XYZ Affair

diplomatic episode between the U.S. and France

France was taking American ships in 1797. President John Adams wanted to avoid a war with France, so he sent officials to France to discuss the rights of neutral nations. However, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, the French foreign minister, sent three secret agents who insisted that America give a loan to France and pay a bribe. President Adams refused the offer that France gave. When he told the public in 1798, he addressed the Frenchmen as X, Y, and Z, hence the name of this affair. People hated the XYZ Affair, saying, “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!” America soon quickly declined France’s offer. John Adams decided to start preparing for unofficial war, but not declaring war so as to keep peace.

A British political cartoon depicting the affair