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Bliss Appointed Chief Deputy US Marshall: US North Carolina Ship

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Portrait of President Howard Bliss, ca. 1914, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

Howard Bliss was appointed President of the Syrian Protestant College upon the retirement of his father, Daniel Bliss, in 1902, a post he held until the end of the War (1919). Bliss worked hard (and succeeded) to keep the College and its student body and faculty safe for most of the duration of the War, even after the US eventually joined the Allies in 1917. It is in great part due to Bliss' (as well as to other SPC Faculty such as Dr. Dray's) exceptional diplomatic skills, his ability to convey trust, and to forge personal lasting relations, that SPC succeeded in securing the safety of its students, and operated its curricular and extra-curricular activities in an almost uninterrupted manner throughout the War (the College closed for a few days in 1917, only to reopen shortly thereafter). Howard Bliss' strong and genuinely warm relations with Jamal Pasha allowed him to negotiate many beneficial decisions and policies towards the College: for example, SPC was allowed to purchase flour and other key provisions at subsidized prices similar to those available for the Ottoman authorities, which at many times amounted to a mere 20% of the market price. 

Howard Bliss, “Correspondence on Food Supplies, 24 July 1916-1917, November 1918.” Howard Bliss Collection,, AUB Archives.

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Decree appointing President Howard Bliss as Chief Deputy US Marshal, November 3, 1914, Howard Bliss Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

As soon as the Ottoman Empire entered the war, the American Consul in Beirut, W. Stanley Hollis, realized the gravity of the situation, and moved to ensure that the Syrian Protestant College, with its American Faculty, had sufficient support and protection against the possibility of any escalation of the tense relations prevailing in the region. Putting his trust in President Bliss, and realizing the signifiance of the role that Bliss could play in protecting American nationals as well as the SPC student and academic body, Hollis appointed Bliss Chief Deputy United States Marshal with power to assign deputies in order to support him as needed. Bliss' chief duties were to prevent disturbances, preserve order on American premises, organize admission to the SPC grounds, ensure public security and organize night patrols for the safety of all at SPC. This appointment would come in effect as soon as physical danger was imminent, or as soon as the established cooperation between SPC and the Ottoman authorities to ensure the safety of the College and of the American and scholarly body was threatened.


USS North Carolina entering Beirut Port, 1914, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

The US North Carolina Battle Ship was completed and commissioned in Newport News, Virginia on May 7, 1908, with Captain William A. Marshall as Commander. It was sent to the Mediterranean to support the foreign delegations on Turkish territories under Captain Joseph W. Oman. All through 1914 till May 1915, the USS North Carolina cruised between the various ports of the Mediterranean,  transporting refugees between Jaffa, Beirut and Alexandria. The USS North Carolina captain and crew distributed food in Manara and visited the SPC Campus periodically, getting acquainted with its community and participating in several social and extra-curricular activities. In May 1915, the US Navy Department sent the cruiser Des Moines to relieve the USS North Carolina from its duties in the Mediterranean.