Joseph Leonard Tillinghast was born in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1791. He moved to Providence became a publisher of the Providence Gazette in 1809, studied law and began to practice law in 1811 in Providence. Shortly after his work as defense counsel for the rioters in 1824, he was elected as a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1826 and would remain as a member of the House until 1833. He was chosen speaker between1829-1832. Running as a Whig candidate he was elected U.S. Representative to the Twenty-fifth, Twenty- sixth, and Twenty-seventh Congresses of the United States (March 4, 1837-March 3, 1843). Tillinghast also served as a trustee of Brown University from 1833-1844. He died in Providence, on December 30, 1844.