"Millions For Defense, But Not One Cent For Tribute"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 169

Context: The occasion for this famous quotation was the "X Y Z Affair." American vessels were being stopped on the high seas by order of the French Directory, and President Adams sent three commissioners to Paris to negotiate. Pinckney was one of the commissioners, the other two being John Marshall...

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Context: The occasion for this famous quotation was the "X Y Z Affair." American vessels were being stopped on the high seas by order of the French Directory, and President Adams sent three commissioners to Paris to negotiate. Pinckney was one of the commissioners, the other two being John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry. Talleyrand would not receive the Americans directly, but sought to deal with them through three agents, designated X Y Z in the American dispatches. The agents demanded a large bribe for receiving the commissioners and also stipulated that the United States should make a loan to France. The commissioners indignantly refused these demands, Pinckney's words being variously reported as "No, no. Not a sixpence"; "not a damned penny for tribute"; and the version quoted above. The phrase has also been attributed to Robert Good-loe Harper (1765-1825), but inscribed on a cenotaph in memory of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, St. Michael's Church, Charleston, S. C., appears the best-known version:

Millions for defence, but not one cent for tribute.

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