Dispute in 1790s Franco-American Affairs

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Extortion and secret agents sound like the plot of a James Bond film, however, bribery and clandestine negotiations were common place in 18th century European diplomacy. In the 1790’s, France and American relations were unstable, despite the fact they were allies during the American Revolution. A series of failed negotiations, a revolution in France, and a lack of support from both sides, led to increased hostility. The French crossed the line by attempting to extort bribes during peace negotiations. This incident is known as the XYZ affair. There was a nationwide uproar in the U.S. , causing even more hostility and even an undeclared war. (Kohn) Political maneuvers like the XYZ affair shape and mold the relations of the world just the same as war.
The anger between France and the U.S. did not arise until the 1790’s. It began when America refused to aid France in their war with Britain and their own revolution. Tensions were exacerbated by Jay’s Treaty of 1774 between the U.S. and Britain. This treaty ensured American neutrality between Britain and France. (Gilje) France retaliated by interfering with trading and seizing merchant ships. To calm the tension president John Adams sent Charles C. Pinckney as a minister to France. He arrived in December 1796, but was turned down. John Adams still wanted to avoid war so he sent a three man commission in May 1797. This commission was made of Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry. Once again the French Directory refused to receive the diplomats.(Kohn)
At this point, a peace treaty between America and France seemed doubtful. Later, on October 18, 1797, three emissaries of the French foreign minister, Talleyrand,went to visit the Americans.(Kohn) The three emissaries were known ...

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...ever they did not succumb to the unfair terms. They could have gone to war, putting more stress on such a young nation. The Presidents of these time periods, Adams and Kennedy, both made crucial decisions when their country was on the line. Events like this show the importance of our leaders are and the choices they make. If the Americans took different actions the world would not be as it is today.

Works Cited

Stinchcombe, W. "XYZ Affair." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition (2013): 1. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.
Kohn, George Childs. "XYZ Affair." The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal. New York: Facts On File, 2001. Web.
Gilje, Paul A. "XYZ Affair." Encyclopedia of American History: Revolution and New Nation, 1761 to 1812, Revised Edition (Volume III). New York: Facts On File, 2010. American History Online. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
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