whence it is that

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Senior Member
Hi there,

"But though this is the most likely foundation of this collection of maxims and customs, yet the maxims and customs, so collected, are of higher antiquity than memory or history can reach, nothing being more difficult than to ascertain the precise beginning and first spring of an ancient and long established custom. Whence it is that in our law the goodness of a custom depends upon its having been used time out of mind; or, in the solemnity of our legal phrase, time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. This it is that gives it its weight and authority: and of this nature are the maxims and customs which compose the common law, or lex non scripta, of this kingdom."

William Blackstone

I interpret the sentence with the underlined part as follows: where the goodness of a custom is in our law depends on how long it has been used since the unknown time.
"it" must refer to "the custom (the goodness of a custom?)." But I am confused about the structure and the function of "that" here.

Could anyone please paraphrase this sentence and explain a little for me?


  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    It's a long, complicated sentence, which I won't study and translate.

    But "Whence it is that" is old-fashioned English, you can replace with "It is for this reason that" or "This is why".

    So the underlined part connects what was written before it to what is written after it.
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