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Difference Between Commonwealth and State

Commonwealth vs State

A commonwealth is defined as a noun which refers to a body of people which is politically organized under a single government. It may also refer to a federation or group of states with common interests and objectives. It is a territory which is occupied and governed by people of a certain nation. An example is the British Commonwealth which is composed of several nations which are colonies or are former colonies of the British Empire such as Australia and New Zealand.

In the United States, four states are also referred to as commonwealths aside from its associated territories which include Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands which are also called commonwealths. The four states which are officially called commonwealths are Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts. They are not referred to officially as states, a term which refers to territories which are occupied and controlled by the government of a certain nation. A state also refers to a group of politically organized people under a government such as those that comprise the United States of America.

The United States of America is composed of fifty states and several territories, but four of these states and two territories are officially called commonwealths although there is really no difference between the four commonwealths and the other states. Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts were the hotbeds of revolution, taking pride in their fight against British rule. They departed from the Union and adapted the name “commonwealth” to show the difference in government.

When the United States of America was formed they, together with Kentucky, retained their title as commonwealths instead of adopting the term “states.” Although called by another name, they enjoy the same privileges as the other states.

The case of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, on the other hand, is a totally different matter. Citizens of these two commonwealth territories, although U.S. citizens, have no voting representation in Congress and are not allowed to vote in the Presidential elections. Although they pay Social Security taxes and are eligible for federal welfare, the U.S. Internal Revenue Code does not apply to them. These differences, though, are the result of their being territories or limited partners with the USA and not because of their status as commonwealths.


1.A commonwealth is a politically organized body of people which is under one government while a state is a territory which is controlled and governed by a particular nation.
2.Examples of commonwealths are the members of the British Commonwealth like Australia and New Zealand and the four states of the USA composed of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts while examples of states are the other 46 states of the USA like Alaska and California.
3.Some associated territories of the USA are also called commonwealths, but none are called states because they do not enjoy all the privileges that other states have.
4.The four states which are officially called commonwealths retained the title they had when they departed from the Union rather than adopt the title of “state.”

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