COTÉ (Côté), JOSEPH-OLIVIER, notary, public servant, and author; b. 8 April 1820 at Quebec City, Lower Canada, son of Olivier Côté, a blacksmith, and Louise-Charlotte Sasseville; m. 12 Nov. 1851 at Montreal Marie-Julie-Léocadie Leprohon (d. 1900), and they had four sons and two daughters; d. 24 April 1882 at Ottawa, Ont.
Joseph-Olivier Coté studied at the Séminaire de Québec from 1831 to 1835 when he left to study law first under René-Gabriel Belleau until 1838 and then under Louis-Édouard Glackmeyer. He was admitted as a notary in 1841. In 1842–43 he was deputy registrar of Berthier County and in June 1845 the governor, Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe*, appointed him clerk in the Executive Council Office of the Province of Canada; the office was then headed by William Henry Lee*. Coté’s duties included maintenance of the registers of commissions for all the known official appointments from 1651 and supervision of the compilation of manuscript indexes to the registers; these indexes were completed to confederation. He also compiled two editions (1860 and 1866) of a most useful handbook, Political appointments and elections in the Province of Canada, which covered the years 1841 to 1865. This project was extended by his son, Narcisse-Omer, who published a supplement in 1918 carrying the work to confederation, and added two further volumes continuing the tables to 1917. Joseph-Olivier also wrote periodically in both French and English newspapers under various noms de plume. His articles covered a wide variety of political and economic subjects, such as balance of trade, capital punishment, secularization of the clergy lands, and a parliament of all nations.
At confederation the Executive Council Office became the Privy Council Office of the dominion. In 1872 Lee retired and William Alfred Himsworth, who had joined the office shortly before Coté, was appointed to the clerkship and Coté to the deputy clerkship. In late 1879 Coté was appointed deputy governor general to sign letters patent for dominion and other lands, even though he was having trouble with his eyes and his health was failing. When Himsworth died at the opening of the next year Sir John A. Macdonald* appointed Coté clerk of the Privy Council on 13 Jan. 1880 and his annual salary was increased by $1,000 to $3,200. At the end of 1880 he was appointed a commissioner per dedimus potestatem to administer the oaths of office for the government. In spite of increasing ill health, which at times necessitated his working from his home, he was able to carry on until his death in 1882. Henry James Morgan* described him as a “most painstaking, discreet, courteous and efficient public officer” and his appointments gave general satisfaction. The tables prepared by him and his son remain invaluable references for the historian and political scientist to this day.
Joseph-Olivier Coté compiled Political appointments and elections in the Province of Canada from 1841 to 1860 (Quebec, 1860) and a second edition, . . . from 1841 to 1865 (Ottawa, 1866); a third edition was edited by N.-O. Coté: . . . and appendix from 1st January, 1866, to 30th June, 1867, and index (Ottawa, 1918).
PAC, MG 26, A; RG 68, 88: 336; 320: 257; 412: 662. Free Press (Ottawa), 24 April 1882. Ottawa Daily Citizen, 25 April 1882. Canadian men and women (Morgan, 1912), 262. CPC, 1881: 24. Dominion annual register, 1882: 336–37.