XYZ Affair

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A British political cartoon depicting the affair

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 would not do what France wanted. 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.