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Joseph Nadin was born in 1765 in Manchester where he worked as a spinner before becoming a thief-catcher. For each thief he captured, he was paid £2 and received a certificate that exempted its holder from public office. He sold the tickets for for cash - between £350 and £400 each in 1816.
By 1803, Nadin was Manchester's deputy constable and had begun a career of repression and corruption; he victimised innocent men as well as criminals but he was at his most vicious where reformers and radicals were concerned. At the radical meeting held on St Peter's Fields on 16 August 1816, William Hulton, a magistrate, told Nadin to arrest Henry 'Orator' Hunt. Nadin refused on the grounds that there were insufficient special constables present. Consequently, Hulton decided to use military force: it was this that led to the Peterloo Massacre.
Samuel Bamford, the Middleton radical, described Nadin:
Joseph Nadin was about 6ft 1n in height, with an uncommon breadth and solidity of frame. His head was full-sized, his complexion sallow, his hair dark and slightly grey; his features were broad and non-intellectual, his voice loud, his language coarse and illiterate, and his manner rude and overbearing to equals or inferiors. He was exceedingly crafty in his business, and somewhat unfeeling. He was certainly a somewhat remarkable person in uncommon times. He showed that he had the homely tact to take care of his own interests. He housed a good harvest whilst the sun was up, and retired to spend his evening in ease and plenty ...
Samuel Bamford, Passages in the Life of a Radical (1893)
Nadin retired in March 1821, purchased an estate in Cheshire and lived there until he died at the age of 83, in 1848.
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