A new map of Upper & Lower Canada, from the latest authorities Cary, John, approximately 1754-1835


Dublin Core


A new map of Upper & Lower Canada, from the latest authorities Cary, John, approximately 1754-1835


Ontario, Quebec


This is a map of Ontario and Quebec created by John Cary depicting Canada 1811, as it was surveyed by the British authorities at that time. John Cary was an engraver that lived from approximately 1754 to 1835, and was the publisher of the New Universal Atlas, which is where this map was originally published. This map was created in London, across the Atlantic Ocean from the landmass that is depicted on this map. This map was created prior to the War of 1812, and thus before the Treaty of 1818 that established the 49th parallel as the border between British North America and the United States. The map does not extend out on either side to include either the Pacific or Atlantic coasts, and also does not show how the temporary borderlines continue past Lake Winnipeg, especially with respect to the Rocky Mountains. Given that Oregon was not lost to the United States until 1846, this would have been featured on the map as Canadian territory if the map did extend to British North America’s natural borders from sea to (shining) sea.


John Cary


J. Cary




Ali Tejani


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License


Full-sized digital item can be found in McMaster's Digital Archive at: http://digitalarchive.mcmaster.ca/islandora/object/macrepo%3A30956


1 map : colour ; 46 x 52 cm, on sheet 54 x 64 cm








North America--Canada--Ontario, Quebec`

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Paper map, colour, on sheet 54 x 64 cm

Physical Dimensions

46 x 52 cm

Contributor's Research

Why is it listed as a prominent feature that there are two scales featured on this map?

On the digital archive page for this map of Upper & Lower Canada, it specifically states at the beginning of the notes that this is a “Printed map, ‘By John Cary, Engraver’, Two visual scales,” and then goes on to discuss the original publication of this map. Near the bottom left corner of the map itself, the two scales are apparent. The first of these uses a measurement of British Statute Miles with the description 69 ½ to a degree, and the second uses Common French Leagues. The map refers to both Upper and Lower Canada, the names given to Ontario and Quebec respectively in 1791, so it is clear that the map is after 1791, even if we cannot verify how close it’s actual creation date was to 1811. However, had the map been created after 1812, it is likely it would have featured at least some mention of the War of 1812.

The map does display English-speaking Upper Canada and French-speaking Lower Canada, and given the historical context mentioned briefly above, it is likely that during this time the two different regions used different scales when mapping. As such, in order for the map to be used effectively or to at least reasonably attempt to showcase the vast size of the country to different groups of people, it seems like it was in the best interest of the creator to include both scales. While the map does feature both of these unit scales, it should be noted that the British one is listed above its French counterpart. While we can acknowledge the potential usefulness for including Common French Leagues, the more important of the two scales was listed above (and closer to the relevant content of the map. In much the same way, even the naming of Upper and Lower Canada expresses this bias towards the British. When looking at a map of Upper and Lower Canada from this time period, and when holding the map in the standard orientation such that it points north, the English-speaking Upper Canada is actually below the French-speaking Lower Canada.

However, this idea of the British superimposing their own belief systems on the French when they had the ability to do is revealed by other factors of this map as well. Another point that should be noted is that the British often seem to be given credit for the introduction of the metric system, while the metric system originated from the First French Republic in 1799. However, the scale of this system is not featured on this particular map, and instead uses the imprecise measurement of leagues. Leagues refer to a unit of distance based on how much land a legion of soldiers would be able to cover in a set number of paces (normally 1000). While this may well still have been the temporary standard for the French-speaking people in Lower Canada in 1811, it is also possible that the British did not wish to acknowledge a new and different method for measuring distance at this particular point in time, which may have been more accurate and scientifically grounded than their own. In contrast to this, the British scale used on this map is the British Statute Mile, where one kilometer is the equivalent of 0.6214 Statute Miles. The metre was originally defined in 1793 as one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole, thereby using a meridional definition, which spoke to the ability of the French to accurately chart long distances.

Despite these differences, this map was still created to show both Upper and Lower Canada, but it remains unclear what the exact purpose of the map would have been given that it was created in London. The fact that it features both scales however, might suggest that it was intended for use by both English-speaking and French-speaking people. However, this does not confirm that the French-speaking people that the map was intended to be shown to were living in Lower Canada, as it may well be possible that this map was intended to be shared with people in France itself. All of the supplementary details on this map are still written in English though. Additionally, a very interesting point is that English-speaking Upper Canada (despite it being lower on the map), is outlined and coloured in a slightly pink/red colour. Lower Canada uses the same monochromatic colour scheme as the land part of the United States, and does not have any additional markings other than the one line that says “Lower Canada” in capital letters.

While we may not know for sure why John Cary chose to include both scales on “A new map of Upper & Lower Canada, from the latest authorities,” there are possible explanations as to why that might have been the case. Ultimately, by asking questions about the reasons why mapmakers made the choices they did, we can attempt to gain insight on some of the tensions and biases that may have been present during the time period, such as the particularly sensitive Anglo-Francophone relations."


John Cary, “A new map of Upper & Lower Canada, from the latest authorities Cary, John, approximately 1754-1835,” Omeka Testbed, accessed July 21, 2018, http://mapexhibit.mcmaster.ca/items/show/36.