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Historical Glossary

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XYZ affair

On 31 May 1797, John Marshall, Charles C. Pinckney, and Elbridge Gerry were named commissioners to negotiate a treaty to improve relations with France. They arrived at Paris on 4 October, but the Duc de Talleyrand, French foreign minister, delayed talks until 18 October, when three of his anonymous agents (known as messeigneurs X,Y, and Z) intimated that talks would not start until Talleyrand received a bribe of $250,000 and France obtained a loan of $12,000,000. The delegation refused, and John Adams sent Congress proof of Talleyrand's bribe effort on 3 April 1798. The XYY affair inflamed US public opinion against France and badly discredited Democratic party candidates in the election of 1798.