On March 28, 1864, Nova Scotia became the first maritime colony to authorize a delegation to go to Charlottetown in September to discuss maritime union with representatives of the other Atlantic colonies. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island decided to send delegations soon after. To unite politically would allow the maritime colonies to achieve what they all urgently needed, a railway to Canada.
In the 1860s, Canada was in the middle of a railway building boom. Tracks were being laid everywhere; sometimes they started in a community and ended in the woods! Government subsidies made it profitable for promoters to build railways. Some promoters made fortunes as a result.
One of the problems of building a railway between Canada and the Atlantic colonies was to decide the route it should take. The most profitable route would have been from the coast to Saint John and Halifax. British military authorities objected to this proposal because such a rail line would be useless in the event of war with the United States. They preferred the line follow the present C.N.R. tracks; that is, along the St. Lawrence River and south to Halifax.
As early as 1862, delegates from Canada and the Atlantic colonies had met at Quebec to discuss the building of a railway connecting Canada and the Maritimes. An agreement had been reached, but it was necessary to get the approval of the British Government. This was not forthcoming.
By 1864, the Atlantic colonies were quickly reaching the conclusion that if they were to have a railway, they would have to form a union among themselves. On March 28, 1864, Nova Scotia officially committed itself to discussing maritime union.
It was this meeting of Atlantic colonies that Canada asked permission to attend. It became the famous Charlottetown Conference that eventually led to Confederation.