(Sir Edward) Coke further noted that legal disputes about such matters as inheritance of goods:

are not to be decided by natural reason but by the artificial reason and judgment of law, which law is an art which requires long study and experience, before that a man can attain to the cognisance of it: that the law was the golden metwand and measure to try the causes of the subjects; and which protected his majesty in safety and peace. . . .

In other words, neither a king nor any judge can simply decide idiosyncratically what is ‘fair’. He must instead apply the existing law.

I know that this was written in 1607, but what's the meaning of that? Is it optional? Why or why not?

This answers the question of: How would you determine the purpose of which? It doesn't sound like the modern relative pronoun; "which is an art which" sounds curious. This refers to Why does legal English sometimes repeat the antecedent noun after "which"?.

Source: P13, How the Law Works, Gary Slapper

1 Answer 1


It was common in ME and EModE to introduce a clause serving as the object of a preposition with the complementizer that. This use dropped away in ModE.

You may find examples in OED I, s.v. That conj., definition I.1.c.. It's toward the bottom of the final column of the second page at the link.

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