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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or State of Pennsylv?

Harrisburg calls us a State sometimes and a Commonwealth other times which do you feel we are?   18 members have voted

  1. 1. Harrisburg calls us a State sometimes and a Commonwealth other times which do you feel we are?

    • Pennsylvania is a State, they are "State Office Buildings" in Philly and Pittsburgh, Penn "State" University
      1
    • Pennsylvania is and has always been a Commonwealth, William Penn declared it, the official website is the "Commonwealth" of Pennsylvania and the "State Office Buildings" in most cities are on "Commonwealth" Street or Avenue!
      17

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13 posts in this topic

Interested in hearing about the opinions on this one.

Out of staters (or should I say out of commonwealthers) welcomed, I think Mass., Virginia and Kentucky keep much more to their "commonwealth" roots, Pennsylvania though has for decades used "state" in some things.

Also there is sort of a mystique being one of the few "commonwealths" and not like the other 46 or so states--although the modern difference is nill--would it dilute the uniqueness of Mass. and Virginia and Kentucky if Pennsylvania (already abusing the term by using "state" in every other discussion of "commonwealth" issues) would go strictly back to the "commonwealth" term? Would Mass, Virginia and Kentucky be sore about that?

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As I was writing this I happened to be overhearing Virginia's governor give his "State of the Commonwealth" address on CSPAN... :) It sounds distinctive when he says "Commonwealth" but it's a matter of formality, tradition, and semantics, like the prosecution in a criminal trial rto itself as "the Commonwealth" rather than "the People" (Canadians refer to "the Crown"). Or Louisiana having parishes rather than counties. Or people referring to a "town" in the vernacular sense when that place's title might actually be "City of ...". I'm sure that the usage will get more and more diluted as time goes on...

Fortunately, the federal government recognizes that they are indeed states for purposes of applying federal law, despite their title. Imagine if Congress had to include both titles for every single reference to a "state" in every statute... :o

I also thought about another commonwealth you didn't mention, Puerto Rico. It's a commonwealth, but it is not a state. The Spanish translation of the word "commonwealth" is "estado libre asociado", which literally means "free associated state" (in the nation-state sense). It almost sounds like a confederation, something voluntary. If I were to apply that to Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Massachusetts, that "free assocation" would imply to me that they could leave the United States if they so chose. It would be an interesting legal test, although we all know that the federal government doesn't like it when its members try to leave. ;)

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Commonwealth simply means "united for the common good of the people". Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Virginia were some of the oldest colonies. I am betting that they referred to themselves as "commonwealths" long before American independence and they did that to emphasize that they allowed their own people some form of self-government. Certainly Virginia allowed a large degree of self-government. The other states did not follow suit, probably because they did not allow similar degrees of self-government prior to 1776. Thus they just called themselves colonies. After American independence, it was probably assumed that people would be self-governing so the use of "commonwealth" became redundant. Also, the country was called the "United States" so they probably figured that they should jsut refer to themselves as states. As for Kentucky, Kentucky split off of Virginia in the 1700's. I am guesing they took a similar form of government as VA and took the term "Commonwealth" from Virginia. They were probably the "Commonwealth of Kentucky" long ebfore they got admitted as a state (which was after 1776).

As for Puerto Rico, that's a different variation on "commonwealth". In taht case, we are referring to "commonwealth" as *nations* united for the common good (as opposed to people). Thus the British Commonwealth includes the UK, India, Canada, Australia, etc. The Commonwealth of Independent States includes Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc. Puerto Rico (and the Northern Mariana Islands) are associated with the US in a commonwealth. I guess technically the commonwealth should refer to "The Commonwealth of the United States of America, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands" with PR and NM being independent countries within that commonwealth

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Kentucky (yes Kentucky) was the first government WEST of the mountains and yes indeed they were mostly Virginians so they took the "commonwealth" monniker with them. Kentucky I believe joined the union in the 1700s the only "state" west of the mountains to do so.

