It may be worth while to tell in a few words the story of one man who accomplished wonders in spreading the influence of his country. Sir Richard Wood was born in London, a son of Catholic parents. From his early boyhood he aspired to enter the diplomatic service. The East attracted him strongly, and in order to learn Arabic he went with another young Englishman to live in the Lebanon. In Beirut they sought the hospitality of the Maronite patriarch. For a few days they were treated with lavish hospitality, and then the patriarch summoned them before him and told them that they must leave the city within twenty-four hours. The reason for their disgrace they discovered later. Not suspecting that they were being put to the test, they had eaten meat on a Friday, and this made the patriarch think that they were not true Catholics, but were there as spies.
Leaving Beirut in haste, Wood and his friend sought shelter with the Druses, who received them with open arms. For two years Wood lived among the Druses, in the village of Obey. There he learned Arabic and became thoroughly acquainted with the country and with the ways of the Druses, and there he conceived the idea of winning the Druses for England to counteract the influence of the French Maronites. He went back to London, where he succeeded in impressing his views upon the Foreign Office, and he returned to Syria charged with a secret mission. Before long he persuaded the Druse chieftains to address a petition to England asking for British protection.
British protection was granted, and for over thirty years Richard Wood, virtually single-handed, shaped the destiny of Syria. It was he who broke the power of Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Mehemet Ali; it was he who guided Admiral Stopford in the bombardment of Beirut; it was he, again, who brought about the landing of English troops in Syria in 1841; we find him afterwards in Damascus as British Consul, and wherever he went he was always busy spreading English power and prestige. He understood the East thoroughly and felt that England must be strong in Syria if she wished to retain her imperial power. It is very unfortunate that the policy of Sir Richard Wood was not carried out by his nation.
It was with high hopes and expectations that I approached the Lebanon. I was looking forward to the moment when I should find myself among people who were free from the Turkish yoke, in a country where I should be able to breathe freely for a few hours.
But how great was my consternation, when, on entering the Lebanon, I found on all the roads Turkish soldiers who stopped me every minute to ask for my papers! Even then I could not realize that the worst had happened. Of course, rumors of the Turkish occupation of the Lebanon had reached us a few weeks before, but we had not believed it, as we knew that Germany and Austria were among those who guaranteed the autonomy of the Lebanon. It was true, however; the scrap of paper that guaranteed the freedom of the Lebanon had proved of no more value to the Lebanese than had that other scrap of paper to Belgium. As I entered the beautiful village of Ed-Damur, one of the most prosperous and enchanting places on earth, I saw entire regiments of Turkish troops encamped in and about the village.