"X" is for XYZ Affair

Feb 11, 2020

Credit SC Public Radio

"X" is for XYZ Affair. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was one of three Americans sent to France to try to improve diplomatic relations. The French foreign minister was originally cordial to the three men, but refused to negotiate with them in any official capacity. Instead, he sent unofficial envoys to meet with the Americans. They made it perfectly clear that the French government expected a bribe in return for improved relations. Pinckney is claimed to have responded to the bribery demands with “No! No! Not a Sixpence!” When the dispatches from the American negotiators were published (the names of the French envoys were replaced with the letters X, Y, and Z, thus giving the scandal its name). Tensions remained high –in what historians term the “Quasi-War” with France—until a settlement was finally concluded in 1800.