When the Constitutional Act of 1791 divided the Province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada, the only maps were hand-drawn surveys of small parts of the territory. These old surveys were created for military and settlement purposes, for drawing rivers, islands, political boundaries and religious allotments, and they were originally based upon sketches drawn by explorers, fur traders and their indigenous guides, and augmented by tools available to them at the time. The true size of the hinterland west of the Great Lakes was still unknown.

By 1794 it had been long evident that these small surveys of various parts of Lower Canada needed to be amalgamated into a larger document. At the time, the administrators of Lower Canada (with its established seigneurial system and French civil law)  were anxious to encourage British immigration in order to underscore their authority, balance the population between French and English-speaking people, expand trade and establish an English mercantile base in the port cities. Military considerations were paramount for protecting British citizens and interests. Most significantly, thousands of United Empire Loyalists needed to be accommodated alongside the established seigneurial system.

Draftsman Jean-Baptiste Duberger, under the guidance of surveyor Samuel Gale, for many months between 1794 and 1795, created the original plan at a scale of 2 miles to one inch. At this size, they were able to include much more detailed information than this copy allows. Duberger made a smaller copy one year later, at 4 miles to one inch. In 1915 the Public Archives of Canada printed copies at a still smaller scale, 6 2/3 miles to an inch, and distributed them to libraries. The original 1795 plan resides at the McClennan Library at McGill University.