The XYZ Affair Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Understanding the XYZ Affair will be as easy as ABC with this lesson plan from It helps your students comprehend how the French Revolution had a direct impact on domestic politics in the United States.

Lesson Objectives

With this lesson's completion, students will be able to:

  • describe the XYZ Affair
  • analyze the role that the XYZ Affair played in American political life during the 18th century


40 minutes plus 40 minutes for activity

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Evaluate authors' differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors' claims, reasoning, and evidence.


By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Key Terms

  • XYZ Affair
  • Jay Treaty
  • Quasi War
  • Treaty of Mortefontaine


  • Start by reviewing the state of international politics in the 1790s, especially with respect to American desires to remain neutral in the French Revolution.
  • Watch the lesson The XYZ Affair: Definition, Summary, & Significance, pausing for key terms and the following discussion points:
    • 1:44 - Why would the French fight the terms of the Jay Treaty?
    • 2:42 - If the French had a more stable government, do you think the XYZ Affair would have occurred? Why or why not?
    • 3:39 - Do you think releasing the documents of the XYZ Affair was a good idea? Why or why not?
    • 4:39 - Why were the Alien and Sedition Acts so opposed?

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