Portrait of John Adams.

John Adams was President during the XYZ Affair.

XYZ Affair Quick Facts


Quick Facts About XYZ Affair

The affair was a diplomatic incident between French and United States diplomats that resulted in a limited, undeclared war known as the Quasi-War

Started because France, which was at war with Great Britain, issued an order allowing for the seizure of American merchant ships in 1796

President Adams sent John Marshall, Elbridge Gerry and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to France to negotiate and calm war sentiment in the United States

French Foreign Minister, the Marquis de Talleyrand, refused to meet with the American envoys upon their arrival in France. Instead he sent four intermediaries, who demanded that the American diplomats would have to agree to granting France a low-interest war loan, and pay a substantial personal bribe to Talleyrand, in return for a meeting.

When the Americans refused to meet the French demands, Talleyrand gave in and met with them.

Talleyrand dropped his demands for money, but he refused to stop the seizure of American merchant ships.

When President Adams received reports of the negotiations he asked Congress to prepare for war with France.

Democratic-Republicans, who were pro-France, were suspicious of Adams’ request and asked him to publicly release the diplomatic correspondence.

President Adams released the correspondence in early 1798, but replaced the names of the French intermediaries with the letters W, X, Y, and Z.

The affair further fanned Federalist passions for war who rallied around the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”

The affair resulted in an undeclared war with France known as the Quasi-War (1798-1800).

The XYZ Affair and the Quasi-War engendered the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798.

France and the United States negotiated their differences by 1800 and avoided a formal war.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title XYZ Affair Quick Facts
  • 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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