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Commonwealth (U.S. state)

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Commonwealth (U.S. state)
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{{short description|Term used by four U.S. states in official names}}{{Use American English|date = March 2019}}{{Use mdy dates|date = March 2019}}{{About|a nomenclature of certain U.S. states|U.S. insular areas designated as "Commonwealths"|Commonwealth (U.S. insular area)|other uses|Commonwealth (disambiguation)}}Image:Map of USA Commonwealths.svg|thumb|270px|The four U.S. stateU.S. stateCommonwealth is a term used by four of the 50 states of the United States in their full official state names. "Commonwealth" is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. The states, Kentucky,Third Constitution of Kentucky (1850), Article 2, Section 1 ff. Other portions of the same Constitution refer to the "State of Kentucky". Massachusetts,WEB,weblink Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Massachusetts General Court, Preamble of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 27 October 2016, , Pennsylvania,Constitution of Pennsylvania, Preamble, and Virginia,The Hornbook of Virginia History, 4th ed., page 88. are in the Eastern United States and prior to the formation of the United States in 1776, were British colonial possessions. As such, they share a strong influence of English common law in some of their laws and institutions.Paul Reinsch. English Common Law in the Early American colonies. Ph.D. thesis. Un. of Wisconsin. 1898.William E. Nelson. The Common Law in Colonial America. Vol. I. Oxford University Press. 2008.

Definition

{{Administrative divisions of the United States}}The term "commonwealth" does not describe or provide for any specific political status or legal relationship when used by a state.WEB,weblink 7 fam 1120 Acquisition of U.S. Nationality in U.S. Territories and Possessions, December 13, 2015, January 3, 2013, U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7- Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, PDF,weblink December 22, 2015, yes, mdy-all, Those that do use it are equal to those that do not. A traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good, it is used symbolically to emphasize that these states have a "government based on the common consent of the people"See "Commonwealth", The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001–07. as opposed to one legitimized through their earlier colonial status that was derived from the British crown. It refers to the common "wealth", or welfare, of the publicThe American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000. and is derived from a loose translation of the Latin term res publica.{{efn|cf. the 17th-century Commonwealth of England.}}Criminal charges in these four states are brought in the name of the Commonwealth.{{efn|Note that In California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, and New York, criminal charges are brought in the name of the People. In all the other states, they are brought in the name of the State. Regardless of state, federal criminal charges are always brought in the name of the United States of America.}}Besides the four aforementioned states, other states have also on occasion used the term commonwealth to refer to themselves: Two U.S. territories are also designated as commonwealths: Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. When used in connection with areas under U.S. sovereignty that are not states, the term broadly describes an area that is self-governing under a constitution of its own adoption and whose right of self-government will not be unilaterally withdrawn by the United States Congress.

States

Kentucky

On September 28, 1786, the residents of Kentucky County began petitioning the Virginia legislature for permission to become a "free and independent state, to be known by the name of the Commonwealth of Kentucky".JOURNAL, Warren, Joseph Parker, Oct 1905, The Confederation and the Shays Rebellion, 1832364, The American Historical Review, 11, 42–67, On June 1, 1792, Kentucky County officially became a state. As in Virginia, the official title of the elected local prosecutor in each of Kentucky's political subdivisions is the Commonwealth's Attorney, as opposed to State's Attorney in other states or the more standard District Attorney. Kentucky is the only state outside of the original Thirteen Colonies that uses commonwealth in its name.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts is officially named The Commonwealth of Massachusetts by its constitution. The name State of Massachusetts Bay was used in all acts and resolves up to 1780 and in the first draft of the constitution. The current name can be traced to the second draft of the state constitution, which was written by John Adams and ratified in 1780.WEB,weblinkweblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20040727080643weblink">weblink yes, 27 July 2004, CIS: State Symbols, 27 July 2004, In Massachusetts, the term State is occasionally used in an official manner, usually in a compound structure rather than as a standalone noun. This is evident in the names of the Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts State House, and the Bridgewater State Hospital.

Pennsylvania

The Seal of Pennsylvania does not use the term, but legal processes are in the name of the Commonwealth, and it is a traditional official designation used in referring to the state. In 1776, Pennsylvania's first state constitution referred to it as both Commonwealth and State, a pattern of usage that was perpetuated in the constitutions of 1790, 1838, 1874, and 1958.PHMC: Pennsylvania History {{webarchive |url=https://web.archive.org/web/20060403052349weblink |date=April 3, 2006 }}{{efn|A detailed history describing the origins of Pennsylvania's government, including its designation as a commonwealth from colonial times, is available from the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office.WEB,weblink History of DOS, PDF, 2012-01-04, }} One of Pennsylvania's two intermediate appellate courts is called the Commonwealth Court.

Virginia

The name Commonwealth of Virginia dates back to its independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Virginia's first constitution (adopted on June 29, 1776) directed that "Commissions and Grants shall run, In the Name of the commonwealth of Virginia, and bear test by the Governor with the Seal of the Commonwealth annexed." The Secretary of the Commonwealth still issues commissions in this manner.Among other references, the constitution furthermore dictated that criminal indictments were to conclude "against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth". Additionally, the official title of the elected local prosecutor in each of Virginia's political subdivisions is the Commonwealth's Attorney, as opposed to State's Attorney in other states or the more standard District Attorney.In Virginia, the term state is sometimes used in an official manner, usually in a compound structure rather than as a standalone noun. This is evident in the names of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the Virginia State Police, and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The state university in Richmond is known as Virginia Commonwealth University; there is also a Virginia State University, located in Ettrick.

See also

Notes

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References

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