- The Washingtonians

The Washingtonians




General discussions related to A.A. History.

The Washingtonians

Postby GeoffS » Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:51 pm

Has anyone else read much on the Washintonians?

Care to share?
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Postby Tim » Sun Feb 08, 2009 3:39 pm

The Washingtonians were a self-help group for alcoholics that was founded in Baltimore in 1840. Their premise, similar to AA, was that alcoholism was not a sin, but an illness. (The disease concept of alcoholism was proposed by an American Founding Father, Dr Benjamin Rush)

There were Temperance Movements around, but they worked mainly thru religious groups, whereas the Washingtonians, named after George Washington, were a secular group.

Abraham Lincoln, himself a non-drinker, famously addressed the Washingtonians in 1842. He was a friend of alcoholics and once when younger carried a man home who was passed out by the side of the road in winter.

The Washingtonians got involved in political and social causes and faded within a few years.
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Postby GeoffS » Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:39 pm

I believe they had large scale success for a while, but then they started to let personalities get in the way of principles, and they forgot where they came from.

So much so that they vanished, many dieing drunk, and only a few years later, Bill W had not even heard of them.

I suppose for this reason it is important that we of AA today, remember where we came from and avoid these types of mistakes.

Could AA have been heading in a similar direction before the traditions were written and circulated?
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Postby Tim » Sun Feb 08, 2009 7:38 pm

You're right, Geoff. The 12 traditions have helped to keep AA alive and thriving as an organization.

The 12 x 12 has a discussion (p 178) about the Washingtonian experience at the end of the essay on Tradition 10--"Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues.."

It concludes with "The lesson to be learned from the Washingtonians was not overlooked by Alcoholics Anonymous. As we surveyed the wreck of the movement, early AA members resolved to keep our Society out of public controversy. Thus was laid the cornerstone for Tradition Ten."
Last edited by Tim on Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby sunlight » Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:05 pm

I read the Washingtonians once had 300.000 members. If that's correct, then it's kind of astounding that they just faded away. A lesson for us to adhere to our primary purpose AND our traditions.

It's interesting that they had the idea to work with another alcoholic, and that this was something Bill had latched onto, even though he'd never heard of them. It's like this idea was one that was NOT going to go by the wayside! It's too vital.

Also interesting, to me, is how the Washingtonians were secular & the Oxford group was religious and how AA today is neither, so it can be available to anyone who suffers from alcoholism.

I see a Power greater than all of it in there. :wink:

( Good to see you Geoff! Thought the jellyfish had got you! :lol: )
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Postby GeoffS » Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:12 am

Thats right Sunlight. The divine inspiration for Bill I guess was being able to tie all these different threads together in a way that appealed to alcoholics and could be understood by guys like me.

No worries about the jellyfish, reckon the bushfires did for those...
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