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This article examines local politics in Mississippi during the early to mid-nineteenth century, by examining the bonds that officeholders were required to post to hold their positions in county government. The article argues that while states like Mississippi remain at the forefront of the history of American mass democracy, the existence of this election ritual paints a complicated picture of political practice. By requiring officeholders to post hundreds and even thousands of dollars to hold office, and by requiring that political friends vouch for them with their money and their reputations, bonds dampened democratic elections at every turn. In so doing, bonds suggest just some of the ways in which Americans practiced a much more complex politics than current paradigms allow.