The Charlottetown Conference, 1-9 September 1864 in Charlottetown, PEI, set Confederation in motion. Maritime union had long been talked of in NS, NB and PEI. In March-April 1864 all 3 legislatures passed resolutions to have a conference to discuss it. Nothing happened until after the June 1864 constitutional crisis in the Province of Canada, when the Canadians asked to attend the conference to propose a union of all British North America. This request rather staggered the Maritime governments, but through the action of NS Lieutenant-Governor Richard MacDonnell the place and date of meeting were selected.

At the conference Maritime union was virtually dropped, and the delegates agreed on the outline of a scheme for more general union. It was decided to have a more comprehensive meeting at Québec in October. External circumstances, such as the American Civil War, Britain's desire to divest itself of financial and administrative colonial obligations, and the political condition of the Province of Canada, combined to create an ambience at Charlottetown which produced the momentum that was so obvious at the Québec Conference and that was so necessary to carry Confederation.