Immediately on the reciept of your letter of Sep. 16. stating the enlistment of Jeremiah Battels, an infant, against the will of his father, directions were sent to the proper officer to enquire into the fact and, if true, to discharge him [failing that] … by applying to a judge for a Habeas corpus, the young man will be brought before the judge … and, if satisfactory, the judge will discharge him … this method of discharge, where it can be conveniently resorted to, is preferable to the other, because it is useful to exhibit examples of the military will controuled & circumscribed by the civil authority.
To Anthony Haswell, October 13, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders strengthen civil authority over the military.
Haswell entreated the President, on behalf of an elderly neighbor, whose underage son (not an infant but 18), was conscripted into the militia against his father’s will. Jefferson took immediate action to initiate an investigation by the military. If unsuccessful in securing the boy’s release, they should apply to the judge for habeas corpus, an order to bring the boy out of custody and before the judge for an inquiry. .
That could be a better approach, Jefferson stated. Not only could it secure the boy’s release, it would strengthen the principle of the civilian court controlling and limiting the power of the military.