Leitrim was a poor and rather bleak county. Few gentlemen of fortune resided in it, and it was divided by the electioneering interests of the absentee landlords. Co. Leitrim politics remained fairly stable throughout the century. The first major factor was Nathaniel Clements, one of the most astute politicians of the century, who developed his family interest to the point were the Clements could usually, but not invariably, claim one of the seats. The second major factor was the arrival and growth of the La Touche interest. Colonel Gore (0875) died early in February 1729/30. The ensuing by-election in March 1729/30 was hard fought between Gore's son and Walter Jones. William Gore won by about 30 votes, and 'they say it cost them above £400 in Carrick', the county town. In 1776 the voting was: Henry Theophilus Clements 363, Theophilus Jones 338, William Gore 265. Clements and Jones were declared duly elected.232
Following the 1783 election it was reported that 'The Independent interest is prevailing. Mr Clements and Mr Jones who were unsuccessful at the last election, Mr Peter La Touche the Member, Mr Tenison (2056) who failed at the last election, Mr Wynne(2264), Mr Gore and Colonel St George (1847) have the leading interests. Mr Peter La Touche elected by the popular party, opposed. Mr Gore elected on the Clements interest, supports.'233 However, these divided interests did not increase their influence by creating freeholders, and just before the 1790 general election234 a commentator considered that:
This district, remarkable for many peculiarities, is among others distinguishable for containing the smallest number of electors of any County in the kingdom. A circumstance partly caused by the meagre state of its population and still more by the prevalence of the Popish faith throughout the whole of its extent. But though their numbers are small, they have frequently shown themselves to be uninfluenced by a partial predilection for particular names and there is scarce a County in the nation wherein more gentlemen of different families have, at different times been chosen its representative. Without minutely investigating its cause, the effect must be allowed friendly to the growth of a spirit of independence, even admitting that it proves not its existence, as it argues an emancipation from slavery to petty dictatorial authority and a freedom from any idle prejudice in favour of dusty genealogies: circumstances often not to be met with in Counties, wherein the most clamorous claims are heard to ardent zeal in the cause of freedom.
The families of Clements, Gore, Jones, Tenison and La Touche, have all, and that within no distant period, given representatives to this County and though Lord Leitrim (0418), the head of the first of these houses, is generally thought to possess the most powerful interest in it and has a son (0415) of full age to be a candidate for it at the general election, we understand that he means not to propose him, not to hazard a contest, of whose success, indeed, he has just reason to be very doubtful. His brother, the Colonel (0412), however spirited he may have been in the field, will hardly again venture a combat, where, on the last engagement, he suffered so decided a defeat.
Mr Jones is a man of excellent private character, amiable and pleasing and if manners could win a County, he has manners to win, but we cannot think his election would be sure, should he seek the support of the Freeholders, for reasons with which he is well acquainted.
Mr Peter La Touche, who is at present one of the representatives of Leitrim, ever since he attained that station, has discharged his delegated trust with invariable honour and with an integrity becoming the son of his late worthy and revered father. Unless therefore, the demon of discord should, for the mere pleasure of creating confusion, confound every principle of gratitude and commonsense, we must consider his unanimous re-election as an event by no means uncertain.
The other seat will, probably, be warmly disputed between Mr Gore (Mr La Touche's colleague) and Mr Tenison.
In the event Henry Theophilus Clements and John La Touche were returned. The same representation of interests continued after the Union, although it has been estimated that the electorate increased from 1,076 in 1784 to 7,000 in 1815.
Co. Leitrim had two parliamentary boroughs: Carrick and Jamestown.