Even though it isn’t commonly used, there are states in the United States that have the term “Commonwealth” in their official state names. What states have included this term in their official names, and where did it originate?
The term “commonwealth” is a traditional English term that is defined as a political community founded for the common good. Historically, the term means that the government established the state through the common consent of the people.
The states that are named as commonwealth states are:
Even though “Commonwealth” is not part of its official name, the term is used interchangeably throughout Vermont’s state constitution. Delaware’s law also uses the term in one of its articles, although it is not part of the state’s official name.
In addition to the four states listed, two territories of the U.S. are commonwealths. The Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico are both commonwealths. The term has a different meaning when applied to U.S. territories. It merely means that it is self-governing under its constitution.
Commonwealth vs. State
What’s the difference between a commonwealth and a state?
When referring to U.S. states, there is no difference between a “commonwealth” and a “state.” Thus, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are just like any other states in their politics, laws, and their relationship to the nation as a whole.
Generally, they are called commonwealths simply because they are called that in their constitutions. For example, in Massachusetts, the term was preferred by political writers leading up to 1780, possibly because using the term has some “anti-monarchical sentiment.”