Political Apologies

AHDA Political Apology

How does the act of apologizing enable societies to come to terms with their past?

Political apologies can be a powerful tool in the re-examination of a nation's history, and the significance this history has on democratic processes. The project includes a working list of political apologies throughout history that political scientist Graham Dodds has researched and compiled.

This is a working list of major political apologies and related events. The selection criteria for compiling the list are somewhat loose, but the intent is to include any and all apologies that involve states, nations, or major political groups and actors, generally for significant public wrongs. Thus, apologies by individual politicians for more narrow matters (e.g., alleged personal or criminal failings) are generally excluded.

Should you wish to add to the list, please e-mail ahda@columbia.edu.

Displaying 26 - 50 of 823
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
4 July 1902 US President grants pardon to forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt issues a proclamation “granting pardon and amnesty” to forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo, who had fought the United States for control of the Philippines.

Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/207304
19 July 1911 Spain -France regret for the arrest of a consular agent

Spain expresses regrets to France for the arrest of a consular agent in Morocco.

“Spanish Apology to France.” New York Times. July 20, 1911
November 1911 Russia demands an apology from Persia

 Russia demands that Persia apologize for the treatment of it Consul in Teheran, and Persia offers an apology, but Russia deems it unsatisfactory.

“Russian Ultimatum Is Sent to Persia.” New York Times. November 6, 1911; “Persia’s Apology.” The Register. November 28, 1911.
1914 USA dissatisfied with a Mexican general’s apology

1914:  U.S. President W. Wilson expresses dissatisfaction with a Mexican general’s apology for arresting American sailors in Tampico.

Blum, John Morton. The Progressive Presidents. Norton, 1980. p84. See also Clements, Hendrick A. The Presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Kansas, 1992. p98.
9 April 1914 USA negotiates a treaty with Colombia

U.S. President W. Wilson negotiates a treaty with Colombia that provides an indemnity and an apology for Theodore Roosevelt seizing Panama.

Blum, John Morton. Woodrow Wilson and the Politics of Morality. Little, Brown, 1956. p86.
February 1916 Germany-USA Regret for loss of lives on the Lusitania

Germany expresses regret and offers to pay an indemnity for the loss of American lives on the Lusitania and other vessels.  President Wilson had requested an apology and reparation.

Blum, John Morton. Woodrow Wilson and the Politics of Morality. Little, Brown, 1956. p103
9 May 1916 Germany- France Germany apologizes for sinking the Sussex

Germany apologizes for sinking the Sussex, an unarmed French vessel in the English channel on March 24.

Taylor, Tim. The Book of Presidents. Arno Press, 1972. p335.
27 November 1918 Peru apologizes to Chile

Peru apologizes to Chile after both counties recalled their consular representatives.

“Peru and Chile Avoid a Clash.” New York Times. November 27, 1918.
1919 Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles

Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles, admitting it was responsible for World War I and agreeing to pay reparations.

I am indebted to Vikash Yadav for this point. (See Weber, Max. “Zum Thema der ‘Kriegsschuld.’”
22 July 1924 USA-Persia Diplomats death

The Persian government apologizes for the death of U.S. Vice Consul Major Robert Imbrie, who was beaten to death by a mob in Teheran.

Persia’s Apology Delivered.” New York Times. July 22, 1924.
1927 Henry Ford apologizes for an anti-Jewish campaign

In response to complaints from Jewish leaders and in order to avoid a lawsuit, automobile maker Henry Ford retracts and apologizes for an anti-Jewish campaign in his newspaper “The Dearborn Independent

“Ford’s Apology Should Bring Amends.” New York Times. July 16, 1927.
19 July 1928 USA- Britain sovereignty of the Bahamas

The U.S. government formally apologizes to Great Britain for violating the sovereignty of the Bahamas the previous year, when the Coast Guard seized a ship suspected of smuggling liquor

American Apology Ends Bahama Row.” New York Times. July 19, 1928.
18 September 1933 Persia apologizes to Britain

 Persia apologizes to Britain after Persian sailors take down the Union Jack flag.

