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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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9195. X. Y. Z. PLOT, Artful misrepresentation of.—

The most artful misrepresentations
of the contents of these papers have
been published, and have produced such a shock
in the republican mind, as has never been seen
since our independence. We are to dread the
effects of this dismay till their fuller information.
To James Madison. Washington ed. iv, 233. Ford ed., vii, 236.
(Pa., April. 1798)


In 1797, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Elbridge
Gerry and John Marshall were sent on an extraordinary
mission to the French Republic, the Directory
being then in power. Shortly after their arrival in
Paris, they received letters from unofficial persons
signed X. Y. and Z, intimating that, as a preliminary
to the negotiation, it would be necessary to expend a
large sum of money in the way of bribes to the members
of the Government. These demands were not
acceded to, and the federalists made skilful political
use of the incident in their warfare against the republicans.—Editor.

9196. X. Y. Z. PLOT, Astonishment over.—

The public mind appears still in a
state of astonishment. There never was a moment
in which the aid of an able pen was so
important to place things in their just attitude.
On this depend the inchoate movement in the
eastern mind, and the fate of the elections in
that quarter. * * * I would not propose to
you such a task on any ordinary occasion. But
be assured that a well-digested analysis of
these papers would now decide the future turn
of things, which are at this moment on the
To James Madison. Washington ed. iv, 234. Ford ed., vii, 237.
(Pa., April. 1798)

9197. X. Y. Z. PLOT, Delusion through.

—There is a most respectable part of our
State [Virginia] who have been enveloped in
the X. Y. Z. delusion, and who destroy our
unanimity for the present moment. This disease
of the imagination will pass over, because
the patients are essentially republican. Indeed,
the doctor is now on his way to cure it,
in the guise of a tax gatherer. But give time
for the medicine to work, and for the repetition
of stronger doses, which must be administered.—
To John Taylor. Washington ed. iv, 259. Ford ed., vii, 309.
(M. 1798)

9198. X. Y. Z. PLOT, Delusion through. [continued].

There is real reason to
believe that the X. Y. Z. delusion is wearing off,
and the public mind beginning to take the same
direction it was getting into before that measure.
Gerry's dispatches will tend strongly to
open the eyes of the people. Besides this several
other impressive circumstances will be
bearing on the public mind. The Alien and
Sedition laws as before, the direct tax, the additional
army and navy, an usurious loan to set
these follies on foot, a prospect of heavy additional
taxes as soon as they are completed,
still heavier taxes if the government forces on
the war recruiting officers lounging at every
court-house and decoying the laborer from his
To James Monroe. Washington ed. iv, 265. Ford ed., vii, 320.
(Pa., Jan. 1799)

9199. X. Y. Z. PLOT, Delusion through. [further continued].

The violations of the
Constitution, propensities to war, to expense,
and to a particular foreign connection [Great
Britain], which we have lately seen, are becoming
evident to the people, and are dispelling
that mist which X. Y. Z. had spread before their
To Edmund Pendleton. Washington ed. iv, 287. Ford ed., vii, 356.
(Pa., Feb. 1799)

9200. X. Y. Z. PLOT, Federalists and.—

When Pinckney, Marshall, and Dana were nominated
to settle our differences with France, it
was suspected by many, from what was understood
of their dispositions, that their mission
would not result in a settlement of differences,
but would produce circumstances tending to
widen the breach, and to provoke our citizens
to consent to a war with that nation, and union
with England. Dana's resignation and your
appointment gave the first gleam of hope of a
peaceable issue to the mission. For it was believed
that you were sincerely disposed to accommodation;
and it was not long after your
arrival there, before symptoms were observed
of that difference of views which had been
suspected to exist. In the meantime, however,
the aspect of our government towards the
French Republic had become so ardent,
that the people of America generally took the
alarm. To the southward, their apprehensions
were early excited. In the eastern States also,
they at length began to break out. Meetings
were held in many of your towns, and addresses
to the government agreed on in opposition to
war. The example was spreading like a wildfire.
Other meetings were called in other
places, and a general concurrence of sentiment
against the apparent inclinations of the government
was imminent; when, most critically for
the government, the [X. Y. Z.] despatches of
October 22d, prepared by your colleague Marshall,
with a view to their being made public,
dropped into their laps. It was truly a godsend
to them, and they made the most of it. Many
thousands of copies were printed and dispersed
gratis, at the public expense; and the zealots
for war cooperated so heartily, that there were
instances of single individuals who printed and
dispersed ten or twelve thousand copies at their
own expense. The odiousness of the corruption
supposed in those papers excited a general
and high indignation among the people. Unexperienced
in such maneuvres, they did not
permit themselves even to suspect that the


