What Was the Biggest Political Scandal in American History? 7 Historians Make Their PicksHistorians in the News
tags: historians, political history, scandal, American History
With nearly 250 years of American history accounted for, it’s perhaps no surprise that the nation’s political life has had its good and bad moments. Political scandals have dogged Washington from the beginning, and continue to this day — a fact of which the nation was reminded on Thursday by the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report on the Russia scandal.
It’s too soon to conclude where the Mueller report and surrounding saga will fit in the history of American political scandal, but other moments have firmly solidified their places in that past.
TIME asked seven historians to name the worst political scandal in American history. Here are their answers:
The XYZ Affair (1797-1800)
What happened: During the French Revolution, President John Adams sent a delegation to Paris to work out some issues after the French started searching U.S. ships that were en route to England. But the three French diplomatsinvolved wouldn’t negotiate unless they were bribed. The U.S. officials refused and returned home. Amid questions over the perceived lack of progress, Adams made the meeting notes public, and the American people were outraged by the behavior of the French representatives — who showed up as X, Y and Z on redacted documents. This led to an undeclared, two-year naval war known as the Quasi War. A private citizen, Philadelphia doctor George Logan, took it upon himself to engage in private negotiations with French leaders, suggesting to them ways they could counter his government’s position.
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