More than five years earlier, a treaty of amity and commerce with France had established the same sovereign status of the contracting parties. Louis XVI treated with the thirteen American States, but he recognized each of them as a separate power. And it is interesting to note that Virginia, feeling some action desirable to complete the treaty, prior to action by Congress, on June 4, 1779, undertook solemnly to ratify this treaty with France on her own. By appropriate resolution, transmitted by Governor Jefferson to the French minister at Philadelphia, the sovereign Commonwealth of Virginia declared herself individually bound by the French treaty.8 In terms of international law, Virginia was a nation; in terms of domestic law, she was a sovereign State.
TO REVIEW the process by which the colonies became States is not necessarily to answer the basic question, What is a State? It is a troublesome word. The standard definition is that a State is "a political body, or body politic; any body of people occupying a definite territory and politically organized under one government, especially one that is not subject to external control." Chief Justice Chase , in Texas vs. White,9 put it this way: "A State, in the ordinary sense of the Constitution, is a political community of free citizens, occupying a territory of defined boundaries, and organized under a government sanctioned and limited by a written Constitution, and established by the consent of the governed." In the Cherokee case, John Marshall described a State as "a distinct political society, separated from others, capable of managing its own affairs and governing itself."10
Thus, variously, a State is defined as a body, a community, and a distinct society. Plainly, mere boundary lines are not enough; a