I know that in history classes, and the American version of the XYZ Affair, that before the French would even sit down to the table with the Americans in order to discuss, basically, the piracy committed by the French against the Americans, that the French requested money from the Americans.

Now, I know that America still owed the French a great deal of money and materiel from what the French loaned America during the American War of Independence.So, is there any extant evidence that states specifically for what the "bribe" was or why they were requesting a "bribe"?

I was thinking that maybe it wasn't a bribe at all. What I mean is, the US owed French a ton of money, and the French, engaged in a war with Britain, needed that money; furthermore, the French helped out the Americans in their war against the British, so I'm sure there was some animosity that the Americans declared neutrality.

So, why is the money requested by the French considered a "bribe." Why is it not seen as, "If you want us to stop raiding your ships, which we do in order to recoup our losses that you are not paying, then we expect a sum of money up-front to show that you are serious."

Basically, my questions are what are the French's reason for asking for the money, who was to reap the rewards of the money (like aristocratic elites, the federal coffers, the war effort, etc.), who was asking for the "bribe" (like the diplomat who would do the negotiating, or the French government, etc.), and lastly, how did/do (past and present, both at the time of the incident and if I were to be taught about the incident in a French classroom today) the French see the affair? Specifically, do they consider it a "bribe" or simply payments for defaulted loans?

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    I'd advise you to reformat this wall of text, or many people won't even bother to read. – o0'. May 18 '15 at 9:07
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    I've done some really basic editing. Hopefully, the OP or others can do more. – Felix Goldberg May 18 '15 at 9:55
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    Bribe is a very specific word. A soverign nation cannot bribe another soveriegn. Try more accurate language such as settled, restructured, offered tribute, etc. etc. – Stuart Allan May 19 '15 at 3:11
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    I think you should explain (or just provide a link showing) what "XYZ affair" is (was). – Voitcus May 19 '15 at 9:35
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    Nations can certainly bribe other nations. Or extort payments from them. – Oldcat May 20 '15 at 21:23

My recollection of history books is that the money was regarded as a bribe due to the money was going not to the French national coffers, but rather specifically to the French aristocrat/politician/diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, often referred to as "Talleyrand".

Wikipedia has a sourced claim of the same (Stinchcombe, William (October 1977). "The Diplomacy of the WXYZ Affair". The William and Mary Quarterly. 34 (4): 590–617. JSTOR 2936184. pg. 598)

Also, there was (according to Wikipedia) a culture clash; such things were apparently common in continental European politics, but not among the Americans.

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