Xyz Affair

Topics: John Adams, Quasi-War, United States Pages: 2 (813 words) Published: November 29, 2012
From March of 1797 to 1800, a diplomatic scandal occurred where Americans were outraged by demands from the French for a bribe as a condition for negotiating with American diplomats that became known as the XYZ Affair. John Adams took presidency in 1797 and inherited several problems from George Washington’s administration, including hostilities between the United States and France that began to escalate in the 1790s. The signing of Jay’s Treaty, which violated of the Treaty of Paris yet averted the threat of war with England, induced angry reactions from both American and European politicians. Democratic-Republicans believed the treaty was a humiliating surrender to the British. French leaders, meanwhile, viewed it as a union with their enemy, and the violation of the Franco-American Treaty of 1778. In response to the John Jay’s agreement, the French used forces to plunder more than 300 American ships. To stop the attacks on American shipping and settle on an agreement with France, Adams appointed three commissioners: Charles Pinckney, United States minister to France; John Marshall, a Virginia lawyer; and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Upon arriving in Paris in October 1797, the three men experienced a hostile environment. They requested a meeting with the French government. The envoys met three secret agents to relay Talleyrand’s terms of negotiations. The three agents were labeled as X, Y and Z, but later revealed as Baron Jean-Conrad Hottinguer, Pierre Bellamy, and Lucien Hauteval respectfully. The agents insisted that before any negotiate could begin, they demanded 50,000 pounds of sterling, a $12 million loan from America, a $250,000 personal bribe to the French minister, and a formal apology to the French minister for a comment made by President John Adams. Though bribery was extremely common in the eighteenth-century politics, Talleyrands demands were too high for merely a pledge to negotiate. Pinckney rejected the terms and told the French agents...
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