The Shihabs, 1697-1842
The Shihabs, another Druze family, succeeded the Maans in 1697. They originally lived in the Hawran region of southwestern Syria and settled in Wadi at Taim in southern Lebanon. The most prominent among them was Bashir II, who was much like his predecessor, Fakhr ad Din II. His ability as a statesman was first tested in 1799, when Napoleon besieged Acre, a well-fortified coastal city in Palestine, about forty kilometers south of Tyre. Both Napoleon and Al Jazzar, the governor of Acre, requested assistance from the Shihab leader; Bashir, however, remained neutral, declining to assist either combatant. Unable to conquer Acre, Napoleon returned to Egypt, and the death of Al Jazzar in 1804 removed Bashir’s principal opponent in the area.
When Bashir II decided to break away from the Ottoman Empire, he allied himself with Muhammad Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, and assisted Muhammad Ali’s son, Ibrahim Pasha, in another siege of Acre. This siege lasted seven months, the city falling on May 27, 1832. The Egyptian army, with assistance from Bashir’s troops, also attacked and conquered Damascus on June 14, 1832.
Ibrahim Pasha and Bashir II at first ruled harshly and exacted high taxes. These practices led to several revolts and eventually ended their power. In May 1840, despite the efforts of Bashir, the Maronites and Druzes united their forces against the Egyptians. In addition, the principal European powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia), opposing the pro-Egyptian policy of the French, signed the London Treaty with the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman ruler) on July 15, 1840. According to the terms of this treaty, Muhammad Ali was asked to leave Syria; when he rejected this request, Ottoman and British troops landed on the Lebanese coast on September 10, 1840. Faced with this combined force, Muhammad Ali retreated, and on October 14, 1840, Bashir II surrendered to the British and went into exile.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress