The painting represents the collapse of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, in the House of Lords on 7 April 1778 after speaking for every measure in favour of the British colonists in America short of actual independence. Chatham died a month later. The fallen earl is surrounded by his three sons and his son-in-law, Lord Mahon, and is supported by the Dukes of Cumberland and Portland. The Duke of Richmond, who has just finished speaking, stands nearby. Lord Camden described the scene in a letter to the Duke of Grafton: ‘He fell back upon his seat, and was to all appearance in the agonies of death. This threw the whole House into confusion …. even those who might have felt a secret pleasure at the accident, yet put on the appearance of distress, except only the Earl of Mansfield, who sat still, almost as much unmoved as the senseless body itself’.