So Your Time is Tight? Here is What We Can Do!

Four Hour Highlights Tour in Your Tranportation (Incoming coach, car/SUV Hire, taxi)

– Overall commentary from meet-up point to first stop.

– Exterior of U.S. Capitol, including the West Front of the Building.

– Exterior of the White (Lafayette Square)

– World II Memorial

– Jefferson Memorial

– The “Big Three:” Korea, Lincoln, and Vietnam Memorial

–  Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima)


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Welcome Visitors

Restivo Tours wants to welcome you to Spring. It has been a long journey, but we have finally made it. At Restivo Tours we hope to provide the best guiding experience in the Washington D.C. area.

So, if you are in the D.C. area you have come to right place. We can customize a tour to your liking. Don’t hesitate to call or email Restivo Tours if you have any inquiries or questions.

Showing visitors the state capitol of Maryland

Showing visitors the state capitol of Maryland

We are looking forward to serving YOU!

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Thaddeus Stevens, Scourge of the South OR (Thad on the Couch)

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens

Congressman Stevens was the de facto leader of the Radical Republicans, a group that ruled Congress in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. One of the few times in American history where legislative power supplanted the executive. Stevens, as a member, lived on the western side of Capitol Hill – B Street NW ( Constitution Avenue). Stevens has been depicted in popular culture throughout the last 100 years, namely in D.W. Griffiths “Birth of a Nation” (1915) and Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”  (2012). He died in 1868. The following is a book review of “Thaddeus Stevens, Scourge of the South” by Fawn Brodie.

Upon Stevens’ death, Senator Simon Cameron said, “From the time of his entry into public no man assailed him without danger or conquered him without scars.” Indeed, it could be said that any man who conflicted with Thaddeus Stevens, a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, did not end up in a pleasant place. Just ask President Andrew Johnson who faced an impeachment trial largely instigated by Thaddeus Stevens.

Stevens’ reputation has undergone a rehabilitation of sorts over the course of the last 60 years– this revisionist view of the Radical Republican can be attributed to the groundbreaking biography written by Fawn M.Brodie.  In it, she mixes two disciplines: psychoanalysis (at its cultural peak in American life during the 1950s) and history. The final result produces a biography that captures the essence of a man who the de-facto leader of the Republican Party in the late 1860s. A man who played a major role in passing the 13th, 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Freedman;s Bureau. Stevens never wavered in his support for full suffrage of African-Americans.

What made Stevens so adamant for equality for those relegated to second-class status? Brodie, examining the childhood, early adulthood, and congressional career comes to the conclusion that Thaddeus Stevens had an issue with entrenched power largely spurred by the rejection of his cobbler-trained father and the loneliness he felt because of his disability (clubbed foot). This was further exacerbated by the refusal of the free masons to allow Stevens as a member. (He was accused by one for murdering a slave girl during his younger days). When Andrew Johnson became President, Stevens transferred much of his hatred and resentment on Johnson, a free mason and Democrat, who publicly called Stevens, “an assassin.” This ultimately, led to the impeachment of a president over his firing of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. However, However, Johnson was acquired by the Senate in a close vote.

Stevens, devastated by his political loss, died several weeks later. In his final will and testament he asked to be buried in a racially integrated cemetery. He hoped that his longtime companion/housekeeper Lydia Hamilton Smith, a free African-American woman, would be buried next to him. Ironically, Smith, one of the few people he ever became emotionally intimate with, chose to be buried in a Catholic cemetery.

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Book Review: Means of Ascent (Volume II)

LBJ ImageRobert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent, 1990.

When Lyndon Johnson ran for the Texas Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in 1948, he knew that his political future depended on winning at all costs. To do so, he spent millions of dollars (and that was what was reported) and purchased a helicopter to campaign his way around the vast land that is Texas. A local Texas newspaper said, “Candidate Lyndon B. Johnson’s flying windmill is probably the greatest political innovation since the invention of the ballot.” When the election results were finally decided, candidate Johnson would be declared a winner by a mere 87 votes out of a million cast. For the remainder of his life, Lyndon Johnson would be referred to as “Landslide Lyndon,” a name that he was never able to successfully shake even at the height of his political career.

