He was the great-grandson (through his mother's family) of Noah Webster and the brother of the noted historian Worthington C. Ford. He wrote lives of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and others, edited the works of Thomas Jefferson, and wrote a number of novels, which had considerable success, including The Honorable Peter Stirling (1894), Story of an Untold Love, Janice Meredith, Wanted a Matchmaker, and Wanted a Chaperon. He was murdered in his Manhattan home by his brother, Malcolm Webster Ford, at one time the most famous amateur athlete in the United States, who then committed suicide.
Ford's edition of The Writings of Thomas Jefferson is still regarded as one of the monuments of American historical scholarship, setting the standard for documentary editing for half-a-century, till the appearance of the first volume of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, edited by Julian A. Boyd. Ford's edition remains valuable for its accuracy of transcription from original manuscripts and its careful annotation of the documents chosen for publication. Ford, however, was at best cool to Jefferson, unlike Boyd, whose critics sometimes attacked him as an uncritical apologist for Jefferson. The Ford edition appeared in two versions, a ten-volume edition published between 1892 and 1896 and a fourteen-volume limited numbered edition (known as the "Federal" edition) issued in 1904; other than the different breakdown of volumes, the contents of these editions are identical. Readers, however, have to take note of which edition is being used in a given scholarly work.
Paul Leicester Ford is interred at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, NY.