Co. Tyrone was a plantation county. In 1785 there was 'Much linen manufacture. Dissenting and independent interest prevails. Lord Belmore, Mr Gardiner (0842), Mr Beresford (0115) and the present Members have the chief interests. Mr Montgomery and Mr Stewart are elected by the popular party.'375 It remained remarkably stable throughout the century. It had a strong streak of independence due to the large protestant dissenting community, which tended to look to the Stewarts of Killymoon for support. The Mountjoy interest, which was prominent early in the century, passed by marriage to the Gardiners, who resurrected the name in the peerage conferred on Luke Gardiner in 1789. Luke, 1st Viscount Mountjoy's (of the 2nd creation) grandmother was Anne Stewart, heiress of Alexander Stewart, uncle of William, 3rd Viscount Mountjoy (of the 1st creation).
The Mervyn interest was prominent early in the century, but their estates were gradually sold off and the male line failed, leaving the remainder dispersed among various heiresses. There were other interests operating in various ways at various times. The Earl of Abercorn had large estates in north Tyrone, where his mansion was (at Baronscourt, near Newtownstewart), while the Hamilton estate at Caledon in south Tyrone passed first to the Earl of Cork and Orrery, who married Margaret Hamilton, and her son sold it to James Alexander, 1st Earl of Caledon. The Montgomery-Moore estates were further along the Clogher valley running from Tynan through Aughnacloy on the Tyrone-Monaghan border. Another interest was that of the Knox family in and around Dungannon, also in south Tyrone. The Lowry-Corry estates were in the west of the county, near the Fermanagh border. Tyrone was therefore a county of many interests, particularly when gentry such as the Moutrays of Favour Royal and the Richardsons of Augher, who together controlled the parliamentary borough of Augher, are included. Nevertheless, such a complexity of interests did not necessarily mean disputed elections: for instance, Galbraith Lowry and William Stewart were elected without opposition in 1761, as were Lord Corry and James Stewart in 1797. In 1768 there was a four-way contest: Armar Lowry-Corry (1269) 1,257, James Stewart (2004) 1,215, Thomas Knox (1187) 905, Claude Hamilton (0917) 827.376 Corry and Stewart were returned. In 1790377 it was said that:
The extent of the County is great, the Protestant religion fixed and far spreading, population numerous, agriculture not neglected and the staple manufacture of the kingdom cultivated with assiduity and prosperous, the effects of these happy circumstances are strongly felt in the determined spirit and in the inspiration of true constitutional principles of independence which they invigorate The union recently formed by Lord Viscount Belmore (1269) and Lord Welles (1187), old and obstinate opponents here, each to return his eldest son, at the general election for this County, will most probably be defeated by such a spirit as we have just alluded to, which is here predominant, from all the causes already mentioned.
Lord Belmore's only son was not of age before the 1797 election and both magnates were probably too well aware of the popularity of the Stewarts, particularly with the non-conformist voters, to seek to disturb James Stewart. What happened was that Knox's son was returned in 1790, Lord Corry in 1797, and James Stewart on both occasions. The electorate was probably about 3,500-4,000; by 1812 it was stated to be 20,000 but it fell back to 15,000 in 1815.378
Co. Tyrone had four boroughs: Augher, Clogher, Dungannon and Strabane.