The Quasi-War between France and the United States


Battle between L’Insurgante and the USS Constellation during the Quasi-War. The Constellation won the battle and captured L’Insurgante.

The XYZ Affair was a diplomatic incident between French and United States diplomats that resulted in a limited, undeclared war known as the Quasi-War. U.S. and French negotiators restored peace with the Convention of 1800, also known as the Treaty of Mortefontaine.

In the late 1700s, the final French Revolutionary government, the Directory, was experiencing problems financing its European wars. Many leaders were also angry that the United States had concluded the Jay Treaty with Great Britain in 1794. Consequently, in 1796 French leaders decided to issue an order allowing for the seizure of American merchant ships, carefully timed to catch as many as possible by surprise.

US diplomats respond to French Piracy

President John Adams dispatched three U.S. envoys to restore harmony between the United States and France—Elbridge Gerry, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and John Marshall. These commissioners, like others of the Adams administration, viewed France as a center of decadence and intrigue and the rampant intrigue and factions of the Directory made it difficult for the Americans to accomplish their mission.

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