Youssef Bey Boutros Karam (also Joseph Bey Karam) (May 15, 1823 – April 7, 1889) , was a Lebanese Maronite notable who fought in the 1860 civil war and led a rebellion in 1866-1867 against the Ottoman Empire rule in Mount Lebanon. His proclamations have been interpreted as an early expression of Lebanese nationalism.
At the age of 17, in 1840, he took part with his father and brother in the battles of Hayrouna and Bazoun against the occupying forces of Egypt. Six years later, in 1846, he succeeded as ruler on the death of his father. In 1856, he received the title of “ Beik”.
In the intervening years he continued to establish a reputation as a strong but fair ruler and became influential both as a soldier and politician. He believed that Lebanon should become a free and sovereign state and thereby against Ottoman rule. He was called upon to deal with local difficulties such as in 1858 at the request of the Maronite Patriarch to deal with a revolt by the farmers in the predominantly Maronite Kisrwan district who rose up against their local Sheikh and landlords. Karam saved the Sheikh and restored peace without t
in 1859 when conflict broke our between the Druze and Maronite communities in the town of Beit Mery. He called for a meeting of the community’s leaders at the village of Baan and concluded an agreement with the Muslim ruler of Tripoli, Abed El Hamid Karami, to keep North Lebanon free from religious conflict.
In May 1860 a number of Maronite monks and villagers were killed. As a result Karam raised a force of 500 men to protect the Maronite community and on 2nd June 1860 he and his men marched to the Maronite Patriarch promising to protect the Maronite community.
Several days later a Maronite village was attacked and many inhabitants were killed by Druze with the aid of Turkish forces. At the same time the Turkish marines had affected a sea blockade to stoop food and military supplies reaching Christian areas. Karam was to retrieve the situation ensuring Maronite presence with the aid of French ships.
While a new constitution was being drafted two provisional Governors were appointed to represent the two communities. Karam was appointed Governor of all the Christians on 17th November 1860. During his office he restored law and order, re-organized pubic institutions and conducted government in an honest and fair way, refusing any foreign interference or having foreign troops on Lebanese soil.
In view of Karam successes and the momentum of the peoples aspirations of self rule Karam decided to march on the Governor at his residence at Beit El Din and overrule Turkish rule and install a Lebanese National Government. As his forces neared the residence thousands joined Karam forcing the Governor to flee to Beirut. Karam was on the brink of his and many others dream of self-rule.
In the meantime Dawood Pasha began beseeching the European Powers to support him and prevailed on them to respect the constitution, which gave Turkey the right to rule Lebanon.
On 31st January 1867 Karam was departed from Lebanon to Europe.
On 7th April 1889, in Razinia near Napoli Italy, he died of a heart attack.
In September 1889 his body was taken to Ehden and interned at St George’s Church. In September 1932 a statue was erected outside the Church of him.
Both his words “ I shall sacrifice myself, that Lebanon may live” and his life are both a potent example and inspiration to new generations of Lebanese men and women.