[b]“If a court of equity were still at sea, and floated upon the occasional opinion which the judge who happened to preside might entertain of conscience in every particular case.”
- Feel totally at sea by this 18-th century extract from Court Laws. Does it make a
grammatical sense /it shure must/, but it eludes me.
I assume you know what a court of equity (and equity law) means. (if not, then read up on hit here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equity_(law)
If someone is at sea, they are in a state of confusion, not knowing what to do next.
By saying that a court of equity is at sea, we mean that it’s stuck and can’t effectively decide on cases.
So, in my opinion you can rehash it this way:
if a court of equity was still stuck, and used the occasional opinion that the presiding judge might have with regard to conscience (in other words, the judge was guided by conscience) in every particular case, the inconvenience that would arise from this uncertainty would be a worse evil than any hardship that would follow from rules too strict and infelxible.
PS: The part in bold is the end of the quotation that you have omitted.
Thank you, OTS. The part in bold proved to be very helpful, as the full stop after “every particular case” in the original (phrases.org.uk/meanings/all-at-sea.html) got me cornered.