The Declaration of The Rights of Man and of Citizens begins with a clear stipulation of intrinsic freedom and equality in every man. Equality, therefore, seems to be an appropriate place to begin. The Declaration defines our equality in relation to our rights, such that we are all born with the same entitlements and among them the right to perpetuate such rights throughout our lives.
Each and every one of us is entitled to the expression of the will of a community (which, according to Rousseau, is the collective will of the constituent individuals). In a similar light, the law is to regard each individual without bias; performing its duty of punishment or protection as justice sees fit. The sixth section of the declaration states that:
"All being equal in its sight, are equally eligible to all honours, places and employments, according to their different abilities, without any other distinction than that created by their virtues and talents."
Effectually, this levels the metaphorical playing field, rightly empowers the skilful and the able while ensuring men are distinguished not by the colour of their skin, nor by their religion and neither by their wealth - but by their merits and abilities.
Unfortunately that has never been so. There are a plethora of sordid historical examples that contravene section VI. The apartheid, holocaust and slave trade are amongst the many historical events that have grossly violated the former section. Nepotism, racism, sexism and segregation still ail society and contribute to its atrophic senescence.
One audacious claim is that every man is innocent, until proven guilty by the law. The present Catholic Church disagrees, believing than everyone is born with the burden of original sin. It is not the only body that believes in immediate guilt, many states (including China) adopt a judicial system, which operates on a contrary principle: that every man is guilty until proven innocent by the law.
Each individual is entitled to his own opinions, their expression and their communication (regardless of content and context). The Declaration explicitly iterates that this is a man's most "precious right" and can only be annulled when it threatens the public order. The law establishes the threat.
How exactly can you abuse the right of free speech? Who has the right to decide when freedom of speech is abused? A state may act unjustly towards the expression of politically or religiously sensitive opinions, as they may rouse widespread criticism and lead to an imbalance of governing power and authority. However, is it within the law's rights to place the right to freedom of speech below its own interests? Such controversy is faced in places such as China and Russia. However, the uproar provoked by Julian Assange and Edward Snowden prove that the West cannot lay claims to an unmarred reputation of moral conduct.
Individual intrinsic equality is never defined with autonomy, since it is always bordered by the canons of the law. The Declaration seems to state that the power of the law transcends the rights of man, as it may decide what is within and excluded from such rights. It is given the power to distinguish and determine.
The Declaration defines the primary duty of the law as an "expression of the will of the community" and that the law should only "[prohibit actions that are hurtful to society]". It decrees, "what is not prohibited by the law, should not be hindered" and "the law ought to impose no other penalties but such as are absolutely and evidently necessary".
The law is detailed as the decision-making faculty in society, it has the power to imprison, accuse, arrest, apprehend and (the two most important powers) to determine the extent at which one man may secure the liberal exercise of his own rights and to establish when public order is...