Page 952
turpitude of private swindlers might mingle itself
unobserved, and give its own hue to the
communications of the French government, of
whose participation there was neither proof nor
probability. It served, however, for a time, the
purpose intended. The people, in many places,
gave a loose to the expressions of their warm
indignation, and of their honest preference of
war to dishonor. The fever was long and successfully
kept up, and in the meantime, war
measures as ardently crowded. Still, however,
as it was known that your colleagues were coming
away, and yourself to stay, though disclaiming
a separate power to conclude a treaty, it
was hoped by the lovers of peace, that a project
of treaty would have been prepared, ad
on principles which would have
satisfied our citizens, and overawed any bias of
the government towards a different policy. But
the expedition of the Sophia, and, as was supposed,
the suggestions of the person charged
with your dispatches, and his probable misrepresentations
of the real wishes of the American
people, prevented these hopes. They had then
only to look forward to your return for such
information, either through the Executive, or
from yourself, as might present to our view the
other side of the medal. The despatches of
October 22d, 1797, had presented one face.
That information, to a certain degree, is now
received, and the public will see from your
correspondence with Talleyrand, that France,
as you testify, “was sincere and anxious to
obtain a reconciliation, not wishing us to break
the British treaty, but only to give her equivalent
stipulations; and in general was disposed
to a liberal treaty”. And they will judge
whether Mr. Pickering's report shows an inflexible
determination to believe no declarations
the French government can make, nor any opinion
which you, judging on the spot and from
actual view, can give of their sincerity, and to
meet their designs of peace with operations of
To Elbridge Gerry. Washington ed. iv, 270. Ford ed., vii, 330.
(Pa., Jan. 1799)

9201. X. Y. Z. PLOT, French government and.—

You know what a wicked use
has been made of the French negotiation; and
particularly the X. Y. Z. dish cooked up by
Marshall, where the swindlers are made to appear
as the French government. Art and industry
combined have certainly wrought out of
this business a wonderful effect on the people.
Yet they have been astonished more than they
have understood it, and now that Gerry's correspondence
comes out, clearing the French
government of that turpitude, and showing
them “sincere in their dispositions for peace,
not wishing us to break the British treaty, and
willing to arrange a liberal one with us”, the
people will be disposed to suspect they have
been duped. But these communications are
too voluminous for them, and beyond their
reach. A recapitulation is now wanting
* * *. Nobody in America can do it so
well as yourself * * *. If the understanding
of the people could be rallied to the
truth on this subject, by exposing the dupery
practiced on them, there are so many other
things about to bear on them favorably for the
resurrection of their republican spirit, that a
reduction of the administration to constitutional
principles cannot fail to be the effect.—
To Edmund Pendleton. Washington ed. iv, 274. Ford ed., vii, 337.
(Pa., 1799)

9202. X. Y. Z. PLOT, War and.—

E. Gerry informed me some time ago that he
had engaged a person to write the life of his
father, and asked for any materials I could fur
nish. I sent him some letters, but in searching
for them I found two, too precious to be
trusted by mail, of the date of 1801, January
15 and 20, in answer to one I had written him
January 26, 1799, two years before. It furnishes
authentic proof that in the X. Y. Z. mission
to France, it was the wish of Pickering,
Marshall, Pinckney and the Federalists of that
stamp, to avoid a treaty with France and to
bring on war, a fact we charged on them at
the time and this lette proves, and that their
X. Y. Z. report was cooked up to dispose the
people to war. Gerry, their colleague, was
not of their sentiment, and this is his statement
of that transaction. During the two years between
my letter and his answer, he was wavering
between Mr. Adams and myself, between
his attachment to Mr. Adams personally on the
one hand, and to republicanism on the other;
for he was republican, but timid and indecisive.
The event of the election of 1800-1, put an
end to his hesitations.—
To James Madison. Ford ed., x, 245.
(M. Jan. 1823)