In today's world it is mostly tradition, however the term "commonwealth" means a lot from what I'm told. At the start of our nation only churches or social groups had any type of homeless help, welfare, social security etc. If you lived in an area where no one donated time or money to those causes you were SOL. William Penn being the religious man he was, and the very matured government of Virginia (with its house of Burgesses and being the model of the American Govt. in many ways as well as producing most of our early leaders) went the commonwealth way as well believeing it would lead to a more utopian society (which is a good idea). Mass. I know had some strong Puritan strains to it and "help thy neighbor" etc.

Basically the Federal Govt. did not get into social aid until the 1900s with T.R. regulating food and meats and fire safety codes etc. and not really to "commonwealth" status until FDR codified welfare, the minimum wage, social security, and then Johnson with medicare, medicaid. Even the 1990 constitutional admendment stating how every commercial structure HAS to be handicap accessible is a form of "commonwealth" government. Some founders would argue that no one has a right to tell a citizen that they HAVE to put a wheelchair ramp there, HAVE to have their poultry inspected, HAVE to pay Social Security taxes or Unemployment Insurance taxes for their workers. The commonweaths of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Mass. and Kentucky set the foundation for that type of government involvement not just to PROTECT us from the Indians, but to HELP US SUCCEED by providing free libraries, free fire protection, social "safety nets" etc. Today it is just a given that the government has a role in those things, but for a long time the states only role was to protect you life and property and thats it.

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Kentucky (yes Kentucky) was the first government WEST of the mountains and yes indeed they were mostly Virginians so they took the "commonwealth" monniker with them.  Kentucky I believe joined the union in the 1700s the only "state" west of the mountains to do so.

I think Tennessee joined the same year (1791, I believe). Tennessee, however, split off of North Carlolina which was not a commonwealth so they became a state.

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Kentucky 6/1/1792

Tennessee 1796

Surprised me though that Tennesee joined before the 19th century, I thought Kentucky with Daniel Boone and the Ohio River settlers coming from Pennsylvania and Virginia was the only one.

:)

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Kentucky 6/1/1792

Tennessee 1796

Surprised me though that Tennesee joined before the 19th century, I thought Kentucky with Daniel Boone and the Ohio River settlers coming from Pennsylvania and Virginia was the only one.

:)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It probably had to do with Tennessee once being part of North Carolina and thus a more "settled" area (as opposed to certain other areas). I think Ohio probably would have become a state back then as well had it not had its ownership disputed between VA, Mass, CT, and who knows what other states. I forgot which year the Northwest Ordinance was passed (the oridinance by which all states gave up claims to the land west of PA and north of the Ohio River). However, it was probably too soon for that land to become a self-governing state. I imagine some settlers professed loyalty to VA (and, thus, the southern culture) and some to CT and Mass. In many ways, Ohio is still divided between North and South.

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In Massachusetts we always refer to the state as 'The Commonwealth of Massachusetts'.

It sounds cool. B)

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^^I wish they would stick to the script here in Pennsylvania, technically we have always been a Commonwealth but alas they build an office and it is a "state" office. I would guess that more around Pennsylvania is referred to as "state" then "commonwealth". Why not just stick to commonwealth?

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^^I wish they would stick to the script here in Pennsylvania, technically we have always been a Commonwealth but alas they build an office and it is a "state" office.  I would guess that more around Pennsylvania is referred to as "state" then "commonwealth".  Why not just stick to commonwealth?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

How about Penn *Commonwealth* University? :) By the way, Virginia can't stick to the script either since they have both Virginia Commonwealth University (in Richmond) and Virginia State University (in Petersburg).

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That is so true Urban, Pennsylvania has something that could really distinguish it from 46 other states and it is not jumping on it. Not good.

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Commonwealth and State are interchangable nowadays, but I like Commonwealth better. Then again, I'm a native Virginian :)

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Yeah Virginia imbraces theirs wholeheartedly, wish Pennsylvania would as well, things are just too business like and unaware of how the outside world views us to embrace something that could make us a unique destination in the mid-Atlantic.

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