Co. Monaghan has been described as a plantation frontier county with a strong interest in the linen trade. It was evenly divided between Catholics and protestants, with a large number of Presbyterians, particularly in the north of the county. The 1768 election may reflect this, as the numbers were:316 Alexander Montgomery 687, Edward Lucas (?)610, John Corry 163 (total 1,460). Upwards of 1,000 freeholders were not polled.
The 1776 election took place under the shadow of the War of American Independence, in which the Presbyterian tenantry would have been much involved, and this time the figures were: Alexander Montgomery 1,220, Thomas Tenison 684, Charles Powell Leslie 583 (total 2,487). As each elector had two votes, the probable electorate must have been c. 1,500-1,600, and allowing for plumpers and absentees was probably nearer 1,600. In 1807, when otherwise qualified Catholics would have been enfranchised, it was about 3,500 and this probably reflects the religious affiliations of the county.
Dacres Barrett was a member of the Barrett-Lennard family, who had estates around Clones but were generally absentees. William Barton sat from 1692 to 1713 and his heiress daughter who married Richard Tenison (2054) was after his death the first wife of Dr Patrick Delany. The Tenisons were essentially a Co. Louth family. The Cootes' estates centred round Cootehill, Co. Cavan. Thomas Coote, who represented the county from 1723 until his death in 1741, was one of the judges dismissed on the accession of George I; his grandson, Charles, was the first and only Earl of Bellomont. The Montgomerys, the Dawsons (Lord Cremorne), the Leslies and the Westenras were substantial local landowners. The Westenras became the ultimate heirs of Sir Alexander Cairnes, who had a dominant interest in the county, including the borough of Monaghan, in the early part of the century. His sole heiress was his daughter, Mary, who married Cadwallader, 7th Baron Blayney. The marriage was childless and she then married John Murray(1507). They had five daughters: Frances married William Fortescue, Earl of Clermont (0798); Elizabeth married Robert Cuninghame, Lord Rossmore (0559); Anne married Theophilus Jones (1118); Harriet married Henry Westenra (2218); Barbara married Baptist Johnston (1106). The only one to leave male heirs was Harriet Westenra - Warner was her son. Lady Blayney died in 1790 and Warner, who by special remainder inherited the Rossmore peerage, was her residual heir.
In 1790 Co. Monaghan was described as:317
this Northern County, whose extent is small, but whose population is considerable, the influence of industry and manufactures are forcibly felt, meliorating the condition of the peasant, improving the state of the husbandman and cherishing proper notions of their weight and consequence in the political scale in its spirited yeomanry.
Sensible of the rights of Freemen and tenacious of their exercise, their choice of representatives is not determined by the dictates of petty tyrants, though some such are even here to be found, nor are their inclinations subservient to the mandates of Lordly masters, but selecting with discernment, they decide with firmness and support the men who have gained their approbation, with warmth of attachment devoid of unmanly prejudice.
Such men deserve to be faithfully represented, and without attributing more merit to their Members than they fairly deserve, they certainly will be so, for they are well able and as well inclined, to make the proudest know that they owe their stations to the free voices of the people and that as their breath created, so their breath can annihilate their delegated power.
Mr John Montgomery and Mr Leslie, the two representatives in this County, are men of acknowledged integrity not indeed adapted to glitter in the glare of day, or to catch the plaudits of the populace by exhibitions of oratory, but to serve the cause of their country by steady public virtue and inflexible patriotism.318
Co. Monaghan's only borough was Monaghan Borough.