Difference Between Commonwealth and State

Commonwealth vs State
 

Commonwealth is a term that is used to refer to countries that were once ruled by England and were a part of the British Empire. This is a loose grouping of more than 50 countries, many of which are republics in themselves owing no allegiance to the queen of Britain. But in this article, we shall focus upon states and commonwealths that confuse the people of US. There are 50 states in the country, and out of these, four, namely, Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania choose to be labeled as commonwealths. Let us see if there is any difference between other common states and these commonwealths.

For all intents and purposes (legal and constitutional), there is no difference between other states and commonwealths. There are no special statuses or provisions in the constitution for these commonwealths. What then is the reason for these four states to continue to a colonial nomenclature? The reason lies in their history and British roots that these states feel so proud of. The founding fathers of these states were deeply influenced by English philosophers like Locke and Hobbes. These philosophers used the word commonwealth to refer to an organized political community. This is reflected in the wording used in the constitution of these four states, where they use commonwealth to make it clear that the authority of the people was superior to that of the government and those governments were responsible to the people and not to the Crown.

So, though these four states voluntarily united with US during its formation, they chose to retain a distinct identity. They are commonwealths because they prefer themselves to be referred to as commonwealths. However, in reality, there is no difference in structure or self-government, if we try to compare them with other states of US.

There is an interesting fact associated with the commonwealth of Virginia that needs to be mentioned here. In 1861, the commonwealth of Virginia, feeling dissatisfied with the arrangement in the country, seceded from the Union. However, some northwestern counties remained loyal to the Union, forming a new state of West Virginia. These counties did not like the idea of being a commonwealth and joined the Union as a state.

What is the difference between Commonwealth and State?

• The words commonwealth and state are similar and merely reflect the fact of an organized political unit.

• However, the fact that four states still proudly call themselves commonwealths in US, reflects their deep rooted love for the nomenclature that their founding fathers chose for the political unit.

• For all practical purposes, there is no difference in structure and self government between these commonwealths and other states of the country.