The situation in France at the time of the American Revolution, then, was … increasing and extreme poverty of the middle and lower classes, under the burden of taxation which provided the funds for the nobility and clergy to live to excess.
“The peasantry, on the other hand, were the burdened class. … The Church added her claims—her tithes … and the endless fees and money payments, which made her so obnoxious. Bishops and abbots, in France as in Germany, had large estates as well as tithes, and so were landlords and princes, as well as priests, drawing, Machiavelli says, two-fifths of the annual revenues of the kingdom into their ecclesiastical coffers. … ‘During the past thirty-four years [royal] troops have been ever passing through France and living on the poor people. When the poor man has managed, by the sale of the coat on his back, after hard toil, to pay his taille, and hopes he may live out the year on the little he has left, then come fresh troops to his cottage, eating him up. In Normandy multitudes have died of hunger. From want of beasts men and women have to yoke themselves to the carts, and others, fearing that if seen in the daytime they will be seized for not having paid their taille, are compelled to work at night. The king should have pity on his poor people, and relieve them from the said tailles and charges.’ … When to all this we add the consciousness that while they, the much-enduring peasantry, were bearing their increasing burdens, the noblesse were free from them, can we wonder if the peasantry should learn to hate as well as envy the nobles?”
Frederic Seebohm, The Era of the Protestant Revolution, pp. 45-47.