The XYZ Affair Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michele Harkins

Michele has taught G.E.D. classes and has a Master's degree in history.

In this American history lesson, we'll learn how, in the late 1790s, America decided to stand firm against a bully in what became known as the XYZ Affair. Read on for some interesting facts about the XYZ Affair.

What Led Up to the XYZ Affair?

After the American Revolution, America was not doing well financially and needed to stay out of war. However, in 1793, Britain and France (who had always been competitors) were at war. Years earlier, during the American Revolution, France had helped America beat Britain and now expected America to help them in return. However, exhausted from war, America was going to stay neutral, or uninvolved.

Imagine that you had played a game of basketball for an hour straight. Once you got done, you'd want to rest, but instead of resting, your best friend wants you to play a soccer game. France wanting America to fight against the British was very similar to that.

The XYZ Affair

France felt that America was being an ally to, or supporting, Britain. Therefore, in 1797, France decided to get back at America. It seized American supply ships bound for Britain. U.S. President John Adams decided that he was going to try to avoid going to war with France. He sent three men to France to act as diplomats to keep the peace.

French and American ships fighting
French and American ships fighting

When the three men arrived in Paris, France, they were unable to meet with the French foreign minister, the Marquis de Talleyrand. Instead, they were approached by three French agents. The names of the agents were kept secret in legal communication and were simply called agents X, Y, and Z. The X, Y, and Z agents refused to work with the three American men unless they paid them a large amount of money. Luckily, the three American men turned down the French agents' bribe and reported everything to the U.S. Congress. The incident became known as the XYZ Affair.

Political cartoon showing XYZ Affair
Political cartoon showing XYZ Affair

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account