XYZ Affair and the Quasi War

The Quasi War was caused by the incident known as the "XYZ Affair." The French were outraged that the United States refused to continue paying its debt on the grounds that the debt had been made payable to the French Crown, no to Republican France. Furthermore, they were enraged by the Jay Treaty which violated the terms of the Treaty of Alliance that the French had established with the American colonists. France saw the United States as favoring toward Britain, despite it having declared neutrality. Following the Jay treaty, the French began to capture American vessels, so Adams decided to send diplomats to Paris to negotitate terms with them When diplomats were sent to France following the French imprisonment of American ships, President Adams appointed a bipartisan commission consisting of Charles Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry to negotitate with France. When they arrived in Paris in 1797, three agents of the French foreign minister demanded a loan for France and a bribe for French officials before any negotiations were to take place.

Upon hearing the incident, Adams sent a message to Congress denouncing the French insults and urging preparations for war. He turned the report to Congress, keeping the names of the three French agents by labeling them as "X, Y, and Z." Following the report's publication, widespread public outrage broke out at France's detestable actions and a strong support for War on France manifested itself. The United States became engaged in an undeclared war, the "Quasi War" with France for nearly two years after the XYZ Affair.

Adams persuaded Congress to cut off all trade with France and to authorize American ships to capture French armed ships. In 1798, Congress created a Department of Navy and collected money for the purpose of constructing new warships to fight the French.
T The American navy dominated French vessels, capturing eighty-five ships along with many armed merchants. The American navy only lost a single warship to enemy battle.

The two most noteworthy battles of the conflict involved the USS Constellation.and the L'Insurgente of France, which was sighted on February 9, 1799. The French ship closed to board, but Truxtun, the Constellation's commanded, used ship's superior speed to maneuver away, raking L'Insurgente with fire. Shortly after, Capt. M. Barreaut surrendered the L'Insurgente to Truxtun. Almost a year later, on February 2, 1800, Constellation encountered the 52-gun frigate La Vengeance. Fighting a five-hour battle at night, the French ship was pummeled, but was able to escape in the darkness.

Fight between USS Constellation and the Insurgente
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Eventually, France was overwhelmed and chose to assuage the United States before the conflict grew any further. The Quasi War ended at the Convention of 1800 in Paris when the new French government agreed to a treaty with the United States and canceled the initial treaty they agreed to, the Treaty of Alliance (1778), and created a new agreement, the Treaty of Mortefontaine.