How to understand “the extremes to”?

From A Cursory History of Swearing:

It is certainly curious to witness the extremes to which the Scottish nation were prepared to go in legislating against the commission of this offence.

I can understand if that sentence rewrote to:

It is certainly curious to witness that the Scottish nation were prepared to go in legislating against the commission of this offence.

So what does “the extremes to” means there?

By the way, should the “were” be “was” in “the Scottish nation were prepared”?

Answer

The sense of the phrase is that they took extreme measures when legislating.
But your rewrite is not correct and you have misunderstood the construction, I think.

The basic construction being used is “to go to extremes in doing something”. You can substitute other phrases such as, “to go to great lengths in doing something”, or “to go to great trouble in doing something”. You can’t say, “to go in doing something.”

  • to witness the extremes to which the Scottish nation were prepared to go in legislating … OK
  • to witness the great lengths to which the Scottish nation were prepared to go in legislating … OK
  • to witness that the Scottish nation were prepared to go in legislating … Not OK

In English, with groups of people you can use either singular or plural, so ‘the nation was’ and ‘the nation were’ are both acceptable.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Sayakiss , Answer Author : Rachel Parker

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