont Liban ( Paris 1809), vol. ii, pp. 90-1.

-433-

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