LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- When and where did Abraham Lincoln determine that slavery was wrong? It turns out that Louisville played a bigger role than most of us realize.
Many people will see the movie “Lincoln” by Steven Spielberg over this long holiday stretch. It captures the last four months of the president's life. But twenty-two years before the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln was in Louisville and historians say his letters prove that what he witnessed on the waterfront helped drive him to change the course of history.
Still an Illinois lawyer, then preparing to marry Mary Todd of Lexington, Lincoln was in Louisville visiting his longtime friend and slave-owner Joshua Speed on Speed's family plantation on Bardstown Road.
Historian Jennie Cole has studied Lincoln's letters to Speed. She says that a scene at the riverfront in Louisville was a life changing event for the future president.
Lincoln’s wrote these words in a letter 15 years later:
"From Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me."
Little did Louisville know at the time it's impact on history. When Lincoln said during the civil war, “I hope to have god on my side but I must have Kentucky,” the steamboat scene may have flashed in his mind.
Lincoln stayed with the Speeds for one month. He was in Louisville to relax and talk politics. He was urging the Speeds to move away from slavery. The summer before the proclamation was issued, Lincoln asked the Speeds to come to Washington for their advice on abolishing slavery. Despite being in Kentucky, a slave state, the Speeds told him to go for it.