An entry for June 26, 1790, in the valuable journal of Salem's indefatigable diarist William Bentley reports the following: "It has been said that Dummer Academy in Newbury has been offered to Revd Mr. Isaac Smith, the present Librarian at Cambridge and that he has been down to review it. The present annual rent of the farm is 80 pounds." In actuality Mr. Smith had been chosen for the post as early as the preceding April, according to the minutes of a Trustees' meeting during that month. At this meeting compensation had been set at "rents, issues, and profits of the estate . . . deducting therefrom sufficient for the necessary reparation of the estate . . ." In addition, permission was given to charge tuition at the rate of twenty-eight shillings per pupil (an assessment shortly afterward changed to one shilling per week).
By request of the new Preceptor, the school was suspended for a period of about thirteen months following the departure of Master Moody. The thirteen month interim was put to good use by the Trustees, who took the opportunity to make extensive repairs on the Mansion House and the Schoolhouse (as well they might, considering the effect that over two decades of occupancy by hordes of boys must inevitably have wrought). Cost of the improvements amounted to approximately 100 pounds or, according to Bentley's estimate, more than the annual income from the estate.
On April 25, 1791, sessions began again, marking the start of a period of leadership at the school exceeded in length by that of only four men in its 200 year history. Scholarly and benevolent as he unquestionably was, however, Isaac Smith unfortunately lacked that commanding quality of personality which had enabled Master Moody to supervise crowds of energetic youths with deceptive ease. Nehemiah Cleaveland, who studied at the Academy briefly just a year before the new Preceptor's resignation in 1809, reports that the student body at that time amounted to slightly less than a dozen boys. The reasons for the decline at the school we shall see.
Isaac Smith, son of a Boston merchant, graduated from Harvard in 1767, having prepared for the ministry. Before returning to