The period divides roughly in two, before and after the unexpected return of William Henry Fortescue at the 1745 by-election following the death of Faithful Fortescue, when Blayney Townley of Townley Hall had expected an uncontested election. Thomas Tipping of Beaulieu successfully contested the 1755 by-election following the death of Henry Bellingham, who in 1740 had succeeded William Aston, elected in 1727. Tipping combined his own political strength with that of his wife, Sophia, Aston's daughter, and he had a majority of 26. Tipping died in 1776 without male issue. One of the best-known Louth families of the early eighteenth century was the Tisdalls, whose most famous son, Philip Tisdall (2078), was Attorney General from 1761 until his death - also without male issue - in 1777. In 1760 there was a curious, and short-lived, agreement between Fortescue, Foster and Tipping, all prospective candidates for Louth. Each was to deposit £400, Fortescue was to be one member and Foster and Tipping should toss for the other, the loser to get £1,200 to buy a seat. This deal268 was approved by Primate Stone, who urged Anthony Foster to accept it. Foster won the toss but the bargain was not kept, although a seat, Kilbeggan, was found for Tipping. By 1761 the political order in Co. Louth was changing.
William Henry Fortescue was not the first of his extended family to sit for the county - Faithful Fortescue of Corderry had been returned in 1727 - but what was important was William Henry Fortescue's link with the Fosters. In the first part of the century the Fosters had been busily building up their estates largely from lands purchased from the Moores, various branches of which, in particular the Moores of Ardee (1471), sold land to reduce their indebtedness. The Moores were relatives of the Earl of Drogheda. Then in 1729 John Foster, the grandfather of Speaker Foster (0805) and the brother-in-law of Thomas Fortescue (0793) (the father of William Henry (0798)), purchased the fee simple of two large leases which they held from the head of the Moore family, the Earl of Drogheda.
In 1761 Anthony Foster was returned along with James Fortescue, the younger brother of William Henry Fortescue, who in 1752 had married the Co. Monaghan heiress Frances Cairnes Murray and was created Lord Clermont in 1770, Viscount Claremont in 1776 and Earl of Clermont in 1777; thereafter he 'did nothing in particular but like the Gilbertian house of lords, he did it rather well'.269Stephen Sibthorpe was a relative of the Fosters. At the time of his election he was thought a safe choice and considered to have one foot in the grave, although he did not die until 1773. From 1761 until into the nineteenth century the Fosters and the Fortescues represented Co. Louth, which, in 1785, was described as: 'a small county well governed through Mr Foster's exertions. Lord Clanbrassill (0936), Lord Clermont, Mr Foster and Mr Sibthorpe have the chief interests'.270 The county was the smallest in Ireland and the electorate was very small - possibly about 400. Even by 1815 it was calculated as only about 600.
Co. Louth had the boroughs of Ardee, Carlingford and Dundalk, and the county borough of Drogheda.