Reminder And A Warning...
Copyright © The A.A.
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.... "May we always be willing to learn from experience?"
quotations in this article 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 in Boston.
flourished when they helped one other
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 and they died when they abandoned certain timeless
principles, permitted 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."
And 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