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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is a commonwealth vs. state? Is Virginia a state or a commonwealth?
How many commonwealth states do we have in the U.S.?

There is no difference between a commonwealth and a state in the U.S. To Locke, Hobbes, and other 17th-century writers the term "commonwealth" meant an organized political community -- what we today call a "state." Officially Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts are all commonwealths. When Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts became part of the United States, they merely took the old form of state in their title.

Today, commonwealth also means a political unit having local autonomy but voluntarily united with the U.S. These are Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.

2. Where can I find information on my state or local government?

You can find this information through Quick Facts About Your State on Ben's Guide. Choose your state from the map and you will then find a link to each state's official Web site and kids page (if available).