Colleagues and Friends
Exacerbated as they were by regional issues, namely Damascus-inspired intrigue, Franco-British rivalry and American interference (the King-Crane Mission), political divisions and conflict of interests hindered the creation of Lebanon. Even the French Government, the stalwart protector of Lebanese Christians, hesitated in its choices between the different options. Crucially Michel Chiha, as the chief architect of this embryonic nation, was able to move forward with his plans for a gradual shift toward independence for Lebanon partly because he and Robert de Caix, Chief Assistant to General Henri Gouraud (8th October 1919 to 19th April 1923) had a close working relationship based on mutual respect. In fact, the two were to play a pivotal role in guiding French policy in Lebanon at this crucial period. Unconventional, curious, well-informed, diligent, and politically astute, Robert de Caix actively sought to expand his contacts with the more progressive elements in the country operating beyond the constraints of official channels. Whenever possible, de Caix would enthusiastically engage with younger enlightened Lebanese political thinkers away from the more established political and social circles of Beirut. Michel Chiha was one of these young enlightened thinkers who appealed most to de Caix largely because of his affable manner, his erudition, and profound political insight. Evidence-based sources confirm that their regular and lengthy discussions on the multiple aspects of a future Lebanese state including the factor of an adjacent pan-Arab Syria played a decisive role in the proclamation of a Greater Lebanon, its geographic boundaries, and its state institutions.
After the departure of General Henri Gouraud and Robert de Caix, Michel Chiha went on to establish a similar cordial relationship through close and regular contact with the newly appointed High Commissioner, General Maxime Weygand (19 April 1923 – 2 January 1925) who was won over by the young man’s directness and impartiality, characteristics not usually apparent in his dealings with local politicians. In any event, the two men were natural allies sharing not only a common faith but also the same ethos and common principles. Archives show that amongst a profusion of personal friends and colleagues Michel Chiha also corresponded closely with eminent archaeologists such as Father Rene Mouterde, Henri Seyrig, and Maurice Dunand as well as authors Pierre Benoit and Paul Claudel.
An extract from Michel Chiha’s obituary of Omar Bey Daouk
“…My recently departed friend had all the characteristics of a sage. Both in private and in public, he was an upstanding citizen. We were both members of the first committee that saw the birth of our nation’s Constitution. He was known for his quiet discernment, his respect for the rights of others, his perfect understanding of the country’s multiplicity, his sense of harmony, and his recognition of the political and social benefits that Greater Lebanon offered all its citizens. He saw in it the possibilities of a multi-communal society. More at home behind the scenes, his advice was often called upon in matters of state or business. The nation will always remember what he stood for and will always be grateful for the public contributions of this exemplary man…”
‘Omar Bey Daouk’, M.C., Le Jour, November 3rd, 1949.
An extract from Michel Chiha’s obituary of Pierre Trad
“…Pierre Trad was an incurable and old-fashioned romantic. He preferred ‘Petro’ to ‘Pierre’. Trained as a lawyer, he dabbled in the Arts but when called upon, this dedicated long-serving parliamentarian worked diligently in the interest of his country. Appointed to High Office he proved himself worthy of the confidence placed in him. He will forever be remembered for his role through what were turbulent and challenging times in his country’s history as well as for his great heart and goodness…”
‘A dear departed friend: Pierre Trad’, M.C., Le Jour, April l8th, 1948.
Pierre Trad (1876-1948) was Head of State between July and September 1943. He was one of the original supervisors who oversaw the elections for the House of Representatives the outcome of which resulted in Béchara al-Khoury being elected President of the Lebanese Republic.