In Robert Caro’s second volume, Means of Ascent, the author argues that Lyndon Johnson, the boy who never wanted to be a nobody like his “daddy” stole the Texas Senate seat from the virtuous and John Waynesque, former governor of Texas, Coke Stevenson – a man who could split rails with his own hands and never owned a telephone.  Caro primarily focuses on the 202 disputed votes in the 13th precinct of the Jim Wells County of south Texas.  According to the author, the disputed votes were somehow found six days after the polls had closed. In fact, many of the disputed names listed as voters never actually made it to the polls, or were dead.  The legal wrangling that the Stevenson‘s campaign brought forth ended with the lack of sufficient evidence (e.g. missing polling lists) and the Supreme Court refusing to hear the case. Fortunately for Johnson, in a Democratic dominated state of Texas (at least in 1948) he was able to beat his Republican opponent in November easily.

The brilliance of Means of Ascent is that it details the “new” campaigning that Lyndon Johnson helped usher in.  Instead of traveling via car to various small towns and county seats, like his opponent Stevenson, he flew. Additionally, Johnson’s campaign team headed by John Connolly (later governor of Texas) used public relations firms and weekly polling data to decipher where they stood with the electorate. Ironically, Johnson once considered a New Dealer, ran to the right of Stevenson. Characterizing his opponent as a labor supporter, and a possible communist through a bombardment of radio spots, and pamphlets.

At the end of Means of Ascent, Johnson is sworn in as U.S. senator from the state of Texas. Six years later in 1955 he would be made senate majority leader – the most powerful leader, according to Caro, the August body had ever seen. The next chapter of Lyndon Johnson’s life is covered in Master of the Senate (2003).


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The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Path to Power

LBJ ChildThe following is a book review of Robert Caro’s first volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. Since the publication, the legacy of LBJ has continued to improve.  It has not hurt either, that Brian Cranston recently played him in the Tony- winning production of “All the Way.” We are eagerly awaiting the publication of the fifth volume which will cover the presidency of Johnson.

When a reporter William S. White spotted Lyndon Johnson in the halls of the U.S. Capitol in April 1945 on the news President Roosevelt was dead, he was struck to see the congressman from Texas weeping openly with a white cigarette holder in hand, somewhat similar to one often seen with FDR. Johnson reportedly said: ‘ He [Roosevelt] was just like a Daddy to me always; he always talked to me just that way. God! God! How he could take it for us all!’ The quote taken from the last chapter of Robert Caro’s extensive first volume of Lyndon Johnson – Path to Power showcases both the political ambition and psychological underpinnings that defied one of the greatest politicians of the 20th Century

The 768 page tome covers the early years of Johnson’s life and political career – From his somewhat turbulent and impoverished childhood in the Texas Hill Country to his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1941, even though Franklin Roosevelt all but endorsed the young man. Along the way, Caro covers his self-funded college career at San Marcos College, where Johnson was known for always sucking up to both teachers and administrators. Not very popular with his fellow students, nonetheless he was able to cultivate a secret society called the white stars that became influential within the student council, and the beginnings of a political career.

The author argues that ambition was always the name of the game for Lyndon Johnson; whether it be running a congressional office as a staff assistant or using his wife’s father’s money (among other avenues) for his successful 1937 campaign to become a member or Congress from the 10th district of Texas. Lyndon Johnson had one goal even in his early congressional career – the presidency.

Caro ‘s biography remains the strongest when it places Johnson on the pyschoanalyst’s couch, by focusing on Lyndon’s ambivalent relationship with his father and how that developed into a strong need for validation from older, powerful father-like figures, whether it be Sam Rayburn, Franklin Roosevelt, or the mover and shaker in Texas politics, lawyer, Alivn Wirtz. To understand the son you must first understand the father. The elder Johnson – Sam, like his son, was also involved in politics. Serving for a time in the state legislature. Unfortunately, for Sam his political career was cut short due to his strong reluctance to be influenced by special interests that controlled state politics in Austin. Unable to support his family on his meager salary, he attempted to farm the land in the Hill Country of Texas at a time when farm prices were hitting rock bottom. The son learned that one must cultivate relationships with powerful men to gain and retain power. Idealism leads to poverty and oblivion. Ironically, the elder Johnson helped coin the slogan that allowed his son become a member of Congress: “Will you help me? Will you give me your helping hand?”

