On April 28, 1789, unrest exploded at a Paris wallpaper factory. A rumor had spread that the factory owner was planning to cut wages even though bread prices were soaring. Enraged workers vandalized the owner's home and then rioted through the streets.
Delegates of the Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath in June 1789 and vowed to create a new constitution.
The rioting reflected growing unrest in Paris and throughout France. In 1789, France faced not only an economic crisis but also widespread demands for far-reaching changes. By July, the hungry, unemployed, poorly paid people of Paris were taking up arms against the government, a move that would trigger the French Revolution.
In 1789, France, like the rest of Europe, still clung to an outdated social system that had emerged in the Middle Ages. Under this ancien régime, or old order, everyone in France belonged to one of three social classes, or estates. The First Estate was made up of the clergy; the Second Estate was made up of the nobility; and the Third Estate comprised the vast majority of the population.
During the Middle Ages, the Church had exerted great influence throughout Christian Europe. In 1789, the French clergy still enjoyed enormous wealth and privilege. The Church owned about 10 percent of the land, collected tithes, and paid no direct taxes to the state. High Church leaders such as bishops and abbots were usually nobles who lived very well.