“Persia: Apology to Britain for Naval Incident.” The Canbera Times. September 18, 1933
1 September 1937 The Chinese government apologies to the U.S. for bombing the American ship

 The Chinese government apologies to the U.S. for bombing the American ship President Hoover and offers to pay reparations.  The next day, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek adds his personal apologies to the formal apology of the Chinese government.

“Regrets Ship Raid.” New York Times. September 1, 1937; “Chiang Deplores Attack.” New York Times. September 2, 1937.
24 December 1937 Japan-USA Japan to pay reparations for attacking the U.S.

Japan apologizes and agrees to pay reparations for attacking the U.S. gunboat Panay.

McJimsey, George. The Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Kansas, 2000. p191.
November 1947 USA-Haiti US Embassy in Haiti apologizes

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti apologizes for an incident in Mississippi, in which the Haitian secretary of agriculture was not allowed to stay at a hotel hosting a conference to which he had been invited to because he was black.

Dudziak, Mary. Cold War Civil Rights. Princeton, 2000. P40-1.
24 December 1947 US President pardons Japanese Americans who resisted draft

U.S. President Harry S. Truman pardons several hundred Japanese Americans who had resisted military conscription during World War II on the grounds that they should not have to fight for a country that interned them because of doubts regarding their loyalty.

Muller, Eric. “Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee.” Densho Encyclopedia. 2 Jul 2020.
19 July 1948 USA- Czechoslovakia allegations of spying

 The U.S. demands an apology from Czechoslovakia over allegations of spying.

“U.S. Note Demands Apology of Czechs.” New York Times. July 20, 1948.
26 October 1948 USA-Mexico Mexican farm labourers

Mexico accepts an apology from the U.S. State Department for recently allowing several thousand Mexican farm laborers to cross the Texas border, in violation of an agreement between the two countries.

Labor Trek Apology.” New York Times. October 26, 1948
26 May 1950 Israel- United Nations murder of mediator

Israel agrees to apologize to the United Nations for the murder of mediator Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden in Jerusalem in 1948.

Israel To Apologize In Bernadotte Death.” New York Times. May 26, 1950
27 September 1951 West Germany-Israel compensation for Israel

West German Chancellor Konrad Andenauer declares that West Germany will compensate Israel for material losses and will negotiate other reparations.  (Israel and West Germany sign the Luxembourg Agreement in 1952 to crate the reparations program.)

Eddy, Melissa. “For 60th Year, Germany Honors Duty to pay Holocaust Victims.” New York Times. November 17, 2012.
7 August 1952 Argentina-USA bombing of US information Service Office

Argentina apologizes to the U.S. after the bombing of a U.S. Information Service Office.

“Argentina Sends Apology.” New York Times. August 7, 1952.
22 December 1952 The USA-Israel unauthorized flight over Jerusalem

The U.S. apologizes to Israel over an unauthorized flight by U.S. aircraft over the Israeli portion of Jerusalem.

“U.S. Apology Made to Israel.” New York Times. December 22, 1952.
February 1953 France confers amnesty to German German troopers.

The French Parliament confers amnesty on 20 former German SS troopers, shortly after they had been found guilty in a military trial of massacring 642 French civilians in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in June 1944. Most of those convicted were Alsatians who claimed they had been forced to join the SS. But villagers who survived the massacre are enraged by the amnesty, so they resist the French government’s efforts to commemorate it and instead prominently post the names of the members of Parliament who had voted for the amnesty at the entrance to the village beneath the slogan, “Oradour, souviens toi!”

Megret, Frederic. “The Bordeaux Trial - Prosecuting the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre.” Chapter in Kevin Jon Heller and Gerry Simpson, eds. The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials. Oxford, 2013. p157.
December 1953 Israel-Netherlands Spinoza excommunication

Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion calls for overturning the excommunication of Spinoza by the Amsterdam Jewish community in 1656.