Path to Power remains a must read for anyone interested in the trajectory of a small town Texas boy who played all his cards right. Caro has written four volumes on Lyndon Johnson, with the most recent published in 2012 – Passage of Power.

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American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (Bradley J. Birzer)

As you enter the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol from the East Front, you come upon an oil painting by John Trumbull, “Washington Resigning His Commission,” which celebrates in many ways the beginnings of the American Republic. However, if you look closely you see a man behind General Washington with his hand on a chair covered by red robes. Who is this man? It is Charles Carroll of Carrolton – a man who was arguably the most brilliant of all 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the only Roman Catholic. Unfortunately, Charles Carroll has been largely forgotten by the general population-at-large.

In American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll, Hillsdale College history professor Bradley Birzer attempts to argue the importance Charles Carroll played as a founding father. Carroll, an Annapolis native, had a very different philosophical inspiration than some of his contemporaries. He did not look to John Locke and Enlightenment thinkers as cause to break from Great Britain. In fact, he was inspired by the great philosophers of Antiquity and the medieval period. Men such as Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Cicero and Aquinas were his guides in interpreting ideas about freedom from the British. Additionally, he looked to the great British thinkers of his age, primarily Edmund Burke, a man who saw the importance of a strong legislative body to counter the despotic leanings of an untethered executive. Carroll, unlike some of his co-signers, did not see the American Revolution as a revolt from the British system, but more of a reform. Carroll spent the majority of his formative years in Europe and was also greatly influenced by the  Society of Jesus (Jesuits). As a pupil of Jesuit priests at St. Omer in London and Louisle-Grand in Paris, he was taught that one must resist immoral and unjust governments.

Birzer does a fine job in describing the discrimination that Roman Catholics, like Carroll, felt in Maryland prior to the Revolution. Catholics in the state were not allowed to hold public office, vote, or hold religious services until 1774. (Laws were passed in the state of Maryland relegating Catholics to second class citizens by the early 18th Century). Carroll had much to gain from a break from Great Britain – primarily religious freedom. His articulation of toleration for persecuted Catholics, as well as his idea of liberty, both verbally and in writing, allowed him to become a leading champion of freedom for the state of Maryland and a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776.

A weakness of the biography remains its length. It is too short. Birzer briefly mentions the importance of Carroll moving the Federal City to the Potomac with a quote from the second President John Adams, but does not offer further elaboration.

American Cicero is a must-read for anyone interested in philosophical underpinnings of the American Revolution. Charles Carroll remains unique in that experiment in that he did not necessarily look to contemporary thinkers of the Enlightenment period for inspiration, such as Thomas Jefferson, but to the philosophers who pervaded Catholic thought during the time, and still today. When Carroll passed away in 1832 at the age of 95, he was last of the signers to die. Upon his death he was heralded as the last of the Romans, a patriot, and an American Cicero. Congress received a statue of Charles Carroll in 1903 as one of Maryland’s two state statues. The statue is positioned in the Crypt representing Maryland as one of the original 13 states. As tour groups walk through the Rotunda and the Crypt, let them be reminded that Charles Carroll of Carrolton was one of the great intellectuals who helped shape a nation that is still strong more than 200 years later.

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Welcome to Washington!

Welcome to Washington! If you are looking for an experienced, personable, and fun tour guide in Washington, DC, you have come to the right place.

Washington, DC is the place Restivo Tours calls home. I want to welcome you to my home and to show you the diverse beauty and rich history of our Nation’s Capitol.  Washington, DC has something for everyone and I will help you find the tour that is right for your group.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. I want to make your touring experience in Washington the best it can be.

I look forward to working with you!

Restivo Tours

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