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In this essay, Pawel Kloczowski seeks to explain the reason why von Mises’s assertion that Europe has remained virtually untouched by the liberal spirit may be said, at one and the same time, to be both true and false. To do so he examines the history of his native country, Poland, noting elements of a clear liberal inspiration in its old constitutions: from the election of the king and considerable limitations on his power to the right of veto of each member of parliament. Kloczowski recalls, however, how it was the very weakness of the Polish state that contributed to its ruin, the culmination of which was the third division in 1795. Since then Poles have taken part in struggles for national liberty at home and abroad, thus representing the painful contradiction between classical liberalism, centred on the liberty of the individual, and national liberalism, which sees the liberty from foreign rule as the supreme political good. This leads Kloczowski to review the reflections of Tocqueville, Edmund Burke and Samuel Huntington and further explore the difficult relationship between individual and political community, democratic and aristocratic society, progress and tradition, thus summing up the fundamental terms of the debate between liberalism and conservatism.