In the late eighteenth century, the French society was divided into three classes. These are:
1. The First Estate (The Clergy) : This Estate consisted Archbishops, Bishops and Abbots who governed the Church of France. These held about one fifth of the total land. These paid no taxes themselves. The Church collected the direct tax called tithe (1/10th) from the people.
2. The Second Estate (The Nobles) : There were about 80,000 noble families. They enjoyed the privileges and did not pay any taxes. They crushed the peasants and collected taxes from them. They acted as judges, prosecutors and juries.
3. The Third Estate (The Common People) : The majority of population belonged to this Estate, called the Plebians. They were the middle class, peasants and workers. The educated middle class (the bourgeoisie) consisted of doctors, lawyers, teachers, merchants and others. These paid about 50% of their income by the way of taxes. The government did not care for their welfare. They retained only 18% of their income. The farmers owned only two fifth of the land but paid four fifth of the total taxes.