Search Tips


Amend uses the constitutional topics identified by the Comparative Constitutions Project, along with a number of topics devised specifically for proposed U.S. constitutional amendments. The CCP tags are brief identifiers–e.g., “equal” means “general guarantee of equality,” or, more specifically, “Guarantees that all individuals are entitled to the same privileges and immunities. Prohibits favoritism or discrimination to any group. All are considered to be equal before the law.” A full list of the about two hundred topics used in the Amend project can be found here.

Searching by topic tags is a good strategy to address some of the weaknesses inherent in historical keyword searches, which will often fail when relying exclusively on the modern usage of certain terms. For instance, a keyword search for “Asian American,” a term not in general usage until the 1970s, will not identify many proposed amendments that restrict the immigration of or deny citizenship to Chinese, Japanese, and immigrants from other parts of Asia as well as their descendants.

One alternative is to also search for amendments using the topic tags. A congressional bill from 1869 proposing that “Chinese shall not be given the franchise” is tagged as “equalgr4,” which we define as:

“Requires that everyone is treated equally before the law, without regard to their race. This may apply to both public and private interactions in some jurisdictions. This tag also captures provisions that directly or indirectly led to the exclusion of specific groups, for instance, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and Native Americans; groups that in the data are frequently referred to using other terms."

Similarly, a congressional bill from 1920 that proposed “an amendment to section 1 of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution whereby United States citizenship by birth is restricted to those whose parents are white persons, Africans, American Indians, or their descendants” is also tagged “equalgr4.” Introduced by a senator from California, this measure was plainly intended to bar anyone of Asian descent from U.S. citizenship at a time when immigration restrictionists in California were concerned primarily about immigrants from China.

Simple keyword searches in this particular example will at best yield only partial results. A search for “Chinese” would identify the 1869 bill but not the 1920 bill. Alternatively, the word “Japanese” does appear in this petition from 1919 and the word “Asian” in this petition from 2020. In short, your best bet is to search for multiple keywords and any appropriate topic tags, which can be identified by referring to the Topic Glossary.

Numbered Congressional bills:

Searches for particular Congressional bills take the following format: [Congress] H.J.R. / S.J.R. [Bill Number]. For example, the correct search string to find the bill proposing the Eighteenth Amendment – Senate Joint Resolution 17, approved during the 65th Congress – would be 65 S.J.R. 17.

This pattern holds true for bills that were not officially labeled as Joint Resolutions, as was often the case in the early years after each chamber began numbering their bills. For example, although the bill for the Fifteenth Amendment, approved during the 40th Congress, was contemporaneously referred to as “S.8,” “S. Res. 8,” or “S.R.8,” the correct search string to identify it in our database would be 40 S.J.R. 8.

Full text search

Amend allows some websearch operators for advanced full text searches: