What is a Commonwealth, State (+Meaning & Differences)

Do you ever get confused about the differences between the Commonwealth and State?

Whenever people hear about the commonwealth and State, they usually get confused, some people believe there is a distinction between commonwealth and state but this is a misconception.

As a result, this article is meant to explain, and differentiate between the Commonwealth and the State, as well as to give reasons why some states are referred to as Commonwealth.

What is a Commonwealth?

Generally speaking, a commonwealth refers to a group of people governed by one government, typically a republic. Those living in the United States of America reside in a commonwealth.

The word commonwealth derives from the roots common, meaning “all,” and wealth, meaning “happiness.” It originally referred to the English government from 1649 to 1660. Several states and territories use the designation, including Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

What is the purpose of the commonwealth?

A major objective of the voluntary Commonwealth is to promote international cooperation and the economic, social, and human rights of member countries.

The Commonwealth maintains its own flag. Councils of the Commonwealth do not have binding authority to make decisions.

Commonwealth countries work together to promote peace, prosperity, and democracy.

So why are they called commonwealth?

It’s just that their constitutions make them that way. As stated on the website of one commonwealth (Massachusetts, home of Merriam-Webster), before 1780, several political writers used the term commonwealth, when the Massachusetts constitution officially designated the State as such; the preference is believed to have existed perhaps because there was “some anti- monarchial sentiment in using the word commonwealth.”

What are the commonwealth states and how many are there?

There are four states in the United States that are referred to as commonwealths (Check the table bFor Countries):

Massachusetts, Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. You can read about why only 4 US states are called ‘Commonwealths,’ and the significance behind the label.

1. Massachusetts: As the most populous State in New England, Massachusetts is officially called the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Located in the northeastern corner of the United States, it shares borders with the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Maine to the east, Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west.

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2. Kentucky: Frankfort is the state capital of Kentucky, a southeastern state bordered by the Ohio River in the north and the Appalachian Mountains in the east. There is also a great deal of culture in Kentucky, such as horse racing, bourbon, moonshine, coal, historical state parks, auto manufacturing, tobacco, bluegrass music, college basketball, Louisville Slugger baseball bats, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the Kentucky Colonel.

3. Virginia: Officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the state that borders the Atlantic Ocean. In the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States, between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains.

4. Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state spanning the Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern, and Appalachian regions. Historically, Pennsylvania was an important center of coal, steel, and railroad manufacturing, especially before World War II. The state is also well known for its mushroom production, which exceeds 425 million pounds annually.

What makes a state a commonwealth?

In modern times, the term “commonwealth” has come to mean a government in which all citizens have an equal voice or a loose alliance of nations bonded by common interests.  It is officially designated to a few States with the purpose of promoting economic and international cooperation.

What is the difference between a Commonwealth and a State?

The distinction is in name alone, it does not matter how the commonwealths are connected to the nation. They have the same laws and politics as all other states, and the relationship between them and the nation is no different.

The major confusion surrounding the term commonwealth probably comes from the fact that a commonwealth has a different meaning when it’s not applied to a state. 

The four states which are officially called commonwealths retained the title they had when they departed from the Union rather than adopting the title of “state.”

Another distinction is that: a commonwealth is a legal designation for an independent territory, country, or community, while a state refers to a territory or organized community under one government.

In as much as the US has many dominions, there are only two commonwealths; Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, a group of 22 islands in the Western Pacific ocean. Americans who travel between the continental U.S. and its commonwealths do not need a passport.

Pros and Cons of living in a Commonwealth State

1. It is difficult to achieve diversity within a republic

While people have rights within a republic, sometimes that goes too far. Some people want to be diverse within a commonwealth, but diversity is not practical in a type of government where people are supposed to be unified. Many groups of people view things differently, and many cultures within a commonwealth have different ways of operating their neighborhoods and within society.

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People must not allow their differences to trump the common good. Within a commonwealth republic, everyone must be treated fairly. There can be no one party or ethnic group superior to the rest of society. Furthermore, no group or political party can claim superiority over others. People and groups can be diverse and do their own thing, but they must do so within the context of the Commonwealth’s culture. No group can impose its agenda or cultural ideology on the Commonwealth. This isn’t easy to achieve because individuals and groups always have a plan that they expect everyone else to follow.

2. Citizens of a Commonwealth are also protected by laws

Commonwealths typically have strong laws in place to govern all facets of society. Without these laws, people would make up their own rules. The laws within a commonwealth govern everything from education and residential property maintenance to sponsoring local events and how non-profits can help people give back to communities.

The laws are usually made within a commonwealth based on the people, their culture, and how they function and operate within their communities. The laws are also created in response to a specific type of crime prevalent within a commonwealth. They are also forged by the type of needs people might have or issues that communities face within the state.

3. Commonwealth citizens are responsible for their own lives

Breaking the law is not acceptable behavior in a commonwealth. Lawbreakers typically infringe on other people’s rights, and they cause harm to other people. Lawbreakers also disrupt life within a commonwealth. Breaking the law is also irresponsible. A commonwealth will not survive if most of its people are lawbreakers. Taking responsibility for their lives and actions is necessary for a commonwealth. Nobody is expected to take care of a person who is capable of supporting themself.

People will have to be responsible for their communities, family members and maintaining their way of life. They will have to participate in the government, make it a point to preserve their financial well-being, and be responsible for helping others within their community. They will have to take care of their homes, families, and dependents. They are also expected to give back and to do their part to make life better for everyone where they live.

4. In order for a Commonwealth to continue to function well, it must be constantly regulated; otherwise, it will deteriorate

Maintaining a commonwealth is not only expensive, and it is also essential for keeping the Commonwealth in place. People who live in a commonwealth must constantly ensure that their governmental system remains intact, and they cannot just leave it to elected officials to perform this process.

This is important to understand. Sometimes, a government system becomes corrupt because people have a tendency not to care about what politicians are doing in office. This allows politicians to act deceptively and unethical. If enough politicians do this simultaneously within a given commonwealth, they can create a situation of widespread corruption. It has happened before in past commonwealth governments. People must protect their way of life by closely monitoring how their Commonwealth operates.

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5. State governments are governed by a single set of laws

A single state government governs the people who live in a commonwealth state. These people can vote for their leaders and cast ballots on issues affecting their communities. The single state government is also responsible for ensuring the individual liberties guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Two examples of these liberties are freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

6. It is costly to maintain a Commonwealth

Commonwealths provide people with lots of freedom, but these freedoms come at a considerable price. People are free to live as they please within a commonwealth if they don’t break the law. Still, allowing people to maintain their freedom is costly. Paying for a police force to protect communities, implementing laws to govern a commonwealth, and allowing people to seek out business opportunities cost a lot.

Taxation is required to support a commonwealth. This is why a commonwealth taxes so many things. Sales, business, property, and personal taxes are required to keep the Commonwealth running. Commonwealth governments must adhere to budgets and use federal funds to ensure the well-being of their states. Commonwealths have various needs, and each of these functions’ needs is critical. However, they are expensive to provide, implement, and carry out.

7. Individuals with a power hunger can manipulate commonwealths

One of the worse things about a commonwealth is that power-hungry people can manipulate it. Special interest groups can do the same. Commonwealths have to constantly be on the watch against anyone or any group that can influence laws to gain more wealth, power, and authority over the masses. If the wrong people can gain power within a commonwealth government, they can change laws and processes, which could cause severe disruption to the commonwealth process.

Is the commonwealth bad?

Generally, all areas of society are governed by Commonwealth laws, and without them, people would make up their own laws. As a result, everything from education to property maintenance to local events is governed by commonwealth laws.

No clear role exists for the Commonwealth; its members are not allowed to trade with each other, their defense and foreign policies are not coordinated, and they lack both the budget and executive authority to make a positive difference.

In the end, a commonwealth is the same as a republic, and they have the same meaning. Due to its continued use in the past, the commonwealth is used by four states within the U.S. It is a great place to live in the Commonwealth, but people must do their part to preserve this system of government.

List of the Commonwealth Countries and date they joined.

There are 56 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations. They are all former British colonies, and they have a shared history and culture. The member countries are diverse, with different languages, religions, and political systems. But they all share a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

What is a Commonwealth, State, Differences & meaning.
What is a Commonwealth, State, Differences & meaning.

The Commonwealth is led by the Queen of England, who is also the head of state for many of the member countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat is based in London, and it helps to coordinate cooperation between the member countries.

The Commonwealth is also working to promote trade and investment between its member countries, and to reduce poverty and inequality. It is a diverse and dynamic organisation, which is making a positive difference in the world.

Here is a list of all the Commonwealth countries, with the date they joined:

CountryDate of Commonwealth membership
United Kingdom1931
New Zealand1931
South Africa1931 (left in 1961; rejoined 1994)
Pakistan1947 (left in 1972; rejoined 1989)
Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon)1948
Malaysia (formerly Malaya)1957
Sierra Leone1961
Tanzania1961 (Tanganyika in 1961; Tanzania in 1964 upon union with Zanzibar [member 1963])
Trinidad and Tobago1962
The Gambia1965 (left in 2013; rejoined 2018)
Nauru1968 (joined as special member; full member since 1999)
Samoa (formerly Western Samoa)1970
Fiji1971 (left in 1987; rejoined 1997)
The Bahamas1973
Papua New Guinea1975
Solomon Islands1978
Tuvalu1978 (joined as special member; full member since 2000)
Saint Lucia1979
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines1979 (joined as special member; full member since 1985)
Antigua and Barbuda1981
Maldives1982 (joined as special member; became full member in 1985; left in 2016; rejoined in 2020)
Saint Kitts and Nevis1983

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