In papers written in 1954 and 1960, historians Russell, Sheehan and Syrett described him as a Republican historian
and noted for criticizing his own party in his work.<ref>James Russell, "Lincoln’s Successor: President Andrew Johnson," in ''History Today 4'' (1954), No. 9, p. 626</ref><ref>Donald Sheehan/Harold C. Syrett, ''Essays in American Historiography'', Papers presented in Honor of Allan Nevins. New York: 1960, p. 38</ref> Howe described Rhodes as a Democrat in his 1929 biography of the historian.<ref>[[Mark Antony De Wolfe Howe (writer)|Mark Antony De Wolfe Howe]], ''James Ford Rhodes, American Historian'' (1929), pp. 21 and 24</ref>
Rhodes was challenged for his assertions of fact and his interpretation, including by [[John R. Lynch]], former Congressman from Mississippi, who directly participated in Mississippi's Reconstruction and wrote some books about the period.
Lynch challenged Rhodes in a 1917 article, "Some Historical Errors of James Ford Rhodes".<ref name="lynch">[http://www.jstor.org/stable/2713394?seq=1 John R. Lynch, "Some Historical Errors of James Ford Rhodes"], ''The Journal of Negro History'', Vol. 2, No. 4, Oct., 1917</ref> For instance, he wrote:
<blockquote>"the reader of Mr. Rhodes' history cannot fail to see that he believed it was a grave mistake to have given the colored men at the South the right to vote, and in order to make the alleged historical facts harmonize with his own views upon this point, he took particular pains to magnify the virtues and minimize the faults of the [[Democratic Party (United States)|Democrats]] and to magnify the faults and minimize the virtues of the [[Republican Party (United States)|Republicans]], the colored men especially."<ref name="lynch353">Lynch (1917), "Errors", p.353</ref></blockquote>
In book VI, pp. 35–40, Rhodes
stated, "[Thaddeus ] Stevens ' [[Reconstruction Acts]], ostensibly in the interest of freedom, were an attack on civilization...[and] did not show wise constructive statesmanship in forcing unqualified Negro Suffrage on the South".<ref>Rhodes 1920</ref> To this assertion, Lynch responded that the acts allowed some time for transition away from the society that was built on slavery. He wrote,
<blockquote>"But for the adoption of the Congressional plan of Reconstruction and the subsequent legislation of the nation along the same line, the [[abolitionism|abolition]] of slavery through the ratification of the [[13th Amendment to the United States Constitution|13th Amendment]] would have been in name only, a legal and constitutional myth."<ref name="lynch362-363">Lynch (1917), "Error", pp. 362-363</ref></blockquote>
Lynch noted that Rhodes concluded that Reconstruction had failed. He disagreed, saying that not all its goals had been accomplished but
he believed that ratification of the [[14th Amendment to the US Constitution|14th]] and [[Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution|15th Amendment]]s made it a success, as all people of color were granted citizenship, which could not be restricted by race or color, and they were granted suffrage nationally.<ref name="lynch365">Lynch (1917), "Error", p. 365</ref> Lynch had already published his own book, ''The Facts about Reconstruction'' (1913).
became a member of the [[American Historical Association]] . He was elected as [[American Historical Association#Past presidents|its president]] in 1899 for the customary one-year term.
In the latter half of the 20th century, major new histories were published about the Civil War and Reconstruction
that presented additional documentation for differing points of view from that of Rhodes.
==Legacy and honors==