Letter from Bill Wilson to Jim Burwell
December 11, 1947
Box 459 Grand Central Annex
New York 17, N.Y.
December 11, 1947
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
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.
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