Lebanese History
The Maronites at the time of the Mutassirrifiat
between 1861-1914

By: Professor Antoine Khoury Harb

French troops entered Lebanon in 1861 to restore peace and order after the bloody sectarian war between Maronites and Druz in the Mount of Lebanon. This war was engineered, provoked and finnanced by the Ottomans aiming to abort the unity of Lebanese people against occupation of the country. Other European countries intervened as well and forced the Ottoman Empire to acknowledge the internal administrative autonomy of Mount Lebanon.

To this end a Protocol was signed in 1861 by the representatives of the Ottoman Empire, England, France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia. The Protocol, promulgated (announced) in 1864 and known as the MUTASARRIFIAT SYSTEM, was a kind of federation between the Maronites and the other Lebanese sects.

In order to prevent against any form of independence, the Ottomans requested to have Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, and the boroughs of Rashaya, Hasbaya and Bekaa under their direct control. Thus, the old Maanite and Chehabi Emirate was transformed into a small semi-autonomous borough governed by a Christian but non-native governor. It was naturally for the maronites to oppose this hegemony.

Patriarch Boulos Massaad demanded the appointment of a Lebanese ruler and objected to the partition of Lebanese regions. But his objections were unheeded.

Up north, Youssef Bey Karam (1822-1889) the great Lebanese leader, waged a war against the new regime and fought 12 battles with the Ottomans hoping to achieve the independence of his country. The Maronites of the North held the grudge against the Mutasarrifiat System and considered it a foul compromise way short of the desired independence.

The peace which prevailed during this time led to a great renaissance in sciences, printing journalism and letters. And once again, the Lebanese spearheaded a rich culture movement that was in harmony with their cultural movement that was in harmony with their long history of learning. The Maronite clergy, graduates of Maronite School of Rome had already paved the way for this intellectual renaissance.

"By the end of the 19th century, Lebanon became the most advanced in the whole Ottoman Empire in the fields of learning.

In 1624, Patriarch Youhanna Makhlouf founded the first two schools of higher education in Haouqa and Bkarkasha. The Synod, convened in Louaizeh in 1736 to reorganize the Maronite Church, strongly recommended the building of schools to spread learning.

In 1789, Patriarch Youssef Estephan founded AIN WARAKA MARONITE SCHOOL to be the local counterpart of the Maronite School of Rome. Some of the graduates of this institute led the cultural renaissance in the 19th century.

Moreover, Patriarch Youhanna Al-Helou transformed the monasteries of Kfarhai (1812) and Roumieh (1817) into schools. Patriarch Youssef Hobeiche followed suit and transformed the monasteries of Mar Abda Herharya (1830) and Rayfoun (1832) into clerical institutes.

Despite the material prosperity, Mount Lebanon witnessed an active immigration especially among the Maronites, to Egypt, the Americas, West Africa and Australia. This immigration is a manifestation of a fundamental reality in the history of the Lebanese people ie. the vital dimension of the Lebanese is the world at large, not only to seek means of living, but more importantly, to seek the augmentation of humanitarian, intellectual and cultural aspects of life.

The Lebanese soil moulded the Lebanese personality and enticed the Lebanese to be the heralds of peaceful coexistence among the peoples of the earth.

The lebanese immigrants succeeded in all domains. They participated in and formed strong and effective foundation for the continuity and progress of their homeland. This foundation would be stronger if the resident Lebanese strengthen their ties with their immigrant brethren not on the basis of temporary and transient sentimentalism but on the basis of constant ideological and intellectual harmony.

Such a relation would accelerate the organic affiliation utilized for the welfare of the Lebanese and humanity at large. The intellectual framework of this affiliation is rooted in the Lebanese cultural heritage which the Maronites embodied throughout their history.

The Maronites were the messengers who carried the cultural message of ancient Lebanon to Lebanon of the future. This Lebanon stubbornly insists on maintaining its cultural essence and that is to merge only in its purest form with the universal spirit.