But the world's annual production of 20,000,000 tons of pig iron is itself sufficiently startling, and without attempting to present to you the statistics of all its various uses - for which, in fact, we do not possess the necessary materials - the increased consumption of more than 9,000,000 tons since 1869 becomes conceivable when we consider how some of the great works in which it is employed have been extending during that or even a shorter interval. And of these I need only speak of the world's railways, of which there were in 1872 155,000 miles, and in 1882 not less than 260,000, but probably more nearly 265,000 miles. In the United States alone about 60,000 miles of railway have been built since 1869 - the year, I may remind you in passing, in which the Atlantic and Pacific States of the Union were first united by a railway; while in our Indian Empire the communication between Calcutta and Bombay was not completed till the following year.
The substitution of iron and steel for wood in the construction of ships, and the enormous increase in the tonnage of the world, in spite of the economy arising from the employment of steamers in place of sailing ships, is perhaps the element of increased consumption next in importance to that of railways. I do not think that the materials are available for estimating with any accuracy the amount of this increase, but I believe I am rather understating it if I take the consumption of iron and steel used last year throughout the world in shipbuilding as having required considerably more than 1,000,000 tons of pig iron for its production, and that this is not far short of four times the quantity used for the same purpose before 1870. And so all the other great works in which iron and steel are employed have increased throughout the world. It would be tedious to indicate them all.
Among those which rank next in importance to the preceding, I will only name the works for the distribution of water and gas, which in this country and in the United States have been extended in a ratio far greater than that of the increase of the population, and which, since the conclusion of the Franco-German war, and the consolidation of the German and Italian States, are now to be found in almost every European town of even secondary importance; and bridges and piers, in the construction of which iron has almost entirely superseded every other material.
It is difficult to imagine what would have been the state of the iron industry in this country if we had been called upon to supply our full proportion of the enormously increased demand for iron. To meet that proportion, the British production of pig iron should have been close on 11,000,000 tons in 1882, a drain on our mineral resources which cannot be replaced, and which, especially if continued in the same ratio, would have been anything but desirable. Fortunately, as I am disposed to think, other countries have contributed more than a proportionate amount to the increase in the world's demand; and, paradoxical as it may appear, it is possible that, to this country at least, the encouragement given by protective duties to the production of iron abroad may have been a blessing in disguise.