In April of 1946, Bill W. wrote an article for the Grapevine entitled “Twelve Suggested Points for A.A. Tradition,” an early presentation of what would become known simply as The Twelve Traditions. With his usual foresight, Bill had looked around the program some ten years after he and Dr. Bob met in Akron in 1935, and realized that, as A.A. grew, it was important to preserve its unity and singleness of purpose. During the 1940s, Bill received hundreds of letters from the A.A. groups that were springing up all over the country, letters asking him sometimes contentious questions about group autonomy, anonymity issues, A.A. endorsement of outside enterprises, and the like.
These letters, which described what Bill would call a “welter of exciting and fearsome experience,” played a key role in helping him formulate the Twelve Traditions. Published one by one in the Grapevine, from December 1947 to November 1948, and adopted at the First International Convention in Cleveland, the Traditions provided guidelines (not rules) that would help A.A. groups then and in the future conduct themselves in their relationship with the outside world and with Alcoholics Anonymous itself. “I offer these suggestions,” Bill wrote in that first April 1946 article, “neither as one man’s dictum nor as a creed of any kind, but rather as a first attempt to portray that group ideal toward which we have assuredly been led by a Higher Power these ten years past.”