John O’Hagan Goes to Jail Over $1 Poll Tax

I got a letter from the IRS while I was away. Nothing exciting. Just a request for my phone number, for the taxes I refused to pay for the tax year, and a “Please Call Us About Your Overdue Taxes or Tax Returns” letter (Letter 2050).

Here’s an ornery renegade, from the pages of a New York Times:

Won’t Let Wife Pay.

So Mr. O’Hagan Goes to Jail in Default of Poll Tax.

John O’Hagan of Bangs Avenue was taken to the county jail at Freehold , to remain there until he pays a one-dollar poll tax. He declares he will not pay it, nor allow any one else to pay it for him.

He says the idea of a poll tax is unconstitutional, and he will remain in jail rather than submit to what he considers an injustice. Under the law, O’Hagan may be kept in jail all the rest of his life if he does not pay the $1.

His wife owns property and pays taxes on it, and wants to pay her husband’s tax. He will not allow it, because, he says:

“And if I let her pay that for me to keep me out of the jail, she’d have it on me all the rest of my life, and every time we had the least bit of a spat she’d twit me with it that she saved me from the cell. Not for mine.”

Of that last quote, the Times later editorialized:

This was not a pretty thing for Mr. O’Hagan to say. It tells, or at any rate it charges, altogether too much in regard to the temperament and volubility of Mrs. O’Hagan. She may not be a reticent woman at her own fireside or steam radiator — few women are — but she seems to monopolize the family sense as regards the payment of taxes, and it ill becomes her spouse, from the scene of his absurd martyrdom, to accuse her of lacking magnanimity.

Why does she wait for his consent for paying the dollar, anyhow? It is no more necessary than is his consent to twit him about it afterward.