President George Washington appointed Monroe American minister to France in May, 1794. As an ardent supporter of the French Revolution and the Franco-American alliance, Monroe opposed the American trade negotiations with Great Britain conducted by his political opponent John Jay. The Jay Treaty of 1795, which included improved economic ties between Britain and the United States, was resented by the French. The resulting loss of credibility abroad and political alienation at home led to Monroe's recall in December, 1796.
Despite this turmoil, the Monroe family enjoyed their time in France. Daughter Eliza entered the prestigious school operated by Jeanne Louise Henriette Campan, former lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette. An elegant suite of mahogany furniture bought in Paris would grace all of the Monroes' subsequent homes, including the White House. Political author Thomas Paine was saved from the guillotine by James Monroe's quiet diplomacy, while Elizabeth's well-publicized visit to the Marquis de Lafayette's wife Adrienne, who was under house arrest, had the same result.
French artist Louis Sene produced this ca. 1795 miniature portrait, the earliest known image of James Monroe, to complement a miniature of Elizabeth Monroe made at the same time.