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Here's the sentence "Not a wrong in this world but had him as its champion ; not a cause of liberty or reform but gained his support."

The statement falls in a paragraph of introduction of a character(in a biography).

Now I understand the use in "What is it but the lack of knowledge of the English grammar" - meaning it's nothing other than "the lack of...".

But I'm seeing something like the above literally for the first time.

Thanks

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    Note that there is a negative in the construction before the but (Not a wrong in this world but ...). This marks it as a Nobbut-Cleft construction. The sense of but involved means 'other than, except for', which is pretty ancient. On the other hand, cleft sentences of various kinds are pretty ancient, too. Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 18:16

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One of the definitions of "but" is "except". Your sample sentence, with some implied words added back in, is something like

[There was] not a wrong in the world except [such a wrong as] had him as its champion...

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