As a border town, Corowa was required to pay customs duties on items crossing the Victorian-New South Wales border from 1873. It was due to these customs duties that local residents became advocates for federation. Local support for federation also appears to have been spurred by the idea that a new federation would need a federal capital in the border districts. Subsequently Corowa residents lodged a claim for federal city status.
Because of the strong local support for federation, Corowa became the backdrop to many federation meetings and speeches. The Australian Natives' Association played a large part in federation and local support for the concept was evident in the fact that the first Australian Natives' Association branch in New South Wales was founded in Corowa. In December 1892 Edmund Barton an advocate of federation and Australia's first prime minister visited Corowa to urge consideration of the convention bill up before the New South Wales Parliament. He also supported the idea of local federation leagues. The first of these leagues was founded in Albury and Corowa. It was then picked up in other Murray River towns. They eventually all banded together and formed the Border Federation League. Several months later William Drummond of the Berrigan branch of the Federation League proposed the idea of a conference to revive flagging interest in federation.