The XYZ Affair (Magill's Literary Annual 1982)
In 1797, President John Adams, in an effort to mend deteriorating relations with France and block what some believed was the road toward war with America’s “sister republic,” dispatched a three-man commission to France to negotiate outstanding differences. The commission (manned by John Marshall, Elbridge Gerry, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the latter already in Paris as the unreceived United States minister to France) was never formally received but rather was subjected to a long and drawn-out series of conversations with intermediaries of Charles M. de Talleyrand-Perigord, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. During those conversations it was suggested to the American envoys that a combination of loans and bribes would expedite proceedings considerably. Outraged, Marshall and Pinckney ultimately returned to the United States while Gerry, led to believe that he could preserve peace, stayed on. Eventually he was ordered home under a cloud.
The XYZ Affair (named for three of the four intermediaries who approached the American delegation seeking loans and bribes) has been used by historians to illustrate a number of things. Some have seen the affair as an example of French perfidy, which made an alliance with Britain not only wise but necessary. Others have viewed the incident in domestic political terms, seeing it as a temporary setback in the Jeffersonians’ rise to power. Still others use the affair as an introduction to the Federalists’...
(The entire section is 1238 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1982)
American Historical Review. LXXXVI, October, 1981, p. 918.
Choice. XVIII, July, 1981, p. 1603.
History: Reviews of New Books. IX, July, 1981, p. 180.
Journal of American History. LXVIII, September, 1981, p. 371.
Journal of Southern History. XLVII, November, 1981, p. 599.
Library Journal. CVI, March 1, 1981, p. 557.
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