Cooper, Joshua (1732–1800), landlord and MP, was born at Markree Castle, Collooney, Co. Sligo, eldest son of Joshua Cooper (c.1696–1757) of Markree, landlord and MP for Co. Sligo 1719–57, and his wife Mary, daughter of Henry Bingham (1688–1743), MP and PC, of Newbrook, Co. Mayo. He entered TCD 15 July 1748 and graduated BA (1752). On his father's death (1757) he succeeded to large family estates. After his marriage (May 1758) to Alicia Synge, heiress of Edward Synge (qv), bishop of Elphin, which brought him a large fortune, he bought up more land, becoming one of the country's leading landowners with a rental income of £3,334 in 1785. In 1783 he subscribed the maximum permissible sum of £10,000 towards the establishment of the Bank of Ireland. He was MP for Castlebar (1761–8) and Co. Sligo (1768–83), joint governor of Co. Sligo (1758–63), high sheriff of Co. Sligo (1763), burgess of Sligo borough (1771–90), and appointed to the Irish privy council (14 December 1776). He had a reputation for independence and opposed the Townshend (qv) viceroyalty, but thereafter generally supported the government. He voted against catholic relief (1774) and Henry Grattan's (qv) declaration of the rights of Ireland (1780). An improving landlord, in 1776 he was visited by Arthur Young (qv), who praised his efforts at land reclamation, introduction of new crops, and animal husbandry. He was a member of the RDS (1767), commissioner of the tillage act for Connacht (1762–84), and governor of Erasmus Smith's schools and other charities (1762–97). He took an enlightened interest in the arts and lavishly entertained the artists Gabriel Beranger (qv) and Angelo Bigari at Markree in 1779. Recognised as a firm and impartial magistrate, he administered justice without religious bias. He was a popular landlord, but the actions of his eldest son Col. Joshua Edward Cooper (1761?–1837), MP for Co. Sligo (1790–1806) and manager of the family estates from the 1780s, in replacing catholic leaseholders with protestants to acquire greater voting power, caused considerable resentment among his tenants, and his house was sacked during the 1798 rebellion. He was strongly opposed to the act of union and used all his influence to prevent it. He died at his home 16 December 1800 and was buried in Collooney churchyard. From his marriage he had three sons and a daughter. His second son was Edward Synge Cooper (1762–1830), MP for Co. Sligo 1806–30.
Arthur Young, A tour of Ireland (1780), i, 334–8; Terence O'Rorke, History . . . of the parishes of Ballysadare and Kilvarnet (1878), 158–64; William Hunt (ed.), The Irish parliament in 1775 (1907), 14; Alumni Dubl.; E. S. Gray, ‘The high sheriffs of Co. Sligo, 1751–1800’, Ir. Geneal., i, no. 1 (1937), 16; F. G. Hall, The Bank of Ireland, 1783–1946 (1949), 510; Burke, IFR (1976), 273; Hist. parl.: commons, 1790–1820, iii (1986); HIP, iii