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"X" is for XYZ Affair

South Carolina From A to Z
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.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.