Portrait of John Adams.

John Adams was President during the XYZ Affair.

XYZ Affair External Links


External Links for XYZ Affair

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XYZ Affair

The XYZ Affair was a diplomatic incident that almost led to war between the United States and France. The scandal inflamed U.S. public opinion and led to the passage of the ALIEN AND SEDITION ACTS of 1798 (1 Stat. 570, 596). Though the affair caused an unofficial naval war, the two countries were able to negotiate their differences and end their conflict in 1800. The affair took place during one of the Napoleonic wars between France and Great Britain.

XYZ Affair

In 1797, President Adams labored to defuse growing tensions with France by sending two new diplomats, John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, to join C.C. Pinckney in Paris. The French foreign minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, kept the American mission waiting for weeks, then deployed agents (designated X, Y and Z by the Americans) to demand a $250,000 bribe for himself and a $12 million loan for France. Bribery was standard diplomatic fare at the time, but the amount was deemed exorbitant.

The XYZ Affair

Britain and France were again at war in 1792. This time the British were attempting to stop the French Revolution from spreading and restore the French monarchy. In this attempt, Britain had blockaded Continental Europe from trade.

XYZ Affair

XYZ Affair, name usually given to an incident (1797–98) in Franco-American diplomatic relations. The United States had in 1778 entered into an alliance with France, but after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars was both unable and unwilling to lend aid.

The XYZ Affair and the Quasi-War with France, 1798-1800

The XYZ Affair was a diplomatic incident between French and United States diplomats that resulted in a limited, undeclared war known as the Quasi-War. U.S. and French negotiators restored peace with the Convention of 1800, also known as the Treaty of Mortefontaine.

The XYZ Affair

American relations with France deteriorated seriously after Jay's Treaty with Britain in 1794, which the French government believed violated the French-American alliance of 1778. The French retaliated by intercepting American ships. In 1797, President John Adams sent Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Elbridge Gerry and John Marshall to Paris to negotiate a settlement. However, the French Foreign Minister, Talleyrand, refused to receive the Americans. Instead, he designated three unofficial agents to negotiate with them. These agents -- who became known as X, Y, and Z -- demanded that America pay for alleged wrongs done to France, grant a large loan to finance the French war with Britain, and pay a bribe of about $240,000 to Talleyrand.

XYZ Affair

The XYZ Affair (1797-1798) played a major role in creating a Franco-American Quasi War. The incident involved three French ministers (named by John Adams as X, Y, and Z) and the American delegation in France.

XYZ Affair

XYZ Affair, name usually given to an incident (1797-98) in Franco-American diplomatic relations. The United States had in 1778 entered into an alliance with France, but after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars was both unable and unwilling to lend aid.

The XYZ Affair

Britain and France were at war with each other already (a war which would last nearly 25 years, from 1793-1815) and both vying for U.S. aid. Though they had been considerable allies in creating peace terms after the Revolutionary War, Adams, his federalist ideals guiding him, had great qualms about helping the French fearing them growing stronger and allowing the violent French Revolution (which was still in the process of finally winding down) and its religious ideas to be imported any further into the U.S.

XYZ Affair

U.S. diplomatic incident involving a commission sent to France in 1797 to negotiate outstanding differences between the two countries. These differences arose largely out of the refusal by the U.S. to come to the aid of France, then at war with Great Britain, as stipulated in the Franco-American treaty of 1778. Further, under the terms of JAY’S TREATY, (q.v.), which the U.S. and Great Britain concluded in 1794, the U.S. had accepted the British view of the rights and obligations of neutrals and subsequently had ordered French ships out of American ports. The French retaliated by preying upon American shipping. In an attempt to reach a settlement, President John Adams appointed a commission consisting of the American statesmen Elbridge Thomas Gerry, John Marshall, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to negotiate with the French government. The commission arrived in Paris in October 1797.

XYZ Affair Speech by John Adams

Transcript of a speech presented by President John Adams on May 16, 1797 concerning the XYZ Affair

The XYZ Affair: Attempted shakedown by French agents

XYZ Affair was the name given to a controversial exchange of diplomatic proposals between France and the United States in 1797. Relations between the two nations were strained at the time, and the exchange included outrageous demands from France. The three French agents who made these demands became known as X, Y, and Z. The XYZ Affair led to fighting at sea between the United States and France, though war was never declared.

The Adams Presidency

Adams responded by sending a diplomatic mission to France. When it arrived in Paris, three agents of the French foreign minister explained that to enter into negotiations America would have to loan the French government money and pay a BRIBE to the agents themselves. This became known in the United States as the "XYZ AFFAIR." The French rebuff was seen as a blow to American honor and became a major rallying issue for Federalists, who were generally anti-French.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title XYZ Affair External Links
  • Coverage 1797–1798
  • Author
  • Keywords xyz affair, john adams, quasi-war
  • Website Name American History Central
  • URL
  • Access Date February 21, 2020
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 12, 2020

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