- an incident in Franco-American relations in which a bribery attempt perpetrated by French agents in 1797 led the US to the brink of formal war with France.
In 1797, President John Adams sent delegates Elbridge Gerry, John Marshall, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to France in order to negotiate a peaceful resolution of problems that existed between the two nations. The US delegates were informed by three French agents that negotiations could not begin until the US granted a $10 million loan to the French government and paid $250,000 to French foreign minister Talleyrand. The US delegation refused the French demands and negotiations were suspended. In 1798, the delegation’s dispatches regarding the incident were made public. These documents, in which the French agents were identified only as X, Y, and Z, incited American outrage and precipitated an undeclared naval war (1798–1800) between the US and France. A treaty in 1800 finally averted a major war