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Lebanon celebrates this September 1st, the date of the Proclamation by the mandate authorities, in the presence of the main political and religious leaders, of the state of Greater Lebanon.

The State of Greater Lebanon was proclaimed on 1 September 1920 by General Henri Joseph Eugène Gouraud, representing the French authority on Syria, from the top of the steps of the Pines residence in Beirut.

It was also the application of the Sykes Picot agreements,signed in 1916, which attributed this area to a French presence.

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As an autonomous state that was then part of Syria between 1920 and 1926, it was during this period that most of the existing political and public administrations were established to date and the tools of sovereignty, such as money, political institutions, and even armed units, which would remain under the command of the French proxy authorities.

In 1926, the Lebanese constitution was adopted with a parliamentary system establishing a parliament but also a senate which was abolished in 1927.

Charles Debbas was elected President of the Republic on 26 May 1926. He appointed Auguste Bacha Habib as Prime Minister on 29 May 1926. The latter constitutes the First Lebanese Government on the same day. It will have 7 members thus 2 Maronites, 1 Sunni, 1 Shia, 1 Druze, 1 Greek-Orthodox and 1 Greek-Catholic. On 29 May, the Lebanese Senate, chaired by Mohammed el Jisr, will also be set up on 29 May. Finally in October 1926 will be adopted the Lebanese National Anthem.

A state of Greater Lebanon, a guarantee for the population after the torments of the First World War

The state of Greater Lebanon was considered a guarantee for the population after the dark hours of World War I, ravaged by the Great Famine. Up to a third of the population had died in the Mountain. One of the first objectives will therefore be to perpetuate the possible existence of such a state through the annexation to Mount Lebanon of territories allowing its food survival.

Also as a guarantee, Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoayek, who had been heavily involved in the negotiations for the creation of this state, had also moved to the Paris Peace Conference, better known as the Versailles Conference, with a delegation he will chair.

It was during this conference that he called for the extension of the borders of Mount Lebanon to Beirut, Tyre, Saida, Tripoli and the Akkar, Bekaa and Southern Lebanon regions on 25 October 1919, thus tracing Lebanon’s current borders. Although these cities and regions were part of geographical Lebanon, they had been administratively separated since Ottoman times.

He will also call for the establishment of a French protectorate on these territories until the possible recognition of Lebanon’s independence.

The project of the creation of Greater Lebanon will, however, be threatened by a competing project supported by the British on an international level and locally by Arab nationalists, mainly Sunni, that of the creation of an Arab Kingdom. The one who was to become the king of such a state, Faysal Ibn Hussein, will also make a placement at the Versailles conference.

Another difficulty, the French experts of the time also stressed their preference for a small Lebanon more homogeneous in terms of population, of origin, already warning against a civil conflict like those that we will have in 1958 or from 1975 to 1990.

France had been heavily involved in the case of the Emirate of Mount Lebanon, in particular with what is now considered to be the first military intervention for humanitarian purposes in 1860 to protect Christian minorities from massacres in the Chouf or in Syria, massacres committed by the Druze and Sunnis.

Finally, France will accede to the wish of the Maronite Patriarch. Welcomed by the joy of the Christian population, however, this decision will not be unanimous. Protests calling for an attachment to Syria will take place in Muslim regions.

At the Origin, The Creation of the Moutassarifate of Mount Lebanon

May 1860: Attack of Deir el Qamar by the Druze. The troubles spread to Jezzine, Hasbaya, Saida. Zahle is under siege.
June-July 1860: Massacres continue.
July 6, 1860: Ottoman intervention, reconciliation between Christians, Sunnis and Druze.
August 16, 1860: Intervention of the French Army in Lebanon in accordance with the treaty known as the Capitulations which gives it a right to protect Christian minorities within the Ottoman Empire.
June 9, 1861: Creation of the Moutassarrifat of Mount Lebanon establishing a first community system in Lebanon. The administration is entrusted to a Christian governor or Moutassarrif appointed for 3 and 5 years by the Sublime Porte and not from Mount Lebanon. He will be assisted by a representative council of 12 members, 7 Christians and 5 Muslims. Will be appointed:

  • Daoud Bacha, of Armenian origin (June 9, 1861 to May 9, 1868),
  • Franco Bacha of alpine origin (July 27, 1868 to February 26, 1873)
  • Rustom Bacha, of Italian descent, (July 1973 to May 1883)
  • Massa Bacha of Albanian origin, (May 8, 1883 to June 29, 1892)
  • Naoum Bacha, of alpine origin, (August 15, 1892 to August 1902)
  • Mouzaffar Bacha, of Polish and French origin, (September 27, 1902 to June 29, 1907)
  • Youssef Franco Bacha, of alpine origin, (July 8, 1907 to July 2, 1912)
  • Yohannès Bacha Kouyoumdjian, of Armenian descent, (December 20, 1912 on the date of his resignation, August 5, 1915)

Mount Lebanon in the torment of World War I

After Yohannes Bacha Kouyoumdjian, the Ottoman authorities then at war alongside the empires of Central Europe appointed the governors directly and dissolved the Representative Council.

This period was marked by a period of terror, epidemics of dysentery and Typhus, and famine caused by a blockade of the coasts by the allies on the one hand, and by the Ottoman requisitions on the other.

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A third of the population of Mount Lebanon, mainly Christians, died while in the capital Beirut, several Lebanese nationalists were hanged by the Ottomans on 21 August 1915 and then on 6 May 1916, while Governor Djemal Pasha was in power.

Lebanon moves to French Time and becomes Greater Lebanon

The State of Greater Lebanon was proclaimed on 1 September 1920 by General Henri Joseph Eugène Gouraud, representing the French authority on Syria, from the top of the steps of the Residence des Pins in Beirut, in the presence of the Maronite Patriarch, Elias Hoayek to his right and the Mufti to his left.

From 1918, Allied and mainly British troops occupied Mount Lebanon.

Among the first steps taken by General Allenby, the restoration of the Representative Council in October 1918.

The transition period will be led by High Commissioner François Georges Picot. The English troops eventually withdrew in October 1919, giving way to French troops. The Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919, confirmed the French Mandate for Lebanon.

This period was murky, so on the one hand Arab nationalist demonstrations demanding the attachment of Lebanon to the Kingdom of Syria of King Faysal Ibn Hussein and on the other hand, the establishment of an independent Lebanon protected by France.

The San Remo Conference definitively awarded France the Mandate on the Land of Cedars on 25 April 1920 and was ratified by the League of Nations (SDN) on 24 July 1922.

Greater Lebanon was proclaimed on September 1, 1920.

Until 1926, the administration was primarily the work of military governors.

He will be succeeded by three Military High Commissioners

  • General Henri Gouraud (1919 to 1922) who imposed the French Mandate in Syria and proclaimed Greater Lebanon on September 1, 1920,
  • General Maxime Weygand in 1923, challenged by Lebanese Muslim circles
  • and General Maxime Sarrail who will trigger the Druze revolt.

During their mission, the main sovereignty tools of what would become the State of Lebanon were established, notably on January 24, 1924, the Lebanese-Syrian Pound.

Faced with the failure of the military administration due to the tensions generated, a high civilian police station was set up at the initiative of Henri de Jouvenel, with the aim of setting up the Lebanese Constitution which would be made official on 23 May 1926, but as a result of consultations with local officials by the military authorities.

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