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REMINDER AND A WARNING . . .
Grapevine, Inc., July 1976
ANONYMOUS was only ten years old when Bill W., AA's cofounder,
wrote: "Those who read the July  Grapevine were
startled, then sobered, by the account which it carried
of the Washingtonian movement. It was hard for us to believe
that 100 years ago the newspapers of this country were carrying
enthusiastic accounts about 100,000 alcoholics who were
helping each other stay sober; that today the influence
of this good work has so completely disappeared that few
of us had ever heard of it....
we always be willing to learn from experience?" Bill
quotations in this
are from material
in AA's archives.
by six drunks in 1840, the Washingtonians had grown in membership
to hundreds of thousands in a short twelve years, and then
destroyed themselves as an organization and dropped out
of sight. By 1852, all that remained of their spectacular
power as a method of treatment was the Home for the Fallen
they helped one another
a talk on the Traditions shortly before his death, Bill
said that the Washingtonians had done things "which
were very natural to do, but which had turned out to be
utterly destructive. And it was this spectacle of the past,
brought before us as our Traditions were evolving, that
confirmed that we were probably very much on the right track
in this matter of no public controversy; in this question
of paying our own bills; in this question of not becoming
involved with other enterprises, and so on down the line.
And above all, it confirmed the great protective guide of
our anonymity Tradition."
in the book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, Bill Wrote:
"In many respects the Washingtonians were akin to AA
.... Had they stuck to their one goal, they might have found
the full answer. Instead, the Washingtonians
they died when they
abandoned certain timeless principles
politicians and reformers, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic,
to use the society for their own purposes.... Within a very
few years they had completely lost their effectiveness in
helping alcoholics, and the society collapsed.
lesson to be learned from the Washingtonians was not overlooked
by Alcoholics Anonymous. As we surveyed the wreck of that
movement, early AA members resolved to keep our Society
out of public controversy."
to a friend he wrote. "I wish every AA could indelibly
burn the history of the Washingtonians into his memory.
It is an outstanding example of how, and how not, we ought
to conduct ourselves. In a sense, Alcoholics Anonymous has
never had a problem seriously threatening our overall unity.
Yet I notice that some AAs are complacent enough to suppose
we never shall."
also recalled the fate of the Washingtonians before 1,500
AAs gathered at the annual banquet in New York City on November
7, 1945. "In short, the Washingtonians went out to
settle the world's affairs before they had learned to manage
themselves. They had no capacity for minding their own business....
The negatives within them overthrew the positives.
won't happen here" Bill urged in closing, "if
we remember, publicly and privately, our own simple principles
of honesty, tolerance, and humility, and that we live only
by the Grace of God."
Words to remember! Thanks, Bill, Thank you, Washingtonians.
D. P., Ogden, Utah
© The A.A.
Grapevine, Inc., July 1976
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