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Letter from Bill Wilson to Jim Burwell
December 11, 1947

Box 459 Grand Central Annex
New York 17, N.Y.

December 11, 1947

Dear Jimmy:

Well, it's been a long time. But you know me. More than usually delinquent, I realize I never answered your request for a financial lift. Nor have I thanked you for that history of A.A. The first came when I was feeling pretty low myself and had already committed the dough the Foundation set aside for us to improvements on the house. So, actually I wasn't in a position to help. Later on George Hood, I believe, brought me the history.

That history I did read with tremendous interest, as have several others who have since been to the house. I think several of the oldtimers ought to wright [sic] up their impressions just as you have done. If we had a dozen such accounts, I think it would be possible to piece together, after referring to the office files, an extremely accurate account of just what happened and who did what. Personally I don't care a rap who did what. But I suppose there will be a lot of debate about it later on. So the material should be assembled from different points of view and the best possible record made. I don't think it would be possible for me ever to write a detailed history of A.A. I could only tell the story in a very general way. But if this thing keeps growing and making a stir, I suppose some historian will want to know the real facts by and by. If we don't assemble them now, the record never will be anywhere near straight. And lots of interesting detail and incidents will be forever lost. So your effort in this direction is tremendously appreciated, Jim. Don't let my negligence of correspondence make you think it isn't.

Lois and I expect to get out on the road a great deal after the first of the year. It looks like we might hit the Coast beginning at Vancouver and, say about the middle of March. Thereafter we should work southward, arriving two or three weeks later at San Diego. This however, is tentative -- only a guess. The idea of the trip would be to help explain and consolidate the Traditional material I have been publishing in the Grapevine. The planks of our recovery platform seem pretty solid. The sidewalls of the structure are now going up. They are the Traditions.

And too, we shall have to do something further about the New York Headquarters. A self-perpetuating Board of Trustees, unkown [sic] to most A.A. members, could never stand up over the long future. So we shall have to have some kind of annual conference in which out-of-towners delegated for the purpose would sit down and talk things over with the Trustees, the office, and the Grapevine, and make a joint annual report to the Groups. But how in the hell to choose this conference without politics and uproar has always been a puzzle.

After a lot of thought, I am beginning to think we have an answer -- at least a partial one. The conference can't be too big, it cant be too small. It can't ever be a political or governing body. Just a bunch of sane AA's who will sit down and see whether things are going all right in New York and make a report on it. I think that's all we shall ever need. But how shall we make the assembly of the conference simple, fair, and not political? That's the burning question.

What do you think about this? Why not divide the country, including Canada, into four equal quarants. [sic] Suppose we take latitudes and longitude line already on the map. Say 40 [appears that it said 10 and was corrected by ink to 40] degrees latitude and 95 degrees longitude. The north and south line would pass just west of Chicago, the east and west line just above San Francisco and Washington. Then why not build the conference up a little at a time. The first year a panel of twelve, the next, twelve more, and the third year another batch of twelve. At the end of three years the total of out-oftowners [sic] would be thirty-six. Which, plus the Headquarters people, would make a conference of about fifty. To get the first panel of twelve, we would go to the three largest groups in each area. These twelve would be delegated for a three-year term, and each would have an alternate. The second year we would do exactly the same thing. We would then have six people from each quadrant. But this would still leave a serious inequality.

As matters stand to-day [sic] the northeast quadrant would contain fifty per-cent [sic] of all the A.A. members. So I suggest that the third panel of twelve be selected on the size of the town only. No matter in which quadrant the cities happen to be. This would weight matters up a little in favor of the northeast quadrant, where so many AA's are to-day. [sic] If things change later the composition of the conference would shift accordingly. We might even include foreign centers in this list of twelve, or we might create, later years, a special foreign panel.

Having thus designated the conference cities mechanically, why shouldn't we suggest to them that they do the same in picking out a delegate. Otherwise we shall have thirty-six political brawls every year at the designated point. Why couldn't central committees, or in case it is where there is no strong central committee, why couldn't the groups themselves each nominate their choices. And it ought to avoid politics or hand picking from here.

Even though some hand picking might be done at the present time, it surely couldn't be done later on when the present old-timers are gone. I'm convinced the whole process will have to be pretty much mechanical. What do you think about all this?

Please write me and tell me about all the news, especially about yourself and that good wife of yours. Lois and I hope you both prosper and we shall look forward so much to seeing you when we come.

As ever,


/s/ Bill

Index of A.A. History Pages on Barefoot's World

As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of A.A. with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In A.A. and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!

ABC Page 60 -- Barefoot's Recovery Pages



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