Based upon extended anthropological fieldwork and ethnohistorical reconstruction, this is a study of the precolonical political system of an acephalous society in West Africa. The Meta' are a sedentary farming people living in what is now the Republic of Cameroon. In the precolonial era, the Meta' had created a polity that was remarkable for its size, its relative peacefulness, and the effectiveness of its dispute settlement procedures. Located on the fringes of a regional trading network dominated by several strong chiefdoms, the Meta' polity was also notable for the degree to which ranking had developed in what remained an uncentralized political system. A wide range of data (including in-depth interviews about Meta' political concepts, remembered case histories of conflict and competition, and information on the broader regional network) are used to illuminate both the internal dynamics of the Meta' policy and the influence of the regional system upon it. The author pays particular attention to ranking, the impact of trade upon political organization, and the development of a consensual polity-wide system of conflict resolution.