On March 23, 1819, the popular German writer August von Kotzebue was killed in Mannheim as a 'traitor to the fatherland' by a student of Theology, Carl Ludwig Sand (1795-1820). Kotzebue, who was also a Russian consul, had sharply denounced the Burschenschaften, the new student associations that after the expulsion of the French had come to demand a free and Christian unified German state (and which had burned Kotzebue's Geschichte des deutschen Reichs together with the Code Napoléon at the Wartburg festival of 1817). Sand was a member of the original or Urburschenschaft in Jena, of its inner circle (engere Verein), and of the Unbedingten (Uncompromising Ones), a secret radical group founded by Carl Follen. Kotzebue's assassination triggered the convocation of a conference of the German Confederation at Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary), which in August 1819 issued a series of decrees against 'demagoguery' and established a Central Commission of Investigation in Mainz. The Commission would contribute substantially to institutionalizing the concept of 'secret society' and spreading the notion that dangerous groupings lurked everywhere.

Another contribution came from Sand's friend Johannes Wit (or Witt, 1799-1863), a Dane by birth, who assumed the name of Wit von Dörring, after his stepfather. Wit's biography is as rich in riddles as adventures. At first a member of the Unbedingten, he abandoned his revolutionary ideas after 1820, or that's what he later said. His actual behaviour made him very hard to judge, as on his travels all over Europe he switched with apparent ease from conservative to radical circles and back. Yet, since he combined a meddlesome nature with an inflated ego and found himself repeatedly in highly ambivalent circumstances, he ended up being mistrusted by both the revolutionaries and the police. During (and indeed also before) his years of imprisonment in five countries, he gave the authorities extensive and sensational, but unreliable information on the radical underground. Much of this he subsequently published in many volumes of memoirs, which are the source of a number of myths and half-truths that may still be encountered today. Later in life he advocated abstinence, protected orphans, and headed an official Austrian press agency that never materialized.

Read also Wit's report on the Carbonari (Pdf 64 Kb).
The Klerckon (Clerkon) who figures there was an Austrian agent provocateur who made the same proposals to both Gioacchino Prati and Wit; neither of them saw through his game.
Source: Johannes Wit, genannt von Dörring, Fragmente aus meinem Leben und meiner Zeit: Aufenthalt in den Gefängnissen zu Chambery, Turin und Mailand, nebst meiner Flucht aus der Citadelle letzteren Ortes, Braunschweig: Friedrich Vieweg, 18 27, pp 19-48. (Call number: D1084/401).

>> More on Prati in the chapter Grand Firmament.