Rob Neukirch, the owner of Oddfellas, asked an interesting question the other day.

“Why,” he wanted to know, “is Virginia a Commonwealth instead of a state?”

Good question. But I’m a Virginian and I have the answer.

It goes back to 1649 when Virginia was a British colony under the then “commonwealth” of England. Both Virginia and England considered themselves commonwealths where citizens voted for their representatives.

That lasted until 1660 when King Charles II overthrew the commonwealth form of government in England and restored the kingdom. Like most of the other colonies, Virginia chafed under the loss of freedoms and in 1776, Virginia, along with the other 13 original colonies, adopted its own constitution, declaring “we are a Commonwealth, free from England.”

From that day forward, Virginia has considered itself a Commonwealth and never a state. Three other states — Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Kentucky — also call themselves “commonwealths.”

Which gets the question: If Virignia is a Commonwealth, how can I get a speeding tickets from the “State Police?”