==Early life and education==
Cleveland was a center of the Western Reserve, heavily settled by New Englanders like his parents. His father Daniel P Rhodes was a Democrat and a friend [[Stephen A. Douglas]]. He opposed the Lincoln administration during the Civil War; Rhodes said he was a "[[Copperhead (politics)|Copperhead]]." That
cause problems for his sister, who was finally allowed to marry the up and coming [[History of the United States Republican Party|Republican]] businessman-politician [[Mark Hanna]].<ref> Thomas J. Pressly, ''Americans Interpret their Civil War'' (1954) p 169.</ref>
Rhodes attended [[New York University]], beginning in 1865. After graduation, he went to Europe, studying at the [[Collège de France]]. During his studies in Europe, he visited ironworks and steelworks. After his return to the United States, he investigated iron and coal deposits for his father.
His major work, ''History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850'', was published in seven volumes, 1893–1906; the eight-volume edition appeared in 1920. His single volume, ''History of the Civil War, 1861-1865'' (1918), earned him a [[Pulitzer Prize]] in History that year.
Rhodes focused on national politics. Working from primary sources of newspapers and published memoirs, Rhodes reconstructed the process by which major national decisions were made. He evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of all the major leaders. He detailed what he classified as corruption in the [[Reconstruction era of the United States|Reconstruction]] Republican governments in Washington, D.C., and the Southern states. He said that granting of unqualified suffrage to blacks after emancipation was a mistake and added to the problems during Reconstruction. Rhodes's interpretation of the role of slavery strongly influenced intellectual opinion and historiography. Unlike the first generation of historians, who had been personally deeply committed on the slavery issue, Rhodes approached it dispassionately. He argued that slavery indeed was the main cause of the war. What he meant was an abstract political-economic system that law voters and politicians into position. He paid relatively little attention to slaves themselves, focusing on how the politicians and the foreigners used the issue to their advantage. He argued:
: The judgment of posterity is made up: it was an unrighteous cause which the South defended by arms; and the tribunal of modern civilization, Calhoun and Davis must be held accountable for the misery which resulted from this appeal to the sword.<ref>Pressly, ''Americans Interpret their Civil War'' p 173.</ref>
By misery he referred to the casualties, deaths, and hardships during the war, not to be miseries of the slaves before the war. He argued it was an irrepressible conflict, that is an inevitable war by December 1860 that perhaps could have been delayed, but would happen sooner or later.<ref>Pressly, ''Americans Interpret their Civil War'' p 173.</ref> For Rhodes, slavery was practically the only cause of the war, and he ridiculed "[[Lost Cause]]" Southerners who justified rebellion as an exercise of the right of revolution in the face of Yankee oppression. He rejected the Calhoun notion of state sovereignty. The issue, he argued, was at the South fought to extend slavery – an institution condemned by ethics, Christianity, and the modern world.<ref>Pressly, ''Americans Interpret their Civil War'' p 172.</ref>
Rhodes joined the [[American Historical Association]] and was elected [[American Historical Association#Past presidents|its president]] in 1899 for a one-year term.
During his lifetime his chief criticism came from African-American historians. In several books and articles, former Representative [[John R. Lynch]], a black leader in Mississippi's Reconstruction, directly challenged his assertions of fact and his interpretation. In his 1917 article titled "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> Lynch wrote:
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)|
and to magnify the faults and minimize the virtues of the
[[Republican Party (United States)|
, the colored men especially.
<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 said of [[Thaddeus Stevens]], a federal lawmaker and fierce opponent of slavery and discrimination against African-Americans, that "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> Lynch replied that the Acts allowed 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 by saying that not all its goals had been accomplished, but 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">
==Legacy and honors==