XYZ Affair

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The XYZ Affair occurred during John Adams's presidency when three French demanded a bribe from the United States.


After the Jay Treaty between the United States and England, tension occurred between the U.S. and France primarily due to the Napoleonic wars between England and France.[1] Adams appointed Charles Pinckney as minister to France,[1] however, when Pickney attempted to negotiate a relatively minor treaty that would protect U.S. shipping from French privateers, France refused to recognize him.[2]

The Affair

Adams sent John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry to assist Pickney,[3] however Charles Maurice de Talleyrand ignored the men for weeks until he sent three agents to demand a $250,000 bribe for himself and a $10 million loan for France.[1] Outraged, the U.S. agents sent a report to Adams, who then passed it on to Congress, replacing the French agents' names with "X", "Y" and "Z".[1] Anticipating a war with France, Adams passed the Alien and Sedition Acts - which essentially made it more difficult for immigrants to gain citizenship and made it easier to expel aliens. These acts were aimed at French and Irish immigrants thought to be supportive of France.[1]


Talleyrand, unwilling to go to war, sought to end the dispute, and the Treaty of Morfontaine restored normal relations between the two countries.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 XYZ Affair. Law Library - American Law and Legal Information. Retrieved on 2007-01-13.
  2. XYZ Affair. High Beam Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2007-01-13.
  3. XYZ Affair. US Retrieved on 2007-01-13.