XYZ Affair: APUSH Topics to Study for Test Day

Tensions continued to increase between the U.S. and France until the Quasi War broke out from 1798 to 1800. The XYZ Affair was one of the events that led to this war. What was it? Who was involved with it? Here are some XYZ Affair APUSH review points to know for the exam.

What Was the XYZ Affair?

France seized American ships as they fought against the British. However, tensions between these nations continued to rise, especially when President John Adams criticized the French Revolution.

Finally, President Adams decided to send three delegates to meet with the French Foreign Minister. Unfortunately, when the delegates got to France, they had to meet with three French agents instead.

The agents said that the Americans needed to pay a substantial bribe among other things to even meet with the French Foreign Minister. This angered President Adams. He reported the event to the U.S. Senate, referring to the French agents as X, Y, and Z. Thus, the event became known as the XYZ Affair.

XYZ Affair APUSH Topics to Study for Test Day

A british political cartoon depicting the affair.


1797- July 1798

Importance of the XYZ Affair

The XYZ Affair caused tensions to increase between the United States and France. It led to an undeclared war on the United States. Because of it, Congress chose to increase their defenses, so the Department of the Navy and warships.


  • Charles C. Pinckney- After George Washington appointed him as the U.S. Minister to France, he served from 1796 to 1797. He was one of the three U.S. delegates sent to meet with the French Foreign Minister.
  • President John Adams- John Adams was the Vice President of the United States under George Washington. Later, he became the second President of the United States. Because he criticized the French Revolution, the relationship between the U.S. and France diminished.
  • Marquis de Talleyrand- As the French Foreign Minister, he refused to meet with American delegates without a very large bribe. Also, he became the Prime Minister of France in July 1797.
  • Elbridge Gerry- Because he considered himself a Jeffersonian Republican, the Federalists blamed him for the failure to meet with the French Foreign Minister. However, he considered himself to be an ally of the French, especially since he was against the British.
  • John Marshall He also served as a delegate in the XYZ Affair. At the time, he was a U.S. Congressman. He later served as the Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • XYZ= The three French agents were Pierre Bellamy, Lucien Hauteral, and Jean Conrad Hottingner.


  • Quasi War- The French-American War was known as the Quasi War since neither side declared war. Battles were fought by both countries’ navies. The Quasi War ended when Napoleon took control of France.
  • Franco-American Treaty of 1778- Also known as the Treaty of Alliances, this treaty was signed during the American Revolution. However, the treaty became void during the French Revolution.
  • Jay’s Treaty- Jay’s Treaty was signed by the United States and Great Britain. France believed that this treaty violated the Franco-American Treaty of 1778. They also said that Jay’s Treaty crippled French trade and hurt their economy.
  • Convention of 1800- At the Convention of 1800, France and the U.S. signed the Treaty of Mortefontaine. Then, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in 1801, ending the Quasi War.

XYZ Affair APUSH Practice Question 1

What transpired from the XYZ Affair?
a. The Americans refused to meet with the French delegates.
b. Americans were able to purchase the Louisiana Territory for only $15 million.
c. The Americans and French fought an undeclared naval war.
d. Americans provided support to the British during the Napoleonic Wars.

Answer: C. Because of the XYZ Affair, the Americans increased their navy and warships. Then, they fought a naval war against the French. This lasted until Napoleon took control of the country.

XYZ Affair APUSH Practice Question 2

The XYZ Affair:
a. occurred because the French refused to stop firing on American naval ships even though they were at work with the British and not America.
b. involved three French agents who refused to let American delegates speak to the French Foreign Minister until they paid a bribe.
c. strengthened the relationship between America and France during a time when both countries were at war with Britain.
d. included three American delegates and three French agents who worked diligently together to improve the bad relationship between both countries.

Answer: B. The XYZ Affair is the name given to the events that conspired when three American delegates went to speak to the French Foreign Minister. Instead, they met with three French agents (referred to as X, Y, and Z). The agents said that the Americans needed to pay money in order to meet with Marquis de Talleyrand. When President Adams announced the event to Congress, it became known as the XYZ Affair.

If you’re making flashcards for the exam, use these XYZ Affair APUSH review points to help you. Make sure that you know what the XYZ Affair was and how it led to the war between France and America. Also, think about how it led to America’s increased defense with warships and the Navy. Although there isn’t too much to know about the XYZ Affair, think about how it impacted America. Good luck, and happy studying!

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  • Jamie Goodwin

    Jamie graduated from Brigham Young University- Idaho with a degree in English Education. She spent several years teaching and tutoring students at the elementary, high school, and college level. She currently works as a contract writer and curriculum developer for online education courses. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her boys!

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