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Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: The X,Y,Z Affair

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 7, 2018 at 8:10 AM

On this day (July 7) in 1798, the U.S. formally withdrew from its Treaty of Alliance with France as a result of the X, Y, Z Affair. This “affair” was the insistence of the French Minister Talleyrand that the Americans pay him a personal bribe and give him loans before he would open negotiations with them to end the hostilities France began when the Americans decided that their war debt was owed to the King of France, not its current revolutionary government. (These bribes were common place in Europe.) The Americans refused to pay the bribes and so negotiations did not begin. When news of the bribe demands became public in America it caused a firestorm of public outrage directed toward France, leading to the end of the alliance and the beginning of the two year Quasi War in which the French and U.S. navies attacked each other’s shipping in the Caribbean. When the U.S. navy proved to be unexpectedly capable, Talleyrand reopened negotiations (no bribes on either side) and the hostilities were eventually ended.

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