XYZ Affair (1797–98) Diplomatic incident that strained US relations with France. President John Adams sent three representatives to renegotiate the French-US alliance of 1778, which had given way to hostility after the signing of Jay’s Treaty (1794). Three French agents, known as X, Y and Z, demanded bribes and a loan before negotiations began, causing an uproar in the USA and the recall of its commissioners.
Facts about the XYZ Affair For Kids
XYZ AFFAIR of 1797–1798 led to an undeclared naval war between France and the United States. This diplomatic crisis had its beginnings in 1778, when the United States entered into a military alliance with the French; however, when the French were unable to completely fulfill the terms of the alliance, anti-French sentiments erupted in the United States.
The 1794 Jay’s Treaty, concluded between the United States and Britain, angered the French, who retaliated by seizing American ships at sea. In 1796, President George Washington attempted to replace the American minister to France, James Monroe, who had been friendly to the causes of the French Revolution, with Charles Pinckney, whom the French refused to accept. As a result, in 1797 Pinckney returned to France accompanied by John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, to try to repair relations and to negotiate a new treaty.
Bolstered by military victories, the French government asked for a $250,000 loan from the United States before agreeing to meet with the American representatives. Conveyed through three negotiators, a Swiss banker, Jean Hottinguer, known as “Mr. X” in correspondence from John Adams; an American banker in Hamburg, Germany, Mr. Bellamy, “Mr. Y”; and Lucien Hauteval, also Swiss, “Mr. Z,” these requests met with outrage in the United States.
Consequently, the mission failed, and the undeclared naval war ensued until the Convention of 1800 improved commercial relations between France